From Zero to European Champion: a History of Advent in Zagreb

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Zagreb Tourist Board
Zagreb Tourist Board

It has always been an event that has fascinated me. How to create something from nothing in Croatian tourism, away from the coast, and out of season? And not only, but to do it so well that the event was voted the best in Europe for three years in a row. 

And then came the pandemic.

But still the event survived, albeit is in a much more modest and virtual format, before getting a little bigger in 2021. After a slow start, the streets of the Croatian capital are buzzing once again, as a very different Advent in Zagreb 2021 runs its course. 


(2014 Ice Park – J. Duval)

Everyone seems to have their opinion on Advent in Zagreb this year, and I thought it was worth putting everything into context and taking a look back at the last decade since it became a thing. I contacted the Zagreb Tourist Board and asked them to send me some information and old photos so that I could do a piece on the history of Advent in Zagreb. 

Their response was more than impressive – they did not just send information and photos, they sent this amazing overview – much more detailed than anything I had been planning.  


(2014 Fuliranje – I. Nobilo)


Advent in Zagreb is a project that has been intensely developed over a number of years through a synergy of relevant city offices and the Zagreb Tourist Board. It was branded as “Advent in Zagreb” in 2010. A new concept of Advent in Zagreb that was introduced in 2014 has been cultivated and upgraded over the years.


(2014 Advent on Europe Square – M. Mehulic)

The promotion campaign started with a promotional video about Advent in Zagreb that was screened at fairs, convention industry summits and professional workshops, and distributed to all reporters and agents coming to Zagreb on organized professional tours. The video has also been mass distributed with bottles of drinking water and other promotional materials about the city of Zagreb to travellers stopping at the tollbooth in Lučko during peak season weekends in late July and early August, to invite the tourist to visit the Advent market and explore the tourist offer in Zagreb. The Zagreb Tourist Board designed a unique and inspiring visual for Advent in Zagreb, suggestive of the happy colours and aromas of winter holidays, that was used on City Light posts and billboards at busy locations in Croatia and nearby countries, including Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Austria and Hungary.


(2014 Live Nativity – M. Mehulic)

A special Internet site was launched at with all textual material available in five languages, Croatian, English, German, Spanish and Italian. Attractive souvenirs have been designed that included a box of traditional ginger biscuits, a mug, a glass, an apron, matches, Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of ginger biscuits, glass balls and blankets. The live entertainment stage on Ban Jelačić Square has been branded, as well as the Advent House, in order to create an unambiguously familiar brand of Advent in Zagreb. In 2011, the Zagreb Tourist Board organized a multi-media 3D mapping Advent screening outside the Mimara Museum. Every year between 2010 and 2015, the city of Zagreb gifted a Zagreb Christmas tree decorated in the traditional style typical for Zagreb to Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Budapest, Ljubljana and Sarajevo, inviting the residents of Zagreb’s friendship cities to visit Zagreb during the Advent season.


(2015 Artomat – S. Kastelan) 

The outstanding success of Advent in Zagreb has been the result of many years of work on the part of the Zagreb Tourist Board to upgrade the Zagreb tourist offer during winter months, of brand development and highly effective promotional effort in collaboration with important stakeholders such as the national Croatian Tourist Board, the tourist industry and the City of Zagreb. A multitude of interesting content and daily events have helped create a unique image of the Croatian capital city as a centre of culture and tourism during the holidays that continues to be upgraded and promoted as a prime tourist product. Advent in Zagreb, the events that bring life to the city streets and squares during the season of Advent and other content that have enhanced the city tourist offer during winter months, have contributed to a favourable evaluation of the city in the international tourist market and the branding of Zagreb as a must-visit tourist destination during Advent season.


(2015 Fuliranje – S. Kastelan)

Over the years, the content has expanded and new features introduced in addition to the original programming that continues as a standard in many new and attractive locations. New marketing activities have been developed accordingly. Since its inception in 2010, Advent events in Zrinjevac Park and Ban Jelačić Square and the Christmas market have been a mainstay feature of Advent in Zagreb. Starting in 2010, many other projects have been developed to become part of the Advent in Zagreb, including Artomat (since 2011), Fooling Around (since 2012), the Ice Park (since 2014) and Advent at the European Square (since 2014). Another location was added to the Fooling Around project in 2015 and the programme has been featured in two different locations since then (Tomićeva Street and Kurelčeva Street).


(2015 Strauss at the Octogon – S. Kastelan)

In 2016, the Zagreb Tourist Board collaborated with partners to introduce a number of new Advent features to Zagreb visitors and residents, especially the Upper Town segment that has included Courtyards – The Advent Edition, Advent on the Vranyczany Plateau, Advent at the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery and Advent on Stross. Also, in 2016, Advent happenings reached the New Zagreb area across the river with New Advent and Santa Klaus Icy Fairy Tale. Other novelties have included, to mention just a few, the Fashion Advent, Chez Rudolf, Advent in the Design District and Advent in the Tunnel.


