As voting closes on December 12, 2016 to decide the best Christmas market in Europe 2017, defending champions Zagreb are in a strong position to defend their title, especially with a significant expansion of the 2015 offer. TCN takes a closer look at the impressive new Advent attractions to be found in the Croatian capital.
The accolades continue to pour in, as a little slice of Croatian Advent magic continues to reverberate around the globe.
Croatia, The Mediterranean as It Once Was – the official tourism slogan for so many years for a country which has been dependent on its stunning coastline, pristine Adriatic Sea and over a 1000 islands for its tourism. A country which now has a new tourism star – its capital Zagreb.
While the walls of Dubrovnik, the sunsets of Zadar and the exotic nightlife on Hvar may have grabbed the social media spotlight, Zagreb has been quietly building up a tourism story of its own, and was last year the only destination in Croatia to attract over a million tourists staying overnight. And that included a rather cute little Christmas story, a story which has gone far beyond the country’s borders and resulted in the most recent recognition, as Zagreb was named by the respected Conde Nast Traveler as one of The 9 Best Places to Travel in December, alongside the likes of Los Angeles, Vienna and Turks and Caicos. here is what they had to say about Zagreb:
Think of this city, once part of the sprawling Austro-Hungarian empire, as a pocket-sized Vienna—complete with an enormous Christmas market that ribbons through the cobbled streets of the city center in more than two-dozen locations. The city’s dubbed the celebrations Advent Zagreb, masterplanning a series of sights and attractions, whether a specially built Ice Park in King Tomislav square or a live nativity scene inside the city’s stunning cathedral. There are more inventive options, too, notably the audio-visual installation-cum-concert taking place inside a tunnel in the city’s downtown.”
Zagreb’s December appeal is centred around the Advent in Zagreb celebrations. What started out as a small event on the main square in 2002 only started to become serious in 2010, with the aim of attracting tourists into the city during the winter. So successful was the initiative that Zagreb was voted Best Christmas Market Destination in Europe last year on the European Best Destinations website, and has also been nominated once more this year, with voting finishing on December 12.
In pure tourism numbers, according to the Zagreb Tourist Board, in 2013 there were 45,393 arrivals and 82,284 overnight stays, while last year in December there were 70,550 arrivals and 123,734 overnight stays. The tourist board declared that Advent in Zagreb was now the most important event in the city calendar, and far from resting on their laurels after last year’s success and recognition, Advent in Zagreb has come back bigger and better than ever, as we previously reported. Here is a closer look at some of the most important new additions for this year’s event:
Music is an important theme of Advent in Zagreb, and the whole city is awash with musical performances and free concerts throughout the Advent period, culminating in Croatia Music Week from New Year’s Eve. Klovićevi Dvori has a comprehensive programme of concerts all through Advent, including Marko Tolja, Ljetno kino, Songkillers, Nola, Detour, Sara Renar, Dino Dvornik Tribute band and Gretta, while there are plenty of treats for the little ones.
Ever skated on an ice rink without ice? New to Zagreb and made from eco-friendly material, this is an ice rink with a difference, regardless of the weather. Skating over, take the kids to the Fun Lab, where a range of workshops and shows will expose them to art and culture in an engaging manner.
Zagreb is of course a city of great culture, where it is said there are more museums than any other city in the world, and the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery will be hosting a restrospective exhibition of the work of Ignjat Job, among Croatia’s most important modern art painters. Also on show will be the work of students of the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts. For more on events at Klovićevi Dvori, click here.
2. Advent at Stross
Enjoy a wonderful Advent party at popular Strossmatre, one of the most romantic corners of Zagreb’s Upper Town. Here you will find the finest selection of Croatia’s emerging craft beer scene, excellent mulled wine and a range of local Advent delicacies in 8 specially designed fairytale huts to get you into the festive mood. Central to Advent at Stross are three heated cupolas with proper salon furniture, from where you will be able to enjoy a great selection of live music, including names such as PAVEL, Cinkuši, Gelato Sisters, and DJs Remmi, Mario Kovač and Robert Mareković.
