Christmas markets are an excellent way to experience the local cultures in Croatia and take part in the festivities of the holiday season. These markets are mostly in stellar locations inside old medieval city walls or in central squares. Croatia really knows how to do Christmas with over-the-top lighting displays, live music, and plenty of mulled wine to keep us warm in mildly cold conditions. We didn’t get to see all the Christmas markets in Croatia, but we know the most festive ones. Let’s get started.
Why we love Christmas markets in Croatia
While we missed family back at home, we were so thankful to be in such an amazing Christmas wonderland in Croatia. The old towns of each city we visited were celebrating their Advent festivals and were full of life. From the old city walls of Dubrovnik to the fortresses of Rijeka, these places had amazing light displays that were insane. One of our favorite things to do was drinking hot wine and enjoying the local atmosphere while staying cozy in our winter coats. Next, we will take you through our favorites and give you a feel for what to expect.
In December, the old town of Zadar is lively and overflowing with Christmas cheer on its old cobblestone streets. Zadar has some of its original city walls, and once we stepped through the gates, there were thousands of lights strung above us. While Zadar is a smaller town, it’s Christmas market is vivacious with music concerts, crafts, and warm drinks. It has an ice skating rink, dance performances, and plenty of culinary delights. There are also so many other attractions around when you want to take a break and relax.
Petar Zoranić Square (Trg Petra Zoranića, 23000).
Photo by Viktoriya Kraynyuk – Dreamstime
This time of year hotels are inexpensive, and many are unique located in the heart of old town. However, we stayed in an Airbnb with a view of the old town for less than $34 USD per night (211 KN).
Average hotel prices: $50 to $120 USD per night (310kn to 740kn)
When we arrived in Dubrovnik, Christmas markets were just getting set up. There were plenty of Christmas trees, little shops, and plenty of food and wine to drink. Once inside the city walls, we found many traditional artisans selling Christmas ornaments, candles, toys, glassworks, ceramics, and other handmade goodies for the holiday season. We felt the Christmas spirit in this old city with its lights and music. It was easy to get lost in the narrow cobblestone alleys. We loved the charm of Dubrovnik during the holiday season. Even without Christmas, this is one of our favorite places in Europe.
Stradun, 20000 Dubrovnik
- Fortress Lovrijenac
- Rector’s Palace
- Dubrovnik Harbors
- Dubrovnik City Walls
- Ethnografic Museum Rupe
- Game of Thrones Filming Locations
- Belvedere Hotel Dubrovnik Ruins
In Dubrovnik, we could step back in time and stay in 17th-century buildings inside the city walls. While those would be an incredible experience, we didn’t want to spend the extra amount for them. We stayed with a wonderful Couchsurfing host and even shared our American Thanksgiving tradition with her. She showed us around the city and shared Croatian culture with us. After that wonderful experience, we stayed outside the walls of Dubrovnik in an Airbnb for about $32 per night (198kn). We still enjoyed our new location, as this isn’t an enormous city to get around in.
Average hotel prices: $50 to $230 USD per night (310kn to 1,420kn)
For three years in a row, Zagreb is known for having the best Christmas Market in Europe. Unfortunately, we visited a little too early to see it for ourselves. This capital city takes Christmas markets to another level with grand light displays and projections, making the central square pure eye candy. With its many concerts and events, this area is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit. We did manage to try some holiday favorites like fritule and hot wine. We even got a heart-shaped cookie that wasn’t a cookie, but instead it was a Christmas ornament. Whoops!
Photo by Miroslav Vajdic Creative Commons
Ban Jelačić Square (10000, Zagreb)
Photo by Matjaž Mirt Creative Commons
- Illusion Museum
- Museum of Broken Relationships
- Lotrscak Tower
- Zagreb Solar System
- 360° Observation Deck
- Miroj Cemetery
- Tunnel Grič
- Street Cats
Like other cities, Zagreb is fairly inexpensive to stay in and there are many lodging options. We stayed in an Airbnb just out of the city center for only $30 USD per night (185 KN).
Average hotel prices: $50 to $100 USD per night (310kn to 618kn)
Rijeka was by far our favorite town to feel the holiday spirit. The nightly rock concerts and warm cozy drinks created an atmosphere we looked forward to every night. This was one of our favorite towns because of the energy of the Advent Festival. We had an absolute blast and really felt the spirit of the holiday here. The market is in the central part of Rijeka, but going just up the hill to Trsat Castle we could see even more Christmas decorations as a separate part of the Advent Festival. It was also an absolutely stunning viewpoint of the city below. We definitely indulged in our spiked eggnog, coffee, and hot wine during the colder weather.
Korzo Street in the city center.
- Trsat Fortress
- Korzo Street
- Cathedral of St. Vitus
There are some very comfortable hotels in central Rijeka for around $40 USD per night. We spent about the same for our Airbnb there, so it really depends on your travel style.
Average hotel prices $40 to $100 USD (247kn to 618kn)
Things About Croatia You Need to Know Before You Go
The primary language is Croatian, however, most people in the cities will also speak English. The people of Croatia recognize that few people outside of Croatia know how to speak the language, so many learn English as a second language. Most speak it fluently so you will not have any problem communicating in most circumstances. If they don’t, translate apps will come in handy.
As of this writing, Croatia uses the Croatian Kuna as its currency. This will change once approved to use the Euro as their currency since joining the European Union. Getting Kuna before visiting is possible, although ATMs are readily available and the exchange rates are good as long as you take it out as local currency and not translate it from USD. Avoid Euronet machines at all costs as they charge insane fees. Local banks are better than street ATM’s for getting cash.
We needed currency for local transportation and many activities. Many tourist shops, tours, and established restaurants will take credit cards. We mostly used cash in Croatia and highly recommend getting some upon arrival. Make sure your bank is notified of your travels and know your pin. If the machine requires a 6 digit pin, add two zeros before the four-digit number. Overall, the experience in Croatia was easy with our Visa and MasterCard.
While the temperatures are milder along the coast during winter, they can be quite cold in the north in Zagreb and in the mountains. We were in warm swimmable weather in much of November on the coast and then it got cold and rainy in parts of December, so have layers with you for warmth.
Other Christmas Markets in Europe
After Rijeka, we wrapped up our Christmas adventure in Basel, Switzerland for the holiday and New Year’s. Switzerland definitely has a different culture, but it was still an outstanding place to visit. There we got more of the German influence and spent our time sipping on glühwein (mulled wine). They transformed the entire city into a Christmas wonderland.
Into January we were still in the season’s spirit in Sinaia, Romania. We continued the indulgence of local foods and drinks in this quaint town. This was the first time we ice skated in years, as Brianna insisted we do it. Let’s just say it took me a while to get used to skating again, and the children there were mostly doing better than I was. Sinaia is one of the few places we got to see some snow. From our experience, Europe has a lot to offer as far as Christmas markets, but Croatia is still our favorite.
As Americans, we have never seen such grand Christmas markets, so these were a real treat to see. We love Croatia and feel like we could visit there any time of the year. If you get the chance, check these places out in the winter and you’ll be amazed at what you find. While these are the most festive we visited, we are sure that there are many other towns in Croatia that would astonish us. We love Croatia!
How do you get into the holiday sprit? Let us know below.
Psst… do you love reading about holidays around the world? You might also enjoy these:
- 10 Must-See Holidays and Festivals from Around the World
- The 12 Countries of Christmas
- Discover Croatia in Autumn
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