(Christmas concerts from balconies in 2015 – S. Katelan)

Additional emphasis in 2017 was placed on improving the quality of existing Advent locations as well as on carefully planning new locations, all in order to enable the most pleasant stay of all visitors to Advent in Zagreb. ZTB and its partners have implemented new programs: Advent in the Croatian Railway Museum, Advent in Marićev prolaz, Caffe de Matoš, Fooling Around at a new location – Trg J.J. Strossmayer, and the special cooperation with the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia was established, which joined Advent with the Advent program at Prekrižje.


(2016 Ice Park – A. Markezic)

Traditional programs have been realized in the Lower Town such as Advent on Zrinjevac, Ice Park on Tomislav Square, Advent on the European Square, Zagreb Christmas Fairy Tale, Live Christmas Nativity Scene, Advent on Ban Jelačić Square as well as in the Upper Town: Advent on Vranicanijeva poljana, Advent in Klovićevi dvori Gallery and Advent on Stross. The Grič Tunnel was included in the program, as well as cultural institutions such as the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Ethnographic Museum, the Croatian National Theatre, the Art Pavilion and the Zagreb Zoo. The Advent program in Zagreb was accompanied by a large exhibition “Nikola Tesla – Mind from the future”.


(2016 Advent in Kloveci Dvori – I. Zinic)

In 2018 Advent in Maksimir was presented as a new location with entertainment for the whole family and Advent Stara Tkalča, which showed traditional crafts and revived the spirit of the oldest Zagreb settlements Gradec and Kaptol. A novelty was the Film Advent, as part of which Christmas films for all ages were shown at the Europa cinema, and the Baković Sisters’ Passage was conveniently decorated as a set from the shooting of a Christmas film. Special emphasis was placed on cultural events and programs, so during Advent, as many as eight different music festivals were held in Zagreb. This continued in 2019 when, in addition to the already known Advent locations, eleven music festivals were held: Advent postcards, Advent under the Lantern, Evenings with Brahms, Adventfest in the Cathedral, Advent Classic Fest, Advent and Christmas Song Festival in Zagreb, Concerts in the church of St. Katarina, Concert program of the Zagreb Soloists for Advent in Zagreb, Advent in the parish of St. Blaž, From Christmas Balconies in Zagreb and Christmas with Kids. In 2019, Film Advent on Tuškanac was presented as a new location, as part of which Christmas films for all ages were shown at the Tuškanac cinema, and Advent at the Croatian National Theatre with a new scenography and concept. The Oktogon passage was appropriately arranged, and other locations were decorated with Croatian traditional ornaments and Nutcrackers, in accordance with the theme of Advent in Zagreb in 2019.


(2016 Advent in Zrinjevac – A. Markezic) 

Since 2014, all visitors to Advent in Zagreb have been given the opportunity to visit Advent locations with the help of smartphones. Namely, ZTB, in cooperation with the Bruketa & Žinić OM and Brlog agencies, refreshed its popular mobile application Zagreb Be There with the new Advent Zagreb route. This was an application originally launched in the summer of 2014, which offered visitors to Zagreb various themed routes to tour the city, with occasional awards. In 2015, three more new Advent routes were introduced, which, in addition to the classic Advent locations, took users through Zagreb restaurants known for their winter specialties. In 2016, the Advent edition of the app was enriched with two Advent routes, a classic and a route that invited users to find the best Advent place for a Christmas selfie.


(2016 Advent in Klovicevi Dvori – L. Tonci)

The 2017 Advent edition of the app featured two Advent routes. A special feature in 2017 is the collaboration with the famous Croatian confectioner Petra Jelinić, who suggested the best confectioneries in Zagreb of her choice to users through the Sweetmas route. In addition to the traditional route with the key locations of Advent, in 2018 the Zagreb Be There application was refreshed with a new route called ADVENTurous Women of Zagreb. It enabled visitors to learn more about famous Zagreb women: Ivana Brlić-Mažuranić, Marija Jurić Zagorka, sisters Baković, first woman in pants, Slava Šenoa, Sidonia Erdődy Rubido, Cat Dujšin-Ribar and Ljerka Šram. In 2019, the application was enriched with a new Advent route called Uncrackable route, which led visitors to Zagreb in search of sculptures of the Nutcracker, which were located in all major Advent locations.


(2016 Advent in the Tunnel – M. Vrdoljak)

Along with the national airline Croatia Airlines, it is important to point out that the value of Advent in Zagreb was recognized by Turkish Airlines, which became the official carrier in 2015 during Advent in Zagreb. It provided up to 20 percent discount on tickets on its flights and the same discount was provided in 2016 and 2017. At the same time Turkish Airlines sent information about Advent to all its branches in the world via an internal newsletter and published video and info about Advent through its social networks. Encouraged by the successful cooperation with Turkish Airlines, the cooperation continued during Advent 2018 and 2019. The use of a strong communication network of Turkish Airlines has significantly raised the profile of Advent in Zagreb, as well as Zagreb as a tourist destination.


