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Expat Exchange - Best Places to Visit in Croatia for Christmas Cheer
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Sibenik, Croatia

Best Places to Visit in Croatia for Christmas Cheer

By Betsy Burlingame

Mondly by Pearson
Mondly by Pearson

Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in Croatia for Christmas cheer.

As the festive season approaches, Croatia transforms into a winter wonderland, offering expats and digital nomads a unique blend of traditional and modern holiday experiences. From the cobblestone streets of ancient towns to the vibrant Christmas markets in bustling cities, there's a magical atmosphere that permeates the air. Whether you're looking to indulge in seasonal treats, shop for handcrafted gifts, or simply soak in the Yuletide cheer, these Croatian destinations are sure to fill your December with holiday spirit.


Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, is renowned for its award-winning Advent in Zagreb festival. The city comes alive with festive decorations, twinkling lights, and a series of Christmas markets that spread across the city center. Ban Josip Jela?i? Square and Zrinjevac Park are particularly festive, with stalls selling everything from handmade ornaments to traditional Croatian holiday foods like sausages and fritule (mini doughnuts). The ice park at King Tomislav Square is a favorite for both locals and visitors, offering a chance to skate amidst the winter scenery. Events typically start in late November and run through early January.

We Recommend: Don't miss the chance to try the hot chocolate at one of the Advent stalls – it's rich, decadent, and perfect for warming up on a chilly December evening.


The ancient city of Split, with its UNESCO-listed Diocletian's Palace, provides a stunning backdrop for its Christmas festivities. The Riva promenade is the heart of the holiday action, hosting a charming Christmas market where you can find unique gifts and savor local delicacies. The scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts fills the air, creating a cozy atmosphere. The city also hosts a variety of concerts and performances, adding to the celebratory mood throughout December.

We Recommend: Be sure to taste the Dalmatian pašticada, a festive beef stew that's a holiday favorite and pairs wonderfully with the local red wines.


Dubrovnik, known as the 'Pearl of the Adriatic', offers a Christmas experience like no other with its historic Old Town dressed in holiday finery. The Dubrovnik Winter Festival features a Christmas market in Luža Square, where artisans sell their crafts and traditional treats. The city's ancient walls and fortresses provide a dramatic setting for holiday lights and decorations. Carolers singing traditional Croatian Christmas songs add to the festive ambiance. The festival usually begins in late November and lasts until early January.

We Recommend: Sample the Dubrovnik rozata, a local version of crème caramel, which is a sweet treat not to be missed during the holiday season.


The elegant seaside town of Opatija is a winter delight with its own unique charm during the holidays. The Christmas market, set along the main street and in the parks, offers a picturesque setting with views of the Adriatic Sea. Visitors can browse through a variety of stalls selling crafts, ornaments, and seasonal foods. Opatija's holiday program includes concerts, ice skating, and a New Year's Eve celebration with fireworks over the sea. The festivities typically start in early December and continue until the New Year.

We Recommend: Indulge in some of the local seafood specialties, which are given a festive twist during the holiday season.


Rijeka, Croatia's principal seaport, hosts a vibrant holiday season with its Advent in Rijeka. The Korzo promenade is the center of activity, featuring a Christmas market where you can find everything from seasonal gifts to culinary delights. The city also organizes a range of events, including concerts, workshops, and a Santa Claus race. The holiday spirit is palpable throughout the city, with decorations and lights creating a festive atmosphere. The Advent celebrations usually kick off in late November and last until after Christmas.

We Recommend: Try the kroštule, a crispy fried pastry dusted with powdered sugar, which is a popular holiday treat in Rijeka.


Varaždin, with its baroque architecture and cobblestone streets, offers a quaint and intimate Christmas experience. The Old Town is adorned with festive lights and decorations, and the Advent in Varaždin event brings the holiday spirit to life. The Christmas market, located in the historic center, is a great place to find handcrafted gifts and savor traditional Croatian sweets. Varaždin's holiday events often include live nativity scenes, concerts, and a New Year's Eve celebration with fireworks. The festivities typically begin in early December and continue through the New Year.

We Recommend: Enjoy the medenjaci, traditional Croatian honey cookies that are a staple at the Varaždin Christmas market.


Osijek, the largest city in eastern Croatia, celebrates the holiday season with its own Advent in Osijek. The city's main square, Trg Ante Star?evi?a, becomes a hub of festive activity with a Christmas market where visitors can purchase local crafts and enjoy seasonal treats. The city also features an ice rink and a rich program of cultural events, including concerts and performances. The holiday atmosphere is enhanced by the beautiful decorations that light up the city's baroque buildings. Osijek's Advent typically starts in late November and runs until the end of December.

We Recommend: Warm up with a glass of kuhano vino (mulled wine), a favorite among locals and visitors alike during the chilly December evenings.


Zadar, a city known for its Roman and Venetian ruins, offers a serene and magical holiday setting. The Christmas market in Zadar is smaller compared to other Croatian cities, but it boasts a warm and intimate atmosphere. Located in the city's main square, visitors can enjoy live music, traditional food, and shop for unique gifts. The entire city is adorned with festive lights, and the sound-and-light spectacle of the Sea Organ adds to the enchanting holiday experience. Zadar's Advent festivities usually start in early December and last until the New Year.

We Recommend: Don't leave without trying the smokvenjak, a traditional fig cake that's a deliciously sweet part of Zadar's holiday offerings.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

Mondly by Pearson
Mondly by Pearson

Mondly by Pearson
Mondly by Pearson

Sibenik, Croatia

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