There is plenty for the kids too at Stross, with weekend shows and workshops with Kristijan Ugrina. Gingerbread is a key Stross theme, and gingerbread in various wonderful shapes and sizes along the promenade, along with a display of more than 30 Christmas wooden trees mounted on the ramparts. For more on events on Stross, click here.
3. Zagreb’s courtyards – Advent style
Named as ‘the best fun in town’ by the national media, the oldest part of Zagreb will be alive with cheerful Advent magic daily from 17:00 to 23:00 (from 10:00 on Saturdays) until December 23 in the majestic and historic old courtyards of historic Zagreb. From the courtyard of Zagreb City Museum at Opatička 20 to the Amadé Palace atrium at Demetrova 1, experience the warmth and intimacy of these festively decorated pieces of Zagreb history, filled with winter fragrances of cinnamon, cloves and mulled wine, all against the backdrop of daily live performances. Two new locations include the Croatian Natural History Museum and the Zagreb City Museum. For more on events in Zagreb’s courtyards, click here.
4. The Tale from Grič – Advent on the Vranyczany Plateau
Lovers of jazz, food and fine wine? A new fairy-tale location in the Upper Town, between the Lotrščak tower and the DHMZ building, at the beautiful historical Vranicanijeva Poljana
Grič Tale – A new fairytale location in the Upper Town, between the Lotrščak tower and the DHMZ building, at the beautiful historical Vranicanijeva Poljana should be your destination at least once until New Year’s Eve from 11:00 to 22:00. With a specially designed set, fabulous jazz musicians and the best DJs, a little quality wine will surely lead to a visit to the dance floor on one of the most spectacular settings of the entire event.
A magical experience for the children too, with weekend readings of fairytales from 11:00 to 13:00. For more from The Tale from Grič, click here.
5. Advent in the tunnel
Advent in Zagreb is going underground! From December 16 to 24, the historic Zagreb tunnel will turn into a winter multimedia wonderland, reinvented with light displays to bring its concrete walls to life, full of silver fir and ice blocks, a Christmas atmosphere of snow topped forests and icy lakes. From 15:00 to 21:00, various musicians will be performing in this unique setting, from choirs and and classical vocal music to soloists and smaller groups. Unmissable. The tunnel will be open from 09:00 during this period, admission free. For more on events in the tunnel, click here.
6. New Advent – New Zagreb (Museum of Contemporary Art)
Can there be a better symbol of the expansion of Advent in Zagreb or its inclusion of new parts of the city than a new offer across the Sava River into New Zagreb? Daily until December 31, the creative setting of the Museum of Contemporary Art will have an Advent story of its own, celebrating the city’s creative talents, great concerts, food from the top chefs, and the finest wines, both mulled and otherwise. Top DJs such as Pill Jackson, DJ hrwoE, Vedran Rako and Fiddly Digits will be taking to the stage daily from 18:00 and 23:00, and this is the place to come to see some of Croatia’s top designers. For more on events in New Zagreb, click here.
But what is Advent without fun for the kids? With so many attractions all over the city, from ice skating to a tram ride with Santa Claus himself, there will be no shortage of unforgettable memories for your children on an Advent visit to Zagreb. And where better to head to than Christmas Magic at the Zagreb Fair, where an innovative and comprehensive programme of activities, right up to the latter stages of Advent in Zagreb on January 6, are guaranteed to be the highlight for many little minds.
Highlights including interactive workshops learning to make traditional toys, a mini-farm with an array of animals, horse-riding, a fun park, musical performances and shows for kids, as well as special catering and shopping for children. There is even a dedicated corner and simulator for video lovers. Something for each and every one of them, a guaranteed family hit. Free admission and open daily from 11:00 – 22:00. For more on events at Zagreb Fair, click here.
Fabulous additions to an already magical city during this festive time of year. Zagreb is defending its title as the best Christmas market destination on the European Best Destinations website, and all these additions surely make a strong case for the Croatian capital. Voting finishes on December 12, and you can cast your vote for Zagreb here.