Friday, 27 November 2020

Huge Zagreb Christmas Tree Arrives in Time for Advent

November 27, 2020 – A towering Zagreb Christmas tree has been placed on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića in the heart of the Croatian capital. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

A towering Zagreb Christmas tree has been placed on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića. It arrives in time for the start of the Advent season, which begins officially this weekend.


Standing between 15 metres and 20 metres in height, the Zagreb Christmas tree is so impressive it might just rival the famous statue of Josip Jelačić himself as the most eyecatching monument on the square. By the time its lights are added, we certainly wouldn't put money on Josip for the title.

A giant Christmas tree is a traditional December sight on this main square at the heart of the Croatian capital. Although it's not the only one. There are usually around 40 Christmas trees placed in public parks and squares around the city, Zagreb doesn't do Christmas half-heartedly.


Advent celebrations in the city usually commence with the lighting of a candle by the Manduševac water feature on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića. The appearance of this first flame is the marker for the city's Christmas lights to be turned on, including those of the Zagreb Christmas tree.

We can't be sure if the Zagreb Christmas tree that now stands on Trg bana Josipa Jelačića is exactly the same one, but it does look remarkably like a giant pine tree moved from private property on Gradišćanska ulica a couple of days ago. If it is that pine, then one local resident reckons the Zagreb Christmas tree is over 35 years old. It towered above the dwelling in whose grounds it lay. Local residents were sad to see it go. But, during a year in which Zagreb has experienced its strongest earthquake in 100 years, plus hundreds of aftershocks, it's perhaps understandable why the landowners were willing to let this giant go. Two younger pine trees remain on the plot.


This article's final two photos were taken by © Zoran Stajčić

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Zagreb Advent 2020 Program Announced, Beginning Saturday

November 25, 2020 - Following the recommendations and decisions of the authorities, Zagreb Advent 2020, under the slogan "Advent in Zagreb, feel the light" will be held in a slightly different capacity, from November 28, when the first Advent candle will be lit, until January 1, 2021. 

HRTurizam reports that special emphasis this year has been placed on cultural events, and during Advent, there will be nine different music festivals with a total of 95 concerts.

There are three novelties this year: Zagreb nativity scene, Light of Advent, and an interactive augmented reality exhibition Virtual Christmas Windows.

"Every year we try to enrich our Advent with novelties and we have decided that this year, which is extraordinary by all parameters, will not be an exception. So we prepared the Light of Advent project where we, with 10 institutions in the Upper Town, will decorate their windows in the holiday spirit, and we invite tenants and everyone else to become part of this initiative. Namely, with this project we want to begin a warm story, bring positive emotions, create a sense of community and, ultimately, encourage our fellow citizens to get involved and thus give their contribution to Advent.

Another novelty is the Zagreb Nativity Scene, more precisely the online exhibition of photographs of Christmas nativity scenes taken from 2007 to 2020, and there is also an interactive augmented reality exhibition Virtual Christmas Windows. This exhibition will bring a touch of Christmas atmosphere using animated motifs of this year's Advent in Zagreb, and will be set in 20 locations in the city in parks, squares, and large open spaces," said Martina Bienenfeld, Zagreb Tourist Board Director. 

Virtual Christmas windows

The traditional story of Advent will be connected with modern technologies, and Advent visitors will be directed to about 20 locations in the wider area of the city (squares and parks). Following the recommendations of the CNIPH, visitors will be able to see the animated content by using the Equinox XR application through their mobile phones.

Light of Advent

Light of Advent is a project by which the Zagreb Tourist Board wants to encourage certain cultural institutions in the Upper Town to decorate their windows in the holiday spirit.

"Because of the pandemic, as well as the earthquake, 2020 was and still is challenging, and with this project, we want to begin a warm story, encourage positive emotions, create a sense of community and, ultimately, encourage local people to get involved and contribute to Advent," said the Zagreb Tourist Board and added that they invited cultural institutions to join and decorate windows with Christmas decorations and positive messages from November 28 to December 31, 2020, as an incentive to others.

