Christmas in Croatia – The Best Christmas Attractions and Events in Croatia
The Christmas seasons represent a perfect time to travel to your favourite destinations. If you are picturing of a classic wintry Christmas destination to visit, Croatia is the right choice for you.
By visiting Croatia, you will be able to see firstly how the popular places in Croatia are decorated for Christmas. Secondly, gain knowledge about the local traditions and customs of celebrating Christmas. Furthermore, buy gifts and souvenirs for your family and friends. Finally, admire the surrounding landscape and environment being covered with white snow and ice making a true winter fairy tale.
During the past years, Croatia has developed itself as a popular Christmas destination. This can be recognised because of the newly Christmas attractions and events being organised all over Croatia. Foremost, Christmas fairs or markets, Christmas wonderlands and other similar attractions that help to bring up the real spirit and magic of Christmas to all visitors in Croatia.
The Christmas fairs are certainly the biggest and most outstanding attractions at Christmas in Croatia. They are organised in every major city in Croatia. The purpose of the Christmas fairs is to provide the locals and tourists a great entertainment space where together they could enjoy in the cheerful Christmas atmosphere mixed with comforting food, mulled wine and irresistible Christmas music.
In general, they start from the end of November or the beginning of December and end in the middle of January. From all the Christmas fairs in Croatia, we have selected a few that outstand the most and are worth visiting.
Zagreb Christmas Market (Advent in Zagreb)
Firstly, we start with the best and biggest Christmas Fair in Croatia, the Zagreb Christmas Market or Advent in Zagreb, as locally called.
The Christmas Market is held in Zagreb, the capital and the largest city in Croatia. It is the most elaborated Christmas Fair in Croatia. It offers a rich programme which features plenty of candlelight, colourful displays, festive food and drinks, concerts, choirs and much more. This year, the event starts from 30th November 2019 to 7th January 2020.
Because of the event’s size, elaborated programme and excellent presentation, the Zagreb Christmas Market was voted three times in a row as the best Christmas Fair in Europe, according to European Best Destinations.
Read our full article for more information about the key attractions at the award-winning Christmas Market in Zagreb to see and have yourselves a wonderful Christmas in the heart of Croatia.
After Zagreb, we proceed with the Christmas Fair in Split or Advent in Split.
Split Christmas Fair (Advent in Split)
As one of the most popular cities to visit in Croatia, Split is generally associated with sun, sea and essentially summer time activities. However, during the last few years, the city has become an attractive whole year tourist destination. Each year Split offers unique and special Christmas attractions which locals and tourists are able to enjoy while visiting Split for the forthcoming Christmas season. We are mainly talking about the Christmas Fair in Split.
The Christmas Fair in Split is placed in a unique setting including the old town with the Diocletian palace and the main city promenade called Riva. It offers its own charm and special Christmas spirit.
At night, while you are strolling through the ancient stone-paved streets and squares of the old town, you may enjoy in pretty Christmas decorations such as colourful and twinkling bright Christmas lights and fully decorated Christmas trees. During the day you may soak up the sun while sitting in front of one of the many wooden stands, cafes or restaurants on Riva. Visitors can enjoy in delicious festive food and mulled wine served from nearby wooden stands, listen to Christmas music and occasional musical performances organised throughout the old town centre.
Starting from 30th November 2019 to 2nd January 2020, the Christmas Fair is generally organised within the perimeter of the old town centre and has a decent programme which may differ from place to place.
Some key spots at the Split Christmas Fair include:
Christmas Fair on Riva (The Promenade). It is the most popular and important spot during the Christmas Fair in Split. It is filled with rows of wooden stands merged with cafes and restaurants that stretch across the entire promenade making an urban and cosmopolitan Christmas atmosphere. You may have some wonderful time, with your family and friends, in a great gastronomic experience with a wide selection of food, warm beverages, concerts, attractions and exhibitions.
Advent on Pjaca. We suggest that you visit the city centre square, Pjaca or The National Square which is one of the most beautiful and charming places to visit during Christmas. Completely adorned with beautiful Christmas decorations, from twinkling bright lights and fully decorated Christmas trees to vibrant and fluffy ornaments decorating the facades of surrounding buildings, Advent on Pjaca brings the best Christmas party in Split. Visitors are provided with excellent food, warm beverages such as mulled wine, punch and hot chocolate. They also enjoy in daily entertainment programme that is packed with famous music groups, orchestras, DJs, and performers. You should not miss Advent on Pjaca as it has been organised for five years and it has become a staple element of Split Christmas Fair.
