Zagreb at Christmastime is an absolute delight.
I’ve been to over 15 Christmas markets throughout Europe and the United States, and my stop at the Zagreb Christmas Market was the final stop in a long, fast-paced tour of 7 different markets across 5 countries in 8 days. All that to say, I easily could have been worn out and hard to impress.
And yet, I walked around Zagreb with a silly grin on my face, happily skipping between all the cute markets and decorations that the city has to offer. Suffice it to say, Zagreb won the title of “Best Christmas Market in Europe” three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018), and it shows.
The markets are just so dang fun and very dynamic, offering lots of opportunities to interact with the decorations instead of just observing them, and every market had music playing overhead.
In this post, I’m sharing exactly what it’s like to visit the Advent Markets in Zagreb (in northern Croatia), including what each market is like and where they’re located, market dates, where to see holiday decorations, what to eat and buy, and more!
Planning Your Visit to the Zagreb Christmas Market
Top Hotel Options in Zagreb:
All of these hotels are top-rated, centrally located spots in the city. I would highly recommend you book your hotel early, as hotels do fill up for the Christmas markets.
Other Travel Essentials:
- By Rental Car: For maximum flexibility, a rental car is the best option. Reserve early because prices increase dramatically as time goes on! I find the best options on RentalCars.com – browse options here.
- By Train: Trains are a convenient way to get around Europe, but you’ll want to book your ticket ahead of time.
2023 Dates for the Zagreb Christmas Market
The Christmas markets in Zagreb, Croatia open on Saturday, December 2, 2023, and close on Sunday, January 7, 2024.
A Breakdown of the Different Markets and Christmas Attractions In Zagreb
1. Bas Nas Advent Market
Of any Christmas market in Zagreb, the Bas Nas Advent Market would be considered the principal Christmas market in the city. Normally this market is found farther up in Old Town, in the square in front of the Zagreb Cathedral.
However, this cathedral was damaged in an earthquake earlier in 2023, so the Bas Nas Advent market is held in the Main Square this year. Hopefully, it will be able to be moved back to its “normal” location for 2024!
This delightful market has a net of lights radiating out from the center to the perimeter of the market, with oversized red ornaments hanging from the strands and a big pile of wrapped presents in the center of the light canopy.
There are a lot of lit Christmas trees lining the perimeter of the market, and several little winter scenes that are designed as photo op spots. A stage with a DJ is set up overhead, with really fun music playing day and night.
The market is lined with food and drink stalls, selling a large variety of delicious things to eat (see the section towards the bottom of the post about all the foods to eat in Zagreb).
2. EU Advent at European Square
This miiiiiight have been my personal favorite market of all the locations in Zagreb. I just really loved the setup and design. The market was fairly big, with around 30-40 stalls, and all the huts were white, trimmed out in green garland and ornaments, with a nutcracker head on the top.
Mini Christmas trees were set up all around the square, strings of lights and strings of small hearts were strung like garland overhead.
I particularly loved the setup of the main drink booth here – it was decked out with wreaths and large candy canes, and the little “tables” around the booth were painted to look like nutcracker faces!
Interesting, unique ornaments were for sale at several stalls, and I also saw things like hats and gloves, fun Christmas socks, bottles of wine, handmade soaps, and even CBD products.
This market also has a stage where performances take place at night.
3. Matos & Cats Market
This delightfully adorable market leans into the fanciful cat mural found on the street at Masarykova Street, creating a really festive and jolly atmosphere.
Besides the colorful cartoon-y cat mural on the ground, a similar style of plush cats are hanging from the strings of lights strung overhead.
There are half a dozen adorable photo-op spots in this market, including a vintage car decorated for Christmas, snowman and gingerbread man cutouts, and a little swing.
A really charming feature of this market was the little living room scene where kids could write a letter and put it in a mailbox to Santa.
The ~10 stalls in this market are red, with a striped roof, and are decked out with garland, decorations, and lights. All the stalls here sell food and drink, and heater lamps are set up around the tables, making for a cozy spot to enjoy your meal.
There is a little stage where there are performances in the evening, and the market entrance displays the schedule.
4. Zrinjevac Market
Zrinjevac Market is located in a park that has a large gazebo in the center of it, and the market itself wraps around the square with the gazebo, which is lit with icicle lights. The stalls in this market are white, lined with candy cane trim, garland, and heart cutouts.
The pathway leading up to the square with the gazebo is filled with booths selling a variety of goods and gifts, while the stalls surrounding the gazebo are mostly for food and drink (I loved the Santa’s House drink stand, with the drunk Santa leaning against it!).