The Zagreb Tourist Board and its partners will arrange three locations in the Lower Town (King Tomislav Square, Zrinjevac Park, Trg Republike Hrvatske), four in the Upper Town (Gradec plateau, Bele IV Park and Strossmayer promenade east and west), and they will decorate, with the Zrinjevac branch, an Advent wreath around Manduševac and Christmas pines on St. Mark's Square and Ban Jelačić Square.

"We invite everyone to responsibly enjoy Advent this year, following all measures and recommendations of the authorities, and for those who cannot be with us, we have provided online broadcasts on our social networks," concluded the Tourist Board.

As previously announced, this year, due to the epidemiological situation, there will be no Ice Park on Tomislavac.

News, service information, as well as details of individual programs, are available on the Advent website in Zagreb:, and there is also an Advent offer of Zagreb hotels that offer special holiday benefits to all guests and visitors.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Zagreb Advent 2020 Presented: Festive Program Adapted to Epidemiological Measures

November 10, 2020 - The Zagreb Advent 2020 event was presented in the capital on Tuesday. The festive program will boast three exciting projects and all events held per epidemiological measures. 

Without an ice skating rink, but with several concerts and events, Zagreb Advent will still be held this year.

HRTurizam reports that under the slogan "Advent in Zagreb, feel the light" the event will begin on November 28, and the program will include numerous cultural events and ten different festivals.

Three new projects

At the press conference, the Zagreb Tourist Board director, Martina Bienenfeld, presented three new projects.

The first of them is the Light of Zagreb, in which the windows in the Upper Town will be decorated and lit. The Tourist Board invites all citizens of Zagreb to decorate their windows in their own way and symbolically join the project. 

The second project is a walk through Zagreb's churches and their nativity scenes while adhering to epidemiological measures. The third project that is being developed and launched on November 28 is related to augmented reality, which will be found in over 20 Zagreb locations.

Details and specific dates of events, festivals, and projects will be known in a few days, and the program can be followed live and on social networks.

Advent in Zagreb, despite epidemiological restrictions, will be the venue for numerous concerts this year as well.

According to director Bienenfeld, more than 70 concerts will be held outdoors and indoors, where the number of spectators will be limited. The most significant of these concerts will be streamed on social media.

Bienenfeld announced that this year, after consultations with the city and national civil protection headquarters, there will be no recognizable Ice Park on Tomislavac. However, she emphasized that when as many as 50 Advent events in Europe have been canceled, Zagreb will continue to be recognized as an Advent destination, ensuring they adapt to the epidemiological situation and exercise responsible behavior.

Unless there are even stricter measures and restrictions on entry from other countries, she expects this tourist year to end at 30% of last year.

According to the Zagreb Craftspeople Association president, Antun Trojnar, at the traditional location - on Trg pod vurom, there will be about 15 holiday houses where craftspeople - souvenir producers will present their products.

The President of the Independent Association of Caterers, Marin Medak, explained that the City of Zagreb has enabled certain modifications in public areas, i.e., on the terraces of restaurants of sales of mulled wine, coffee, sausages and the like.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2020

A Different Kind of Zagreb Advent 2020: Some Central Locations Announced, More Info by End of Week

October 28, 2020 - Central locations announced and the latest on a different kind of Zagreb Advent 2020. 

The most magical time of the year is approaching. As you already know, there have been many talks (and speculation) about Zagreb Advent 2020, Christmas fairs, and how jolly anything will be this year, given the current epidemiological situation. 

Whether Advent will take place at all and how it will be held in Zagreb is a question everyone is eager to be answered, and many were saddened by media reports that it was canceled this year. But that’s not entirely true. 

Namely, Zagreb Advent will be held, but not how we are used to enjoying the event, reports

A few days ago, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić stated that they are still thinking about organizing Zagreb Advent this year and adapting it to the current situation. And on the official website of the event, there is a notice that more information will be known soon.