Gallery of Fine Arts. The Gallery of Fine Arts museum is located just on the outskirts of the old town centre and the Diocletian’s Palace. The main highlight of this place lies in front of the museum, in King Tomislav Street, where you can visit wooden stands which offer fantastic food and warm beverages.
Children and Youth Program at Đardin. Strossmayer’s Park or Đardin is opposite of the Golden Gate of the Diocletian’s Palace. This year, Đardin has been transformed into a magical Christmas park decorated with cute and shiny Christmas decorations. Also, it offers a daily programme specially designed for children and families. There will constantly be special theme programs filled with plenty of music and plays, dance performances and gifts. A few wooden stalls offer festive food and drinks.
After Split, we travel south to Dubrovnik to visit its Christmas and Winter Festival.
Dubrovnik Christmas Fair (Dubrovnik Winter Festival)
Dubrovnik is a very pleasant destination during winter. Temperatures and prices drop but you are still able to relax while sitting outside in front of a street café or a restaurant. Like Split, Dubrovnik tends to offer delightful Christmas attractions which the locals and tourists enjoy during Christmas. Two major winter attractions are Dubrovnik Christmas Fair and Winter Festival.
Dubrovnik Christmas Fair starts from 30th November 2019 to 6th January 2020 and represents the opening segment of the whole Winter Festival which lasts all the way through winter. During Dubrovnik Christmas Fair, Old Town becomes alive and everything is lit up with thousands of twinkling lights and fully decorated Christmas trees. It features rustic quirky wooden stalls that offer handcrafted souvenirs and tasty homemade delicacies and drinks. Also, there are many exhibitions, complementary events, lavish art-music performances and concerts featuring mostly famous musicians. During the event, people perform “kolendovanje” that is a special tradition. It is usually done on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve when a group of people walk through the streets, passing from door to door, singing Christmas carols and wishing everybody Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
If you are planning a trip to Dubrovnik in winter, then do it during this Christmas as we are quite certain you will have an unforgettable experience.
Finally, after Dubrovnik, we travel north to the picturesque baroque town Varazdin and its wonderful Christmas Fair.
Varazdin Christmas Fair (Advent in Varazdin)
Varazdin is situated in the north of Croatia, near Slovenia and Hungary. This picturesque baroque town of 40.000 people was once the capital of Croatia. In 1776, two-thirds of the town were destroyed in a great fire. Later, all buildings were rebuilt in the classic Baroque style making the whole town one of Europe’s most intact baroque centres.
Often nicknamed as Croatia’s little Vienna, this picturesque baroque hotspot has many surprising things to offer: quaint and incredibly inexpensive cafés, unique museums, a majestic medieval castle and, of course, one of Europe’s best collections of intact Baroque buildings.
Mostly visited during summer and early autumn, Varaždin is a true hidden gem to visit for Christmas and New Years’ Eve. One of the reasons is the popularly growing Christmas Fair or Advent in Varazdin. Starting from 29th November 2019 to 6th January 2020, Christmas Fair turns the whole town into a real Baroque Christmas town with various decorations, Christmas lights, the smell of cookies, the sound of carols and a big ice-skating rink that create a special festive atmosphere you easily immerse yourself in.
The main programme is organised inside the historical town centre and outside within the perimeters of the Old Town, a medieval fortress built in the 14th century. This includes: concerts, exhibitions, shows and movie projections organised on the main squares and streets; wooden stands, cafes and restaurants offering food and warm festive beverages in the old town centre and up around the castle; a big ice slide and ice-skating rink planted next to the “Old Town” fortress, Igloo tent pods in which food, drinks and music are being served.
Other Christmas Attractions and Events in Croatia
Salajland (Christmas Tale Park)
If you are little bit tired of visiting Christmas Fairs and wish to see something unique and special, you should visit Salajland in Grabovnica near Cazma, Croatia.
Initiated as a small hobby in 2001 by family Salaj, for 17 years the Salajland has grown into an elaborated magical Christmas Tale theme park which encompasses the whole family estate.
Salajland is located in Grabovnica, a small village just an hour drive eastward from Zagreb. It offers a great escape from the usual Christmas attractions and chance to see something magical and spectacular unlike anywhere in Croatia.
According to this year’s programme, Salajland is open from 29th November 2019 to 12th January 2020, between 3:30 and 10:00 PM. For driving directions, from Zagreb, take the highway to Slavonski Brod, exit at Ivanić Grad and continue towards Cazmi. When arriving at Cazmi, turn onto St. Andrew’s Street, a country road leading to Grabovnica and Salajland. On the premises, there are plenty of parking there. Also, from the 7th December, there will be a special designed Christmas train which will take you to Salajland.
