Will Christmas Day in Zagreb Remain a Day of Closed Restaurants?

Total Croatia News

It seems, time has come for Zagreb caterers to sacrifice their privacy and confront the responsibility for people who enabled all city tourism records to be broken

This was meant to be an article about recommending the best Christmas lunches in Zagreb restaurants. However, there aren’t any. After persistent browsing of web pages, calls and e-mails, we have the impression that no one is working on Christmas in Zagreb. “No, sir, Christmas Eve and Christmas are the only two days in the year when Gabrek is not open,” said a surprised waitress of this legendary Samobor tavern when we asked if they were open on Sunday. “No, of course we don’t work on Christmas,” equally surprised was a gentleman at O’Hara’s who answered the phone. “N, we’re closed too,” said a nice man in Asia restaurant. In the end we concluded no restaurant will be open this Christmas in Zagreb, including most ethnic restaurants.

From the restaurants we would generally recommend, exceptions are the Esplanade Zinfandel, with a lush Chirstmas buffet with oysters, sushi and roasts, the Oxbo in Hilton, open in their regular Sunday protocol and the Royal India on Kaptol, open from 13 to 18h. All classical restaurants in the centre, such as Vinodol, Capraccio, Okrugljak, Dubravkin Put, as well as usually flexible bistros such as Pod Zidom, will be closed.

It’s been like this in Zagreb forever. Christmas is without competition not only the most important, but the most private Zagreb holiday, not to be messed with Hence it is logical restaurant owners are not even trying to open on Christmas. Which is not a consequence of universal customs regarding Christmas, but a local microphenomenon. For example, in the very Christian Berlin, restaurants promote lavish Christmas lunches from the middle of November. In London on Christmas everyone who is usually open on Sunday or major holidays is working, while even in quite Catholic Venice several years ago on Christmas we found a fair number of open restaurants, not just hotel ones. In New York, where all holidays, including Christmas, are celebrated publicly, on the street, needs no mention; the restaurants there are packed on Christmas.

On one hand, there are solid arguments for the current Croatian tradition of closing and privacy to remain the same. Truly anyone, from the lowest ranked kitchen assistant to the restaurant owner has the right to a free day on the most important holiday of the year. Besides, Zagreb locals prepare on Christmas elaborate meals in their homes, inviting the closest relatives and friends: Christmas in Zagreb is not a social but a family and intimate holiday. The social dimension is being kept from Christmas Eve, when traditionally, in communism and today, thousands gather after Midnight Mass in bars and coffee shops. Come Christmas morning, however, Zagreb seems like the most deserted place on Earth, at least until residents head out for Christmas mass.

On the other hand, Zagreb cannot allow itself to behave like the most deserted place on Earth, as at this time of year it is full of tourists. Last year on Christmas we walked the broader centre of Zagreb and found many people on the street, almost no one local. All those people simply have to eat somewhere, not in McDonald’s and such places, as even Zagreb’s guests deserve a decent meal for Christmas.

So, it seems, time has come for Zagreb caterers to sacrifice their privacy and confront the responsibility for people who enabled all city tourism records to be broken. The successful commercialisation of the Zagreb Christmas unavoidably leads to changes in personal customs and business habits. If current tourism trends continue, leading Zagreb restaurants may be open come next Christmas. Which is not a question of profit or city image, but politeness, not to say Christian respect for Zagreb guests who should enjoy full hospitality even on Christmas.

For the original and more from Plava Kamenica, click here.


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