January 8, 2024 – And so ends another successful Advent in Zagreb, the perfect opportunity for a 2023 review of Zagreb tourism.
I think that one of the things I like most about living in Zagreb is its sense of rhythm. Unlike on the coast, where there seems be the season and not the season and little inbetween, Zagreb has its four very distinct seasons, and over the last few years, it has developed a showcase tourism event to celebrate each season, around which the rest of the tourism calendar is built.
I also love living in perhaps the only destination in Croatia which is a major tourism destination, which is not only year-round, but also relatively unaffected by tourism in day-to-day life. Other destinations can get overrun in the summer and become relative ghost towns in the winter.
I really enjoyed Advent in Zagreb this year, particularly the vibe and innovative menus at Fuliranje on Stross, and now that Advent has officially closed, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on what has been another great year for the capital and its tourism. Apart from tourist numbers, one of the greatest signs of success lies in the investment in the city made by the hospitality industry. Zagreb saw a significant number of quality hotels opening last year – an overview from an earlier article on TCN.
The Zagreb calendar takes a well-earned break after Advent, but not for long, as it announces Spring and the prospect of brighter and warmer sunny days with the excellent Festival of Lights Festival in March, a fabulous time to visit the city and enjoy some truly epic light creations over the historic centre and environs.
And a real treat in the summer for classical music lovers, with a spectacular openair theatre in King Tomislav Square, just opposite the train station, where free concerts from global names helped to light up what was already an exceptional summer.
Zagreb has worked hard in recent years to develop its cultural offer, and the emergence of several street art and music festivals has helped with that. None more so than the flagship Artupunktura festival in September, which provides artistic therapy for the city in a multitude of locations. Last year’s programme was as innovative and eye-catching as ever.
And how best to finish the year than with the Christmas Market that was voted the best in Europe, three years in a row. It is hard to imagine that it almost didn’t exist 10 years ago, but has now become an integral part of the city’s identity.
And behind the core quartet above, so many other things happening – after so many years living on an island (a wonderful experience, I hasten to add), it is so refreshing to live somewhere where there is always something going on.
Sports lovers were treated to the World Rowing Cup, the European Wrestling Championship, the World Rally Championship, Zagreb Marathon, and the annual Boris Hanzekovic Memorial meeting. And there were food festivals galore, from established winners such as Zagreb Burger Festival to very welcome new additions, such as Zagreb’s first-ever Asian Food Festival.
I love how I can go for a walk in this city and stumble across a festival or event happening in the street, as I did one Sunday morning in September above, only to find Ilica closed off and given over to Q’Art. A wonderful atmosphere, and finding little concerts and events in obscure courtyards and squares through events such as Courtyards, Okolo (Around) and Open City Days only adds to the city’s considerable charm.
And there were plenty of concerts and exhibitions such as the LMF Festival and Ivan Mestrovic exhibition at Klovicevi Dvori, as well as a celebration of the traditions of Croatia with the 57th International Folklore Festival.
A fabulous year, and a great city to work and live in, with the ability to dip into the tourist scene when you choose, not to be dominated by it. Thank you, Zagreb, I will take a rest now that Advent is done, catch my breath and prepare to do it all again.