What we do know, however, is that there won’t be as many holiday houses in the city center as before, because the center will be relieved from crowds as much as possible. Instead, there is an idea to spread Advent to other parts of Zagreb. Locations in the center confirmed to spread the holiday magic this year are Zrinjevac, Strossmayer Square, and Tomislavac. At the same time, there won’t be any holiday houses on the surrounding streets where there are restaurant terraces.

The good news is that we won't have to wonder much longer. How exactly this year's Zagreb Advent will look should be known by the end of the week!

Due to the current status of COVID-19, many European cities have canceled Christmas fairs and those that have not are working on the organization to ensure that everything is in line with epidemiological measures.

Last week, it was officially confirmed that one of the most beautiful Christmas fairs in Europe - the one in Vienna - will be held from November 13 to December 26 with special measures. Visitors will have to wear protective masks, there will be a maximum of four people at the table, disinfectant dispensers will be available, and indoor activities will be canceled. The official opening of the Viennese Advent story should take place on November 13 at the traditionally largest and most famous Christmas fair in front of the town hall. Through the beautifully lit park in front of the town hall, the famous outdoor skating rink will once again be this year, and a popular tree decorated with hundreds of luminous hearts will be placed in the park again.

Apart from Vienna, the fairs in Graz and Salzburg, which will also take place this year, are very popular in Austria. In Germany, the situation varies from city to city, and the story is similar in France. Paris has canceled all Christmas fairs, and the famous Advent destination Strasbourg will not set up stands in the city center this year. London has canceled its most famous fair in Hyde Park, and there will be no fair in Budapest this year in Vörösmarty Square.

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Friday, 23 October 2020

Zagreb Advent 2020: Smaller Edition will Expand to Neighborhoods

October 23, 2020 - Given the epidemiological situation around Europe at the moment, it's hard to imagine any Christmas markets will be held this year at all. Here's the latest on Zagreb Advent 2020.

Vecernji List reported on Thursday that Zagreb Advent would be organized by Zagreb Markets (Tržnice Zagreb) and, according to the latest, the Zagreb Fair (Zagrebački velesajam).

In recent days, media speculation about the organization of the capital's biggest event has been mixed. But for now, the City administration is certain that Advent will be held, albeit on a smaller scale than previous editions. How exactly it will look, i.e., how many caterers will be allowed in certain locations and how the food will be served, is still to be decided.

"We only started discussing this topic two days ago; we will define the details at the working meetings. Advent will not be able to be at the level of previous years because there are fewer tourist arrivals and travel in general," said Mirka Jozic, head of the Office of Economy. At the meetings, it was agreed that the caterers would disperse, so Advent will be in the city center and the neighborhoods and allow counties to participate by exhibiting their souvenirs.

"The main attraction will be the area around the cable car, where caterers will also offer their products," said the City. They also note that Zagreb Fair will be in charge of the organization, allocating houses and catering, in cooperation with the Zagreb Caterers' Association and the Independent Association of Caterers, and Zagreb Markets will take over the logistics.

"We also demanded that anyone who is not a caterer be eliminated from renting houses or stalls. This should be solved by determining special coefficients based on the number of employees, income, and turnover of individual caterers," said Marin Medak, who has participated in Advent so far and is also a representative of the profession in meetings with the city administration.

Medak believes they could have an outline of the Advent organization by the end of the week. As for the allocation of houses, the caterers ask for a special committee to decide on it, including someone from the City, the catering sector, and. the Chamber of Crafts. 

If the decision is passed by the Assembly, the procedure for allocating public space will be carried out by a special commission that will have a president and four members and their deputies. Locations will be awarded through a public tender, the commission will consider the received bids, and then the most favorable will be determined and submitted to the mayor.

The most favorable bid in the public tender procedure for setting up houses is a bid that meets the conditions of the public tender and contains the highest offered amount of a one-time location fee," explains the decision that took place last summer.

A returning tenant will have the right to take advantage of the tender, but one company will not rent more than 40 percent of public space. However, locations will be allocated directly, without a public tender, if there are vacancies after the tender. The commission will also decide who will get the location directly, i.e., they will propose candidates to the mayor.

