This is my guide to the fantastic Zagreb Christmas Markets, this Croatian capital is one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe.
When we heard that Zagreb Christmas Markets had been voted the best in Europe three years in a row, we knew it was high time we saw them for ourselves.
We had both visited Zagreb in summertime years before, and was we were about to spend another Christmas in Europe, there was no way we were going to miss Zagreb Christmas Market.
Known locally as Zagreb Advent, the Christmas Market Zagreb lasts through the Christian Advent season and beyond into the New Year. We’ve always been enchanted by European Christmas Markets, and were more than intrigued to find out why so many people say they thought that Zagreb had the best Christmas Markets in Europe.
So just what is Zagreb’s secret? Read on to find out.
Why Are Zagreb’s Christmas Markets So Special?
Firstly, it helps that the Croatian capital is a beautiful city. The oldest part is Gornji Grad, located on the hill above Ban Josip Jelacic Square, the main hub of the modern city.
Much of this flatter area dates from the 19th century, and includes three parks, all of different character, which play host to some of the main markets over Christmas in Zagreb.
Zagreb is also one of the more underrated cities in Europe, so one of the best European Christmas markets of all has been honed and perfected without being swamped by mass tourism.
As a result, Zagreb is still a very authentic city, one which hasn’t changed a great deal in the twenty years since my previous fleeting visit. The Christmas Markets of Zagreb make beautiful use of the city, especially the enchanting Strossmayer Promenade that runs along the edge of Gornji Grad offering beautiful views of Zagreb.
Gornji Grad, sometimes referred to as Zagreb Old Town, is a gorgeous area, and without the crowds of Prague Christmas Markets or Vienna, it’s a very atmospheric area, especially in the long evenings of winter. The Zagreb Christmas Markets are like a coating of fairy dust, making the place just that little bit more magical.
The three of us loved it.
When are the Zagreb Christmas Markets held?
The Christmas Markets in Zagreb usually run from late November through to early January.
This year they run from 26th November 2022 to 6th January 2023.
Where are the Christmas Markets Zagreb held?
The main Zagreb Chjristmas area is between Ban Josip Jelacic Square and the main railway station – a series of three parks, These are Zrinjevac Park, Strossmayer Park and King Tomislav Park.
There are also markets on Ban Josip Jelacic Square and around the corner on Europe Square (Trg Europa). There is another Christmas market up the hill in Gornji Grad, next to the funicular terminus.
This runs along Strossmayer Promenade, giving wonderful Zagreb views, including the Instagram spot with Zagreb Cathedral in the background.
What Is Zagreb Winter Weather Like?
We visited for a week in late November and early December, and most days it was rather cold, with the temperature often just scraping above freezing (1°C or 34°F). Night-time temperatures were usually around -4°C (25°F).
Generally, the winter months (December to February) have similar weather. Zagreb weather in December tends to be slightly warmer than what we experienced, with an average of 5°C (41°F) in the daytime and 0°C (32°F) at night.
Strossmayer Promenade Christmas Market, Gornji Grad
One of our favourite Zagreb Christmas markets is along the Strossmayer Promenade (Strossmayer setaliste) a walkway which runs along the hilltop overlooking the city. It can be accessed via the funicular, the Gric tunnel or by walking down through Gornji Grad.
It runs for around 500 metres along the Promenade, and has everything from stalls selling mulled wine and beer to spicy sausages and delicious roast chestnuts. There are also pop-up stalls selling Christmas and Croatian souvenirs along the way.
The more homespun and enchanting part of the market – nicknamed Strossmartre when we visited in 2019 – is at the funicular end, below the Lotrscak Tower.
The mulled wine here had a nice spicy kick to it, and the food we tried was great and by European Christmas market standards, very reasonably priced – none of that 5 euro for a sausage in a stale brick of bread like you get at the Vienna Christmas Markets.
Park Bele IV, up a set of wooden stairs from the Promenade and below the Lotrscak Tower, is a great hang-out for kids, with a little walking trail among the fairy lights.