Here, you can find gifts like ornaments, Christmas decorations, handmade jewelry, leather wallets and books, and stuffed animals.
Like all the other markets in Zagreb, music is playing overhead throughout the market, and at night, the gazebo turns into a stage for performances. It’s also worth coming back at night to admire the icicle lights around the square!
5. Fuliranje at Strossmayer Square Market
The Strossmayer Square Market is definitely designed for enjoying good food and drinks while enjoying music in a festive setting. An entire stage with a wooden dance floor is set up for shows (or a DJ during the daytime hours).
All of the stalls in this market sell food and drink, and the food at this market is known for being delicious and inventive options by chefs in the city.
There are also plenty of photo opportunities in this market -including a giant pile of ornaments, a stack of presents where you can actually get in the present for a picture, and a garland archway.
6. The Ice Park at King Tomislav Square
The large King Tomislav Square hosts a big ice skating rink, with a few different passageways to skate through. Since the focus of this market is the ice skating, the rest of it is less fancy than other markets, but you can still enjoy the stalls selling drinks around the ice rink.
There’s also a wooden terrace that’s decorated with swings and trees, which overlooks the rink. Here, you can enjoy drinks and views of the beautiful square and the skaters.
The backdrop to the ice skating rink is the Art Pavilion in Zagreb, a beautiful stone building with a domed roof.
7. Oleander Terrace Market
The Oleander Terrace is adjacent to the upscale Hotel Esplanade, but is still a part of the city’s Christmas markets. This market exclusively features food and drink, and while you can find some of the more traditional market fare here, there are also many upscale dining options, such as beef tartare or lamb kofta.
It’s a nice spot to hang out and enjoy drinks and a meal, especially in the evening. Heaters are set up throughout the terrace, and there’s a stage for live music later in the evening (a DJ is playing music earlier).
Of course, since this is Zagreb, there are several super cute photo spots and decorations around the terrace. Strings of lights are strung overhead and Christmas trees are set up everywhere.
This is definitely a place that comes alive later in the day. Even at 4pm, when I stopped by, it was very low crowds. If you don’t like people, come earlier, if you want the vibe with more people around and live music, come later in the evening
Other Fun Spots to Visit in Zagreb at Christmastime
8. Main Square Kaleidoscope Decorations
The Main Square in Zagreb, just next to the Bas Nas Advent Market, is full of the most enchanting Christmas decorations and winter scenes.
A massive Christmas tree is strung with lights and oversized ornaments, and the light posts that line the square are hung with these really cool 3D Christmas tree lights.
Flocked evergreens are set up in clusters around benches, light poles, archways, mailboxes, and fences, creating the most charming winter wonderland.
An oversized nutcracker, reindeer, and polar bear are out for pictures, and you know I couldn’t resist taking a picture with the nutcracker! (This cost 4 euro)
At different times of day, different people were out dressed in character – for example, a man dressed up like Father Christmas and was turning the wheel of a wind-up instrument playing Christmas tunes.
Finally, there’s a large stone basin in the square that is outfitted with an enormous advent wreath – it’s a total showstopper!
There is just so much ambiance and good vibes in the square, with all the cute setups, beautiful spots, and places to take pictures. Christmas music is playing overhead, everything is very visually stimulating and dynamic, and it’s just a fun place to wander around and explore.
9. Polar Deam Light Tunnel
The Polar Dream Tunnel is SO COOL and such a unique display in Zagreb!
The experience starts by walking through the Gric Tunnel – a concrete pedestrian underground tunnel connecting two streets in Old Town. In the middle of the tunnel, the drab concrete is transformed into an ice palace!
Thin strips of cloth hang down from the ceiling and are lit with changing colors – red, blue, purple, pink, and white – which morph and change every few seconds.
The tunnel is open from 9am-10pm
10. Nutcrackers at Trg Republike
Trg Republike is a small plaza right in front of the Zagreb National Theater that features several clusters of larger-than-life nutcrackers. The nutcrackers are cute and the theater is very ornate and beautiful – this is a nice place to stop when visiting the city in December.
11. Kaleidoscope Tree
The Kaleidoscope Tree is a really pretty tree in a glass case in the middle of a courtyard between the Main Square and the Matos and Cats Market.
Red and green glass ornaments and intricately designed metal ornaments are hung from strings around the tree, creating a unique “kaleidoscope” effect.
12. Moon Walk in the Park
The Moon Walk is a light display in Ribnjak Park, and while there are some lights, a lit Santa decoration, and a Christmas tree, this spot was overall a rare miss for Zagreb. I thought the displays were pretty underwhelming and there were very few lights in the park overall. I’d just skip this spot.
