Zagreb Christmas Market (Croatia)

During the winter holiday season, Europe becomes a popular destination for Christmas markets, which feature hundreds of stalls and stations serving up mulled wine, specialty food items and Christmas decor, usually congregating in parks and city squares.  Vienna and Berlin are the big daddies of the lot, but in 2016 a little-known Balkan city snuck up and grabbed the award for best Christmas Market in Europe.  It did it again in 2017.  And 2018.  And here we were, already in the Balkans.  It would be such a shame to miss it.  So in early December, we did what we do best.  Loaded up the car and hit the road for Croatia’s Zagreb Advent Market.

Zagreb Christmas Advent Market
Enjoying mulled wine at one of the many food stalls

Now I had visions of how this market thing would go down:  me, skipping between stalls and stalls of beautiful, homemade, one-of-a-kind Christmas decor, snatching up armfuls of goodies begging to be lugged back to Sarajevo.  I came ready to SHOP.  But my artisan sleigh and Pinterest-worthy Santa dreams were dashed.  There may be holiday decor somewhere in this city, but I never found it.  Big sigh.  But once I accepted it I was able to get right back on the excitement horse and enjoy the market’s main attractions:  food and drinks.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
Matcha tea at Quahwa coffee shop

The Zagreb Advent Market is packed.  And not just with the thousands and thousands of locals and tourists who flood the city center every year – so much so the streets are closed to traffic.  Its packed full of local cuisine and fusion dishes, mulled wine and draft beer, and, yes, even the occasional Christmas ornament stand.  It even boasts an ice skating park.  Not a circular rink, but a full park with ice skating paths that roam around the interior.  And the entire city lights up at night, with each neighborhood sponsoring its own version mini-version of the Market.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market

So we wandered, and each day saw new pockets of this fantastic city.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
The one stall that (sorta) sold Christmas decor

Some of its best parts were narrow alleyways and underground tunnels that connected different neighborhoods.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market

Tiny parks and public squares presented themselves around almost every corner.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
When a stranger insists you hold their dog while they take your picture.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market

And the weather cooperated perfectly!  Dry and sunny all day.  The nights were absolutely freezing, but the trade-off was worth it.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
Is this cart half full or half empty? Its Nutella, so…half empty.

We also found a ton of little photo-op stations everywhere (it’s so nice how the organizers do all the photo-finding work for you!)

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
One of the many mini Christmas Markets scattered throughout the city

We ate and drank our way through the weekend.  Among our favorites were Otto & Frank, Rocket Burger (so good we went twice!), Old Pharmacy Pub and Vinyl Bar.

Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
Brendan’s new favorite – Old Pharmacy Pub
Zagreb Advent Christmas Market
Last drinks of the vaca at Vinyl Bar.

It was an excellent introduction to the Balkan and European holiday season.  Next year:  Berlin!

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