(2016 Pop-Up Winter Garden – M. Vrdoljak) 

The Advent in Zagreb project has been jointly financed by the Zagreb Tourist Board and event organizers. The Zagreb Tourist Board has borne all expenses for international promotion, more specifically by maintaining media promotion in nearby countries on the Internet (Google AdWords, banners, advertorials, Facebook), by renting advertising spaces (depending on the campaign, these may include billboards, citylights and/or advertising space in public transportation), and by introducing other individual activities to present the project at presentations, fairs and other promotional events.


(2016 Zagreb Christmas Fairytale – M. Vrdoljak)

The Zagreb Tourist Board has also maintained promotional media campaigns in Croatia and important international markets. Advent in Zagreb has been promoted in the printed media such as the Lufthansa Inflight magazine, KLM Inflight magazine, Hi Europe (Chinese market), Die Welt Reisemagazin; on local TV channels including Z1, Jabuka TV, Net, Mreža TV; on national TV channels including HRT (Dnevnik, Dobro jutro, Panorama etc.), NOVA TV (Dnevnik live news, reporter stories), RTL (Vijesti news and other shows); on international TV channels including MTV Adria (Advent Zagrebavanje) and other media such as Radio Sljeme, as well as websites in Italy, Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and other countries, in addition to promotional activities on Zagreb Tourist Board websites, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, in promotional videos and featured stories on YouTube, etc.


(2017 St. Mark’s Church – J. Duval)

In addition to the costs of promotion, Zagreb Tourist Board has covered some of the expenses of organizing Advent events by supporting the organizers of major events. Other expenses for any individual event have been borne by the event organizer. The financial gain based on the increasing number of tourist arrivals and overnight stays, as well as visitor consumption, has been an important part of the overall economy of the city.


(2017 Advent in Zagreb – J. Duval) 

Advent in Zagreb (the event and films promoting the event) has won many awards. For three consecutive years, Zagreb was voted the Best Christmas Market in Europe, in 2016, 2017 and 2018. A full list of awards is available at


(2017 Advent in Zagreb – J. Duval)


Success has been reflected in the continuous growth of December arrivals and overnight stays:

  • In December 2010, the number of arrivals and overnight stays increased to 34,824 arrivals and 59,023 overnights, a 6 percent growth in arrivals and 5 percent growth in overnight stays compared to December 2009;


(2017 – J. Duval

  • In December 2011, the number of both arrivals and overnight stays increased to 37,377 arrivals and 69,582 overnights, representing a 7 percent growth in arrivals and 18 percent growth in overnight stays compared to December 2010;


(2017 – J. Duval)

  • In December 2012, 38,819 tourists visited the Croatian capital city and stayed 71,162 nights, a 4 percent growth in arrivals and 2 percent growth in overnight stays compared to December 2011;


(2017 – M. Gasparovic)

  • In December 2013, Zagreb had 46,284 visitors and 83,323 overnight stays. Compared to December 2012, the statistics indicate a growth of 17 percent with respect to arrivals and 17 percent growth in overnight stays;


(2017 – M. Gaparovic)

  • In December 2014, Zagreb had 56,142 visitors and 101,473 overnight stays. Compared to December 2013, the statistics show a significant growth of 21 percent in both arrivals and overnight stays;


(2017 Advent in Zrinjevac – J. Duval)

  • In December 2015, Zagreb had 70,750 visitors who stayed 126,968 nights. Compared to December 2014, the statistics indicate a large 26 percent growth in the number of arrivals and 24 percent growth in overnight stays;


(2018 – J. Duval)

  • In December 2016, 94,573 people visited Zagreb and stayed 169,095 nights. The numbers indicate a growth of as many as 34 percent more arrivals and 37 percent more overnight stays than during December 2015;


(2018 Advent in the Tunnel – J. Duval)


  • In December 2017, Zagreb had 111,290 visitors and 201,453 overnight stays. Compared to December 2016, the statistics show a growth of 17 more arrivals and 18 percent more overnight stays;


(2018 – Advent Churches – J. Duval)

  • In December 2018, Zagreb had 122,489 visitors who stayed 232,057 nights. Compared to December 2017, the statistics indicate a 10 percent growth in arrivals and 15 percent growth in overnight stays;


(2018 – Boska and Kreso)

  • In December 2019, 134,078 people visited Zagreb, staying 251,645 nights. Compared to December 2018, the statistics indicate a 9 percent growth in arrivals and a 9 percent growth in overnight stays.


