What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says December? A lot of people associate December with family, friends, joy, happiness, and all of the aforementioned can be summed up to Christmas. Christmas is that special time of the year when everyone leaves their problems aside, when you spend quality time with family and friends and, quite often, time of the year when you want to escape your ordinary routine and travel somewhere special with someone really special.
Zagreb is one of the upcoming destinations in Europe but quite often forgotten and in the shadow of the beautiful Croatian coast. Nevertheless, a destination that will become a shining star in the years to come. Capital city of Croatia is one of the most visited cities in December due to one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Europe. Zagreb Christmas Market came on top in Europe by public vote organised by the European Best Destinations site. Zagreb collected more than 200,000 votes from 131 countries and ended up on the top, beating out a lot of other more famous European destinations. Zagreb was voted as the best in Europe for three years in a row. If you doubt the objectivity of online polls, you should definitely visit this precious gem and see it for yourselves. The festive market is spread out throughout the city on numerous locations and offers a daily open-air programme to amuse all the visitors. Here are some of the most famous locations in Zagreb that you just must see:
*Ban Josip Jelačić Square – a huge Christmas tree, the fountain is transformed into a light display and there is also a cosy, heated, covered conservatory serving food and drinks with lovely live music in the background.
*Fuliranje – modern, cultural and gastronomic event during the Advent season. You really shouldn’t miss this one out, because it is quite close to the ice skate park on King Tomislav Square. Over here you will find a wide choice of mulled wine, ginger beer, rum, and many other Christmas drinks. With good drinks comes along great food, so just make sure to taste some of the local specialities like ”fritule” and ”štrukle” (pastry dish with cheese), but do not forget sausages, which are quite traditional on Christmas markets. If you prefer something else, there is also a really cool vegan stall you can visit.
*European Square – pedestrian zone in the very heart of the city offers interesting Advent too: souvenir and Christmas decorations market, a selection of food and beverages and music events in the evening.
*Zrinjevac Park – one of the most beautiful spots in Zagreb. Lanterns light up the avenues of trees and the old music pavilion looks like a small glittering palace. Artists’ stalls and a great selection of traditional Christmas gifts, Christmas food and drink specialities from decorated tiny wooden huts.
*Ice Park on King Tomislav Square – A Christmas fairytale awaits you in one of Zagreb’s most popular squares – ice skating rink, food and drinks on numerous huts, as well as the rich cultural programme. This is the place to watch people skating or try it for yourselves if you are brave enough (I did try it and I can proudly say that I didn’t break anything).
*Upper town- one of my favourite locations, especially Caffe de Matoš. Very beautiful view on the city of Zagreb, interesting evening programme with live music and a lot of cool museums to visit in the neighborhood (Museum of Broken Relationships is nearby – cool place I recommend)
Zagreb is a city worth visiting not just in the Christmas time but also all year round, there is a lot of interesting facts about this town and I will mention a few of my favourites. The Stone Gate that arelocated on the Upper Town hide a secret hidden in plain site, over there you can find a piece of world history. The decorative chain on the corner of Kamenita and Opaticka streets is said to have held the HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson´s flagship, after the battle of Trafalgar (British Royal Navy against combined French and Spanish Navies during the Napoleonic wars). The chain ended up over there in 1878. when Laval Nuget ( Austrian Admiral known for his passion for art) donated that chain from his art collection. This little piece of very important British history can be found over there. One of my also favourite facts about Zagreb has something to do with the street lights, entire Upper Town is covered with lights that don˙t rely on electricity. The 217 gas lamps that light up the old streets of Upper Town have been lit by hand, one by one, since 1863. When you go there for a walk, especially in the evening, you will feel that romantic atmosphere that Zagreb emanates with especially in the holiday time.
If you find yourselves in the centre of town just before noon, don˙t be surprised if you hear a cannon fire blast. Don˙t worry, no one is firing upon you, that will be the noise of a very long tradition in Zagreb. Tower Lotrscak is the place where this event takes place every day at noon, this cannon fires and marks mid-day. This tradition goes long way in the past when Croatians fought against the Ottoman empire and when a shot from the cannon was fired, it scared the Pasha while he was eating (cannonball landed in his lunch) and they went away and never attacked Zagreb.
So you see, Zagreb is a place with rich history, beautiful architecture, welcoming people and a gorgeous Christmas market in December, I just hope that this short text will persuade you to visit this city and trust me you will want to come back again. Christmas market in Zagreb is scattered all over the city and there is a wide choice of things to do during your you stay in this lovely city. I am not going to use any of those fancy words to finish this blog, I am only going to tell you to take a look at the photos and decide it for yourselves whether you’ll come here or not.
See you in Zagreb this winter time!