As you head east along the Promenade, you pass the Café de Matos, named after the Zagreb poet A G Matos, and musicians, eventually reaching the Vranyczany Plateau.
This is very different in feel to the rest of the Strossmayer Promenade market, with a host of pop-up restaurants and bars. There’s also everyone’s favourite Instagram spot in Zagreb, with a great view from a platform to Zagreb Cathedral.
Christmas Tree, St Mark’s Square
St Mark’s Church is one of the most iconic things to see in Zagreb. It’s famous for its extraordinary colourful tiled roof, which includes the checkerboard coat of arms of Croatia.
There is no Christmas market in the square, but its Christmas tree is the biggest in Gornji Grad, and it’s also close to some of the best Zagreb museums and cafes.
Ban Jelacic Square And Europa Square Christmas Markets
Jelacic Square (Trg Bana Jelacica) is the focal point of Zagreb, and it’s also the official hub of the Zagreb Christmas Market. There are a few bars at the one end of the square, a large Christmas tree and snowman and the main stage where concerts are performed.
The hourly Christmas tram, all decked in tinsel and lights, also leaves from here.
The Europe Square (Trg Europa) makret is just below the site of the daily Dolac market. There are mostly food stalls and pop-up bars alobng this short stretch.
Zagreb Cathedral Live Nativity Scene
This was the one element of the Christmas Markets in Zagreb that we had to miss, as we were there for the first week of the Market, and this started later. The Cathedral is one of the most popular things to see in Zagreb, and its soaring twin spires dominate the old city skyline.
The story of the Nativity – the birth of Christ – is told there with live actors, including his parents Mary and Joseph, the Three Kings and shepherds. It’s usually performed three times daily.
Lovers of Christmas markets in Europe may also appreciate the life-size Nativity scene in Brno Christmas Market, which has over fifty carved wooden figures.
Zrinjevac Christmas Market
Zrinjevac market is a slice of winter wonderland, and it shows why Zagreb is one of the best Christmas cities in Europe in a nutshell.The centrepiece is the pavilion in the middle of the Park, and the four tree-lined pathways converge on it, with everything lit in tiny twinkling silvery lights.
This is where you’ll find many of the Christmas craft stalls at the Zagreb markets, selling everything from Christmas decorations to clothing to glassware and lamps. We also came across some wonderful wooden Christmas toys.
There are also some bars and food stalls around Zrinjevac Park, and the Pavilion plays host to concerts and Christmas sing-alongs.
Fuliranje Christmas Market, Strossmayer Park
Fuliranje (‘Fooling Around’) is the middle market of the three between Jelacic Square and the railway station. It’s located in the Strossmayer Park, next to the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters.
There are plenty of other places around the Zagreb Xmas markets where you can eat and drink, but at Fuliranje that is all you can do. The food runs the range from traditional European sausages to Mexican to Italian to steak burgers. The drink runs the gamut from wine bars to cocktails to Karlovačko and Ožujsko, two of the best local Croatian beers.
Christmas Ice Rink In King Tomislav Park
The Zagreb Christmas Ice Rink is one of the highlights of this Croatian Christmas Market. It’s beautifully set out in King Tomislav Park, the first thing in Zagreb that you see if you arrive in the city by train. The ice rink fills up the whole park, all the way to the distinctive yellow Art Pavilion.
There is a small rectangular rink next to the Art Pavilion, but most of the skaters we saw spent their time on the ice track around the park, roughly following its perimeter to the station end before heading back towards the Art Pavilion.
There is also a bar overlooking the ice rink next to the Art Pavilion, and several small bars and food stalls. We didn’t skate, but found it a most convivial place to stop for a while.
See Also: One Day In Zagreb – 24 Hours In The Croatian Capital
David Angel is a Welsh historian, photographer and writer. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe.
He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.
David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.
He creates detailed travel guides about the places he visits, combining personal experience, historical context, and his images to help you plan a fantastic trip.