Once you arrive at Salajland then the true Christmas fairy tale begins. At the park, you may see the whole estate fully adorned in vibrant twinkling Christmas lights, tall fully decorated Christmas Trees, glowing Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, traditionally designed Nativity Scene and other features. Every day, there will be organised tours, fireworks and unique festive events. If you are hungry and thirsty, you can try their homemade food products and warm festive beverages which will make you satisfied. However, the best time to visit Salajland and experience the full magic and spirt of Christmas is in the late evenings when all the decorations light up and the entire place becomes a truly spectacular magical winter wonderland.
During the festive seasons, it is common to see people rushing to shops to buy presents for their loved ones. As a popular travel destination, Croatia has developed as an emerging shopping haven with plenty of small shops and big shopping centres offering a wide choice of products and services.
Therefore, Croatia is a perfect place to do your essential Christmas shopping. Over Christmas, many retailers fight one another with discounts and lucrative offers trying to sell more products to customers which in return help purchasers to get a great bargain.
If you are looking for unique Croatian Christmas souvenirs, the best places to buy them are at the popular Christmas Fairs or local souvenir shops in major cities. For regular Christmas shopping items like toys, games, candies, clothes, home electronics, IT technology devices, you may find them at local shops in every city and town as well as in big shopping centres.
Snow Queen Trophy Zagreb
If you are a fan of skiing and wish to stay longer in Zagreb over Christmas, while exploring Zagreb Christmas Market, then you need to visit the Snow Queen Trophy alpine ski race. As a part of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup championship, the race is held annually in the first week of January (this year 5th and 6th January 2020), taking place on the Medvednica mountain top Sljeme, just north of Zagreb. It is one of the most visited races within the championship, where men and women from all over the world compete in slalom discipline.
During the main event, in Zagreb there will be many complementary events that will help visitors to entertain themselves while waiting for the race. On the day before the race starts, 4th January for women and 5th January for men, there is a public draw at the Ice Park on King Tomislav’s Square where skiers receive their starting positions. Also, you will be able to catch a few glimpses of the fabulous Christmas Market. The winner of the race is crowned with a crystal crown, dressed in a cloak and sit on the throne as the snow queen or snow king of the tournament.
Visit the Frozen Waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park
While travelling to Croatia for Christmas, it is a great idea to visit beautiful natural landscapes in Croatia, especially, when the whole land becomes covered with snow. One of the best places to see is the National Park Plitvice Lakes. The Plitvice Lakes are indisputably the most popular and beautiful place to explore with best selection of Croatia’s nature. When the weather conditions are normal, you are able to see the entire park covered in snow with the lakes and waterfalls frozen in ice. Additionally, the prices are reduced in winter and there are fewer people there.
Be careful when travelling to the Plitvice Lakes, because the National Park Plitvice Lakes is situated in the mountainous region of Lika. There is a possibility that the entire region is covered in snow, including roads. Make sure you have warm clothes and proper footwear. When you are travelling by car to the national park, ensure that you have the essential winter equipment for your car. In case that the weather conditions are very bad and the heavy snowfall blocks the roads, then the Plitvice Lakes might be closed.
Warm & Relax at Spa and Wellness Centres
Whether you are exploring Croatia’s popular destinations, visiting the outstanding Croatian Christmas Fairs or wondering through the enchanting winter nature, it is always a good idea to warm up and relax at a spa & wellness centre after a long walk.
Many of the wellness & spa centres are located in hotels which have heated pools, saunas, massages with their own wellness programme plus foods and drinks.
Some of the best wellness & spa centres to visit at Christmas are Terme Tuhelj located 50 km away from Zagreb and its award-winning Christmas Market; Life Class Terme Sveti Martin situated in the village of Sveti Martin Upon Mura, just 28 km away from Varazdin and the popular-growing Christmas Fair; Hotel Ambassador and Grand Hotel Palace in Opatija, Hotel Radisson Blue Split in Split and Hilton Imperial Hotel in Dubrovnik.
By reading this article, you can see that Croatia is always prepared for Christmas. All over the state, you will find towns and villages adorning their prominent streets and squares in colourful Christmas decorations and offering exciting attractions that bring the places back to life, transforming themselves into festive delights.
One of the biggest attractions are the spectacular Christmas Fairs organised in each major city where you are able to consume food, drinks and listen to festive music. When visiting the Christmas Fairs, give yourself time to do some Christmas shopping.
During Christmas, it is always a good idea to explore the beautiful nature of Croatia, especially when the land is covered in snow.
Also, there are many winter events organised during Christmas time like the world-renowned Snow Queen Trophy alpine ski race which helps you to have splendid time while staying in Croatia.
If you have not packed your bags yet, then do it and come to Croatia to celebrate Christmas and New Year with your family and friends.
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!