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If you are keen to get away from the yuletide mania of London for a few days, look no further than the Croatian capital of Zagreb. Here's why...

1 – It's quieter than the alternatives

It’s a fact – people go mad for Christmas markets in Europe. Whether they’re snapping up chutneys in Cologne or biscuits in Bruges people are more than willing to splash the cash and brave the crowds all in the name of finding unusual stocking fillers. Fortunately, these merry shoppers aren’t yet wise to Zagreb as a Christmas market destination.

Advent Zagreb takes place throughout December until January 6th. The event sees a range of great stalls pop up around town as well as the obligatory ice skating rink in King Tomislav Square and free live music performances in Ban JosipJela%u010Di%u0107 Main Square. Dubbed “Small Vienna” because of it’s neo-classical and Art Nouveau architecture, you’ll hardly notice the difference, you’ll discover a relatively unknown city and you won’t have to deal with unwanted bodily contact with huge crowds of people jacked up on candy canes and Christmas cheer.

 2 – It's cheaper than similar destinations

Direct flights to Zagreb from London Heathrow with Croatia Airlines will set you back around only £120 per person for a return ticket. Once there, things remain pleasantly low priced. A standard hostel bed costs around £20 per night or if you’re on a romantic break, prices for a double room including breakfast at The Palace Hotel start at £67.

It isn’t just accommodation that is cheap, a local Ozujsko beer costs just £1.30, a big bowl of meaty goulash just £2.50 and a cup of mulled wine, just £1.20 - sure beats the £5 price tag at London’s Winter Wonderland!

3 – The food is delicious

Take a wander around Dolac produce market in the city centre and marvel at the array of seafood on offer. It is common here for restaurants to have no set menu and instead the chefs will head to the market every morning and base what they decide to serve on whatever happens to be the freshest.

If you consider yourself a foodie, you may want to book on to an Advent foodie tour. This involves meeting a local chef at the market and following him around whilst he barters and banters with the market stall owners. Once laden down with your chosen items, you will retire to his restaurant, Bistro Karlo to cook the food that Croatians traditionally enjoy at Christmas. Head Chef, Darko, will teach you how to prepare each dish and then you can sit and enjoy all of your hard work over a bottle of Croatian wine.

4 – They know how to do Christmas

If you are worried about being away from the UK and missing out on the Christmas lights on your high street, fear not – Croatia does it far better I assure you. Just an hour out of Zagreb you will find the town of %u010Cazma. For 13 years, a local man and his team of elves (yes, elves!) have been painstakingly laying out more and more Christmas lights every year to attract and delight locals and tourists. This year, there are more than 1.5 million bulbs to be blinded by. Take that Oxford Street!

Bonus Christmas Tip: If you grow hungry after visiting this fairy light wonderland, just around the corner is The Dragon’s Nest, a self-sufficient farm that produces it’s own incredible cheese, wine, sausage and apple juice.

5 – Croatians like a drink

December is the “Silly Season” and we all know what that means…it is never too early in the day for a drink! Zagreb will happily oblige this age-old tradition. Don’t be surprised if you are offered a small glass of ruta, schnapps made from tree root, with your morning coffee. Perhaps a pre-lunch aperitif of fennel brandy would appeal? If not, we are sure that you will be tempted by something festive like mistletoe, fig or plum rakije – their local spirit. 

 6 – There's plenty of nightlife

Sometimes when you land in a new city, you can spend the first night trawling the streets looking for the action. In Zagreb, you cannot miss it. Tkalcica is the main drag for bars and is conveniently located just behind the Main Square and next to the market. This means that no matter how many shots of local fruity brandy you have had, you will always have your bearings. 

The colourful toy-like houses of this street have all either been turned into souvenir shops or bars making it the perfect place for a festive pub-crawl. Inevitably you will end your night in History, where the DJ blasts out 80s, 90s, Hip Hop and R n’B to please absolutely everyone. Did I mention a round of five beers only costs a tenner?

 7 – The culture's awesome

 Ready for an impressive fact? Zagreb is home to more museums than hotels! Team that with beautiful churches, cathedrals and Neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings and you won’t be short of things to photograph. There are also a number of incredible sculptures dotted around town created by local artists that have become tourist attractions in their own right.

 8 – There are unusual attractions...

It’s the unusual things that make a city memorable and Zagreb has a number of charming attractions that will stick with you long after you leave. Catch the world’s shortest funicular up to the Upper Town for just 4 Kuna (40p). Every day at noon the cannon at the top is fired, never failing to scare tourists senseless! If you are there as it starts to get dark, you might just catch the gas street lamps being lit by hand. Just around the corner from the funicular you will find The Museum of Broken Relationships. This unusual museum is home to donated remnants of past relationships along with heartfelt, sad and hilarious first-hand accounts of how they came to end.

Sound good? For more information about Zagreb visit Zagreb-touristinfo.hr and Croatia.hr


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8 reasons to visit Zagreb this festive season
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