Its location itself will surprise many people. But the title of the most beautiful was taken away from him only because he could only take part in the competition three times. Where is the most beautiful Christmas market and is it really worth going to? I experienced this myself.
Christmas markets have a long tradition and great popularity in Europe. Most of us, however, associate them with Germany, Austria, Poland or the Czech Republic. However, it turns out that the most beautiful Christmas markets can be found in… Croatia. And this is not just my opinion. It was the fair in the capital of the country, Zagreb, or rather Advent in Zagreb, as the event dedicated to celebrating the upcoming Christmas is called, that was hailed as the most beautiful three times in a row. This attraction is considered one of the most beautiful to visit in winter during the holiday season. Is it worth it? I decided to check it out. And I was very pleasantly surprised.
Croatia in winter? The most beautiful Christmas market takes place in its capital
It is no secret that Croatia is popular with Poles mainly in the summer – after all, it is one of their favorite countries for holidays. However, it turns out that it is possible and really worth visiting it also in winter. During this period, tourists flock to its continental part. They leave the beaches and turquoise water that they enjoy during their summer holidays and turn them into a Christmas market in Zagreb.
On December 2, 2023, Advent began in Zagreb. This is an event that, like no other, will allow you to enjoy the atmosphere of the holidays and make waiting for them more pleasant. This year’s edition will last until January 7 and during it the city will be visited by millions of tourists, but also residents who want to relax in the glow of thousands of hanging lights, spend time with their loved ones walking among colorful handicraft stalls, delicious Croatian delicacies and the aroma of mulled wine, popular during this period.
On this date, the streets, squares, promenades, passages and parks in Zagreb turn into places teeming with life and the spirit of Christmas. You can feel the smell of cinnamon and cloves everywhere, you can hear Christmas music in the background, and people are more willing to meet their loved ones in the city at this time. In addition, this year’s beginning of Advent coincided with the first snowfall in the capital of Croatia. You must know that the climate of this part of the country is very similar to the current aura, e.g. in Warsaw. The temperature is only a few degrees and here and there you can see white snowflakes slowly falling from the sky.
“In my opinion, the fair in 2018 was the most beautiful. There was the most snow then,” reveals Sabina Fučić, a native of Zagreb and a city guide.
What does the most beautiful Christmas market in Europe look like?
In Croatian homes, preparations for Christmas begin on the first Sunday of December. Families prepare a wreath together, which may consist of, for example, twigs and oranges. However, its common element in every home in Croatia are four candles, which are lit every week until Christmas. Advent in Zagreb 2023 traditionally began with the lighting of the first candle. And then the atmosphere of upcoming holidays and anticipation of them begins to spread in the city.
There are stalls selling food, drinks, souvenirs and Christmas symbols on the central streets. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays they are closed from 18 for car traffic to enable residents and tourists to safely use the markets. And in Zagreb we can find not one, but almost thirty of them!
Tourists (but also residents) are attracted by the beautiful King Tomislav Square, bordered on one side by the Art Pavilion. During the pre-Christmas period, you will find an Ice Park here, where you can use the ice rink. This is undoubtedly the favorite place for social meetings of Zagrebians.
In turn, in Zrinjevac Park, where there is a more than 100-year-old Music Pavilion, you can listen to Christmas carols or browse the fair stalls. There are, of course, more markets – even the local zoo has its own Christmas zone! – but it’s worth going here first. And see for yourself whether a fair in Croatia really deserves the name it has been given.
“For three years in a row – in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – Advent in Zagreb won the title of the most beautiful Christmas market according to the European Best Destination organization. However, the regulations say that no more can take part in this competition,” says Małgorzata Bartczak, a guide in Zagreb, a Pole who has been living in the capital of Croatia for years.
Mulled wine, cookies, souvenirs. How much does a visit to a fair in Zagreb cost?
It is also impossible to go to a Christmas market and not taste local specialties. In Zagreb it will be, of course fritulei.e. small donuts without filling, or licitari, i.e. gingerbread cookies richly decorated with red icing. Residents also like to eat hot sausages here, for which this year we will pay about 3.5 euros (about PLN 15).
Of course, it is worth drinking mulled wine, because Croatia is full of delicious wine. Interestingly, it is much cheaper here than at fairs in Poland. For example, a cup of red mulled wine costs EUR 3.3 (approx. PLN 14), and in Poland even PLN 25. The stalls also offer strawberry gin, a cocktail of gin and apple juice for EUR 4.5, and various types of punch.
It is also worth buying a souvenir at the Christmas market litarsko hearts, i.e. gingerbread hearts. It is the most famous Zagreb souvenir, decorated with icing, inscriptions and a mirror. In the past, it was offered as a sign of friendship and love. Due to the traditional method of production and its long history, the heart has been included on the UNESCO World Intangible Heritage List. Depending on the size, a gingerbread heart can cost from 1.5 (approx. PLN 6) to even 200 euros.
Most importantly, you can get to the fair in Zagreb directly from Poland. PLL LOT planes fly to the capital of Croatia several times a week from Warsaw, which will take you comfortably to the country in southern Europe in just over an hour. The plane leaves Poland, for example, on Friday at 10:25 a.m. and arrives at 12 p.m. You can return on Saturday evening – the flight departs from Zagreb at 18, and we land in Warsaw at 19.35. There is also a developed hotel infrastructure waiting for you in Croatia, among which you will certainly find something for yourself.