Advent: 200,000 Guests to Descend on Zagreb?

Lauren Simmonds

Zagreb is set for a wave of tourists and big spending. Can the Croatian capital take the crown for the third year running?

As Jutarnji List writes on the 2nd of December, 2017, it would seem that Zagreb is in for a tourism boom this winter as the city’s award-winning Advent program is set to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, ready and waiting to spend to its front door.

The spirit of the season has come knocking on Zagreb’s door as Advent cottages (kučiće) have started their work and locals and visitors alike are enjoying festive sausages and fritule (or prikle, if you’re from Dubrovnik), Christmas trees are blossoming with decorations and decorative lights are shining bright as Zagreb welcomes in the festive season with open arms.

Ice skating

Some have been waiting for weeks to get a feel of the magical Christmas spirit. Gabi Telles, a student all the way from Brazil, is eagerly looking forward to the opening of the already famed and much loved Ice Park at Tomislavac.

“Last year I found out through a friend about the Advent Fair in Zagreb. I heard it was the best in Europe, so I came for confirmation of that. I’ll also achieve one of my greatest wishes. There are no ice skating rinks in Brazil, they have them only in shops in the malls and they’re really small, so I’ll skate on ice for the first time in Zagreb,” says Gabi.

She has been in Croatia for a month now, and this week she enjoyed some traditional Advent gastronomic delights – sausages and mulled wine. Almost all of this year’s Advent cottages have been opened in the city center. On Ban Jelačić Square tradesmen are working hard, and in Gajeva and Varšava some days ago the first food and drink cottages began work. One of the early birds this season was on Bogovićeva street, where Dražen Špindler works.

“We’ve been working since last Friday, and we’ve been visited by many tourists. Everyone is buying sausages, but the mulled wine hasn’t got going properly yet. It’s as if people are waiting for the official start of Advent,” says Dražen, who is working his second year.

For two years in a row now, Zagreb has been rightfully declared the most beautiful advent destination in Europe, and this year the Croatian capital is in fierce competition with 24 other cities. As we reported earlier, voting is now open and if you feel Zagreb should secure its place for the third year running, you can cast your vote here until the 11th of December, 2017.

Fritule (Prikle)

While some have taken up the task of working at Zagreb’s popular Advent for the first time, others have made it an annual venture, for Diana Raspudić and her colleague Heidi Begović, this is their third year. Every season they’re trying to bring something new to the table, so this time, among a variety of other things, their unusual offer includes Spanish fritule.

”We didn’t want to have the same offer as everyone else, so every year we refresh it. Our sausages are specially made in Austria. The main product is Käsekrainer sausage with whipped cream, and this year we’ve added the churrose I learned to make in Spain,” says Diana.


As Advent gets well and truly underway, more and more tourists can be seen in the city. A large number of hostels and hotels have been booked up a few weeks in advance, and for the heart of the festive season, more places are being sought. The Swanky Mint hostel is booked every weekend until the end of Advent, and they say that this is the very first time they’re having to turn guests away.

“We’ve got bookings from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia, as well as from a large number of domestic guests from different parts of Croatia,” said Andrija Pirnat, the owner of the hostel.

Humanitarian Race – ”Zagreb Advent Run”

Zagreb’s booming Advent has yet another attraction – the Zagreb Advent Run, a humanitarian, tourist and health oriented event that will take place on December the 10th, starting at 10:00 in the very center of the city.

1500 runners can participate in the race which begins at at the Izidor Kršnjav street in front of the well-known Westin Hotel, and the 5 and 10 km race will pass through the most beautiful Advent locations, such as Ban Jelacic Square and Zrinjevac Square. What makes this festive race so different is that the participants will be dressed in costumes, which is why hundreds of Santas, fairies and elves, reindeer and various other themed characters typical of the Christmas period are expected to be seen running through the center of town.

All participants will have the opportunity to individually consult with kinesiologists and other experts of the Department of Public Health “Dr. Andrija Štampar” and have a look at their blood pressure and blood sugar. Not a bad way to get a wake up call after all those Austrian sausages, Spanish fritule and sugar coated festive sweets!


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