Map of Zagreb Advent Markets
On this map, the actual markets are in red and the decoration spots are in green.
Other City Lights and Decorations
Many of the streets around the Main Square in Old Town have lights and decorations hung high across the streets. I loved these chandeliers, and these ones, below, that I thought looked like the golden snitch from Harry Potter.
In addition, shops and restaurants around the city also really get into the Christmas spirit – a lot of window displays are decorated for Christmas, and garland and lights decorate windows, doors, and outdoor seating areas everywhere you look.
Other Holiday Events in Zagreb
Zagreb has a host of events, concerts, and performances happening throughout the city during the month of December. I’d recommend stopping at the Tourist Office in Zagreb and picking up a schedule of all the events happening in the city. The office is right on the Main Square in Zagreb.
What to Eat at the Zagreb Christmas Market
These are some of the most common and popular things to eat at the markets in Zagreb:
Sausages of All Kinds: Sausages are one of the most common foods you’ll find in the Zagreb markets, and include varieties such as Debrecen, Bavarian, beef hot dog, cheese-filled Krainer sausage, and veal hot dog with currywurst.
Pulled Pork Sandwich: This sandwich was just insanely delicious – the bread was smeared with butter and toasted, there was pesto and another red sauce on it, and the pork was more chopped than pulled, and really flavorful. This was a surprising highlight of the Zagreb foods I ate!
Langosice: Square fried dough topped with a creamy garlic sauce. The dough was really light and crispy!
Chimney Cake: This Hungarian specialty was also very popular in Zagreb. The dough is wrapped around a metal rod and baked over coals, coated in cinnamon sugar, and served plain or with chocolate smeared inside.
Domacé Fritule: This treat consists of small balls of fried dough that are drizzled with chocolate or cinnamon sugar. I loved these – the outsides were crispy and the insides were soft, and even though it was fried, it didn’t feel overly heavy.
This was easily my favorite treat of the Zagreb markets – I loved these so much that I went back for a second one!
Other types of foods you can get at the Christmas markets in Zagreb include:
- Candied almonds
- Mozzarella sticks
- Bao buns
Drinks at the Zagreb Christmas Markets
Hot drinks are an integral part of any European Christmas market, and Zagreb is no exception. There is a large variety of warm alcoholic drinks available, but the mulled wine is certainly the most popular. It’s often served as a fruity mulled wine – such as with plum or blueberry, which is fun. Non-alcoholic apple cider is also available.
Hot chocolate is also a fun and popular drink at the markets in Zagreb (and is one of my personal favorite hot drinks to sip as I wander the cute stalls).
I also really enjoyed this bubble-topped drink that I got at the EU Advent Market:
Unfortunately, unlike many cities in Europe, Zagreb does not use ceramic mugs or plastic cups for their drinks in the market, opting instead just for disposable cups.
What to Buy at the Markets in Zagreb
The best markets for shopping in Zagreb at the EU Advent Market and the Zrinjevac Market, although you can find some things at the other markets. Here are some examples of what you can buy at the Zagreb Christmas markets:
- There are no entrance fees for the market.
- Cards are accepted at some stands, but others only take cash. I’d definitely recommend you have some euros with you as you explore the markets.
- Croatia is part of the EU, the Schengen Zone, and uses the euro as currency.
- The local language is Croatian, but locals generally speak very good English.
- Getting around Zagreb is very easy – the tram system is cheap (0.80 cents) and efficient. However, you can easily walk to all the Christmas markets and decorations in the city.
How to Fit Zagreb Into Your Europe in December Itinerary
Zagreb’s location in central Europe makes it a great addition to a Central Europe December trip. While Germany, France, and Switzerland are home to the most well-known Christmas markets, this part of the continent also serves up some fantastic holiday markets and events.
On this trip, I started in Budapest and visited the Budapest Christmas Markets, then took a train 2.5 hours north to the Bratislava Christmas Market in Slovakia, then took a train 1 hour west to the incredible Vienna Christmas Markets in Austria, then went 2 hours south to the Graz Christmas Markets, then another 2.5 hours south to the Ljubljana Christmas Market and the Lake Bled Christmas Market in Slovenia , before ending the trip here in Zagreb.
This was a fantastic route and I loved the Christmas markets and cities that I visited – I’d highly recommend it!
And if you really want to jump over to Western Europe (which truly is incredible), I can also highly recommend the Cologne Christmas Market in Germany, the Strasbourg Christmas Market and Colmar Christmas Market in France, the Basel Christmas Market in Switzerland, and the Luxembourg Christmas Market in Luxembourg.