Best Places to Spend the Christmas Season in Croatia

As winter wanderlust takes hold of travelers’ plans, Croatia calls with holiday festivities suited for all. There’s something for kids and adults as this unique Balkan destination celebrates the most wonderful time of the year.

The Advent season in Croatia is a spectacle in its own right, as the days preparing for Christmas are given their own time to shine. This is great news for tourists and locals since the best celebrations last from December 2nd to January 7th, rather than only having a day or two to experience all the fun. The season is chock full of traditions you won’t want to miss, including plenty of treats like mulled wine, punch, fritule doughnuts, and germknödel. You’ll undoubtedly appreciate all Croatia’s Advent season has to offer.

Zagreb

Zagreb, Croatia
Photo Credit: Croatian National Tourist Board

Wander through the enchanting squares and parks of Advent Zagreb, winner of the Best Christmas Market in Europe accolade for three consecutive years. Delight in the capital city’s welcoming spirit as locals extend heartfelt gestures to make visitors feel like family. In churches, nativity scenes unfold, while cobblestoned areas like Upper Town transform into magical realms with festive decorations.

Enjoy romantic winter strolls, exploring the city’s parks while listening to local musicians performing the classic Christmas songs. Indulge in the classics of local gastronomy at Zagreb’s restaurants and catering stands – you’ll understand why they say love passes through the stomach! Experience Christmas in every corner, from thoughtfully crafted holiday menus showcasing local food and wines to festively adorned facades and interiors.

Opatija

Opatija, Croatia
Photo Credit: Croatian National Tourist Board

Nestled within its cinematic seaside landscape, the charming city of Opatija, often compared to Nice in France, beckons visitors with its enchanting “most beautiful Advent by the Sea” program from December 1st through January 7th.

Despite being a coastal town, Opatija defies expectations, as snow can be found during the holiday season. The well-known seaside health resort, situated at the base of Mount Učka (a popular hiking spot), features giant Nutcracker figures donning their iconic red guard uniforms and ancient cypress trees that create a picturesque backdrop for romantic walks and photo opportunities.

Immerse yourself in the winter wonderland ambiance of Opatija during the holidays, from the vibrant town market to the charming fishing village of Volosko and the renowned Lungomare coastal promenade. With thousands of hearts won over, Opatija is a captivating stop on your Croatian winter journey.

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Photo Credit: Croatian National Tourist Board

Celebrating its 10th year, this coastal town’s winter festival transforms Dubrovnik into an unforgettable experience. Embark on a leisurely exploration of the renowned cobblestoned pedestrian-only avenue, Stradun, dating back to the 11th century, as it weaves through the Old Town sheltered by the Walls of Dubrovnik. This historic area is the enchanting backdrop for seasonal concerts throughout the holiday, building to a can’t-miss finale on January 6th.

The festival, featuring 20 concerts against various city backdrops, includes a New Year’s Eve concert headlined by local legend Zdravko Čolić. For kids, holiday programs abound, with highlights like the North Pole station in Lazareti, the Colourful Winter in the Bay of Lapad with its train and ice-skating rink, and various activities in Mokošica, the city’s largest settlement. Better yet, the real Santa Claus from the Finnish city of Rovaniemi in Lapland will swing by. Dubrovnik marks his first stop on his annual journey to homes around the world!

Motovun

Motovun, Croatia
Photo Credit: Croatian National Tourist Board

The Istrian medieval town of Motovun offers a unique winter experience atop a beautiful hill. The bell tower, standing beside the 17th-century parish church St. Stephen, overlooks the nearby forest of Motovun, a preserved haven for nature enthusiasts, featuring oak, narrow-leaf ash, and elm trees (Iongozas). Hotel Kaštel, located in the restored palace of the Polesini family, provides an ideal winter home adorned with sparkling brilliance for the holiday season.

The advent season, titled “Magic on the Hill,” extends through the end of the year and transforms the Old Town into a mesmerizing spectacle. Thousands of glittering lights and stunning decorations will fill you with holiday cheer as you take in the sights. For the little ones, there’s also a Christmas Garden and Santa’s House, which offer an excellent photo opportunity to take home from your trip.

Slunj

Slunj, Croatia
Photo Credit: Croatian National Tourist Board

Recently acknowledged by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as one of the world’s premier tourist villages, Slunj, a charming destination in the heart of Croatia, has proved to be a must-visit destination for travelers seeking an authentic Croatian experience. During this most wonderful time of the year, visitors can enjoy this picturesque village in the winter as it is adorned with hundreds of lights. Indulge in local cuisine, take romantic walks in nature, and traverse the bridges in Rastoke to experience all Slunj has to offer.

Advent Season in Croatia

Zrinjevac Fountain Zagreb. Croatia
Photo Credit: [@Dariozg/DepositPhoto]
Croatia offers a festive and extended Advent season from December 2nd to January 7th, making it an enticing destination for a prolonged and joyous Christmas celebration. With its welcoming atmosphere and plenty of sights, sounds, and delicacies, the country provides a unique and delightful holiday experience for visitors and locals alike.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Best Places to Spend the Christmas Season in Croatia
Nic DeAngio

Nic DeAngio is a freelance writer from Richmond, VA. He has traveled throughout the United States and Europe and always has his next trip in mind – and an ever-expanding bucket list of destinations to visit. Nic loves trying local cuisine, photographing exotic locations, and wandering foreign cities to find hole-in-the-wall gems others may overlook.