As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer, and the warm autumn afternoons turn into frosty winter evenings,
the people of Zagreb are starting to look forward to the best event of the year that winter has to offer: Christmas.
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Christmas in Croatia is one of the biggest and most widely celebrated holidays of the year and everyone is looking forward to drinking mulled wine at the Christmas market and getting presents underneath the tree.
The build-up to it is a time of huge excitement for all Croatians, and that’s no more evident anywhere else than on the streets of Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb.
Christmas market in Zagreb
The annual Christmas market in Zagreb is one that has been consistently growing in both size and popularity over the past few years, and if you have ever visited Zagreb during the Christmas period, it’s easy to see why. Starting out in 2002 as just a few stalls and lights which were mainly centred around the city’s Ban Jelačić Square and beautiful Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb’s Christmas market has greatly expanded over recent years, and visitors now get to enjoy the transformation of the entire city centre into a Christmas wonderland, full of its own unique charm and beauty. Each year the city offers a range of different events and attractions, which have had tourists flocking from all over the continent to see what it’s all about, and has even resulted in Zagreb being awarded the prize of Best European Christmas Market (as voted for by visitors of the tourist site Best European Destinations) in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Since 2014, King Tomislav Square in the heart of Zagreb has been turned into a 2,000 square meter ice rink as part of Advent in Zagreb. The rink offers a large open skating space as well as a maze of different passageways (which are beautifully illuminated at night) to suit the needs of any skater. It has proven to be one of Advent in Zagreb’s most popular attractions.
What is there to see?
This year, on top of the much-loved stalls that line the streets of the Capital, selling everything from hot sausages and deliciously spiced mulled wine to Christmas themed souvenirs, trinkets and hand-made gifts, visitors will also be able to witness special events. One of them is Zagreb Christmas Tale: a daily entertainment programme in the Ban Jelačić Square which includes both fairy-tale like scenography and animations to entertain the children, as well as musical acts and night time parties for the grown-ups. This year’s advent will also include the opening up of Villa Prekrižje (a residence and gardens which were built in 1942 and are an example of traditional Croatian architecture, but have been closed to the public for decades), as well as performances of the ‘Live Nativity Scene’ which will be staged in Kaptol, and the Christmas themed setting of the Grič Tunnel, which will be laced with impressive light decorations and live choral music.
Zagreb’s Christmas market has been partly responsible for Croatia’s massive tourism boom over recent years, and according to croatiaweek.com, Zagreb had the highest number of overnight stays for the country in December 2016. There were 249,529 tourist arrivals and 495,437 overnight stays recorded in Croatia between 1 – 28 December 2016.
Lights and music
Of course, the visitors will also be able to marvel at the impressive lighting displays which are set up all around the city, and the much-loved events of previous years will be making a come back as well – various concerts will be held in the music pavilion in Zrinjevac Park, there will be a lively market at the Strossmayer’s Square, and the romantic setting of Strossmartre Park will as always offer a stunning view of the lights of the whole city.
Take a look at this video and start packing your bags!
Exercise: Do you know how to say these words in Croatian?