(2018 Ice Park – D. Miloslavic)


Web site with event information at


(2019 – J. Duval)


In 2020, the overall conditions have maximally changed the possibilities and needs for holding projects, events and happenings. Due to the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the earthquakes and the significant decline in tourist arrivals and overnight stays, the fulfilment of the goals of encouraging the development of existing and creating new projects that increase the number of arrivals and overnight stays in the destination, became questionable.


(2019 Zrinjevac – J. Duval)

It was not possible to plan such a situation, so the Zagreb Tourist Board had to adjust the implementation of activities in accordance with the given circumstances, as well as the interests of visitors to Zagreb. The focus was on creative and ambient outdoor events that did not encourage large gatherings, as well as cultural and other events, which could be performed in controlled conditions. Zagreb continued to maintain its charm and openness to all visitors, but above all it was important that the local population felt comfortable and safe.


(2019 Advent in the Tunnel – J. Duval)

According to the above, Advent Zagreb was held in accordance with the recommendations and decisions of the competent authorities, in a slightly different atmosphere in a hybrid and virtual form. Occasional programs have been prepared to preserve the spirit of the best Christmas fair in Europe. Special emphasis was placed on cultural events with a number of different music festivals that we broadcasted through our online channels, and some Zagreb museums got involved with their own Advent programs.


(2019 Ice Park – J. Duval)

Every year, Advent is enriched with novelties, and in 2020 the Light of Advent (Svjetlost Adventa) project was launched, where cooperation was established with ten institutions in the Upper Town by decorating their windows in the holiday spirit. We wanted to bring positive emotions, create a sense of community and, ultimately, encourage our fellow citizens to get involved and contribute to Advent. ZTB designed the special campaign and during its duration, from December 6, 2020 to January 6, 2021, invited its fellow citizens, but also all those who love Zagreb, to get involved and become part of the Zagreb Christmas fairy tale.


(2019 – Boska and Kreso)

Thus, all those interested could send their Advent photos via the social network Facebook:, using the hashtags #SvjetlostAdventa and #AdventLights. More than 300 photos were received during the month of the interactive campaign. After its completion, a special #ZagrebLoop was created and a video containing Advent photos from all parts of Zagreb and Croatia.The reach of more than 230,000 people and 240,000 impressions are the results of a campaign through which Zagreb shared its Advent magic with all those who carry it in their hearts. #ZagrebLoop can be viewed on the official Advent website of the Tourist Board.


(2019 Artomat – Boska and Kreso)

We especially emphasize our cooperation with the Croatian startup company Equinox Vision, with which we realized the interactive AR project Virtual Christmas Windows. These are motifs of Zagreb’s Advent windows that have been turned into three-dimensional animations, and which everyone could see with smartphones via the free Equinox XR application, take photos and share on social networks.


(2020 Light of Advent – S. Carek)

With the beginning of Advent, we set up animated windows at 20 locations in Zagreb and in Osijek, Pula, Rijeka and Split, and then we set them up in 12 more Croatian cities: Dubrovnik, Gospić, Karlovac, Knin, Koprivnica, Krapina, Rovinj, Šibenik, Slavonski Brod, Varaždin, Vukovar, Zadar. For all those who were unable to travel due to the overall situation, Advent Zagreb crossed the borders of Croatia, bringing at least part of the holiday atmosphere to Belgrade, Ljubljana, Maribor, Mostar, Munich, Novi Sad and Sarajevo.


(2020 – S. Kastelan)

The third novelty was the Zagreb Nativity Scene project, more precisely the online exhibition of photographs of church Christmas nativity scenes taken from 2007 to 2020. In addition to the above, the Tourist Board and its partners have arranged three locations in Lower Town and four in Upper Town.


(2020 – Boska and Kreso)

Zagreb Tourist Board CEO Marina Bienenfeld reflected on what has become one of Croatian tourism’s great success stories. 

Advent Zagreb offers the best of what the city has in tourism, gastro industry and culture. Looking back, we can now proudly say that Zagreb stands firmly alongside other destinations with a diverse Advent offer and that it truly celebrates the richness of tourist, cultural, gastronomic and holiday facilities. Zagreb Advent is full of emotions, various contents and cultural events and it radiates real holiday warmth. Also, to be selected for the best Christmas market in Europe for three consecutive years, is no small matter. That’s just what Advent Zagreb has accomplished with a well-designed program, and an excellent implementation of the same. Every year, regardless of the conditions, we strive to enrich our Advent, raising it from year to year to a new level and, what’s most important – we have the support from Zagreb’s citizens. I would say that this is the key to the success of this most important event in Zagreb and throughout Croatia and I’m sure Advent Zagreb will continue to live for many, many more years to come.

Learn more about the Croatian capital in the Total Croatia Zagreb in a Page guide.

You can follow the latest from Zagreb in the dedicated TCN section


(2020 – S. Carek)


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