As for the organization of cultural events, for which the Zagreb Tourist Board is in charge, they will take place following the National Headquarters' recommendations, whose measures are still awaited.

"We are in constant contact with them, and we are waiting for the decision of the Assembly, so we will know in which direction everything will go. So far, we have several framework scenarios, and we will hone the detail," said the Zagreb Tourist Board.

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Saturday, 17 October 2020

Zagreb Advent 2020 is Uncertain, Says Tourist Board

October 17, 2020 - Zagreb tourism is suffering considerable losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and the consequences of the earthquake back in March. Tourist arrivals and overnight stays are around 30 percent of last year, and Zagreb Advent 2020 is uncertain, the Zagreb Tourist Board revealed.

"Conditions and possibilities of holding certain events have changed significantly this year, even for those outdoors in the autumn and wintertime. We are currently completing preparations for several autumn projects through which Zagreb will once again be confirmed as the most important cultural and tourist destination in Croatia. We are also developing possible scenarios for Advent," said Martina Bienenfeld, director of the Zagreb Tourist Board, as reported by

She emphasizes that health and safety are taken into account first, and then everything else that makes up a particular event.

"We are in contact with the competent authorities of the City of Zagreb, the national and city civil protection headquarters. We are working on measures and organization, and if it takes place, we will respect and insist on all the guidelines that will be recommended," says Bienenfeld.

She also commented on the recently published list of the 15 safest Christmas destinations in Europe by the European Best Destinations (EBD), in which Zagreb is in 8th place. They also mention the date of this year's Advent (from November 27, 2020, to January 3, 2021), though the Tourist Board emphasizes they did not participate in this or communicate anything to the EBD, not even the dates they stated.

"EBD has been promoting sustainable European tourism for years in collaboration with the European Commission and other institutions and has compiled the list according to its own criteria, which, according to explanations we received from its director, were the number of cases per million inhabitants and hospital beds per capita, proximity to airports, the establishment of sanitary measures and others. According to the online voting in the EBD organization, Zagreb Advent was named the best in Europe three times. Croatia was among the countries with a relatively favorable epidemiological picture in September. Logically, they took us into account, and it is certainly positive that we are on that list," says Bienenfeld.

Presenting data on the decline in physical tourist traffic for the first nine months of this year, she notes that this is expected and points out the increased average length of stay of tourists in Zagreb, to 2.21 nights, compared to last year's 1.83.

By the end of September this year, almost 283 thousand tourists came to Zagreb, who realized 624.3 thousand overnight stays, or 26 and 31 percent of last year's results. Most tourists were from Croatia, followed by Germany, Italy, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and Poland, while, in addition to locals and tourists from Germany, most overnight stays were achieved by tourists from Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the USA.

In the first 15 days of October, 15.7 thousand tourists visited or 22 percent of last year's number in the same days, while 33 percent was reached with just over 41 thousand overnight stays, with a further extension of the average stay to 2.61 nights.

Most tourists stay in hotels, about 50 percent, then in private accommodation - about 40 percent. Bienenfeld reveals that due to the pandemic and the aftermath of the earthquake, seven hotels and 11 hostels are currently operating in Zagreb, and about 135 private accommodations closed just because of the earthquake.

Due to the damage caused by the earthquake, 15 museums and seven galleries and art collections are currently closed, which significantly reduces the offer. She also points out that changes in the behavior of those who travel are noticeable in the pandemic.

"Individual and smaller family and business trips have completely prevailed in Zagreb. Tourists are favoring individual rather than group city tours, visiting Zagreb attractions on their own, and spending more time outdoors and exploring the Zagreb area, which is thanks to our first destination campaign in cooperation with the Zagreb County Tourist Board "Near the city, close to the heart," says the director of the Zagreb Tourist Board.

Because of the coronavirus situation, the Zagreb Tourist Board changed the work program for this year and reduced expenditures by 35 percent, primarily the cost for promotional activities, appearances at fairs and international workshops, event support, materials and souvenirs, and offline advertising, and reduced the number of employees to five people.

"Circumstances have changed significantly, and existing employees are engaged in jobs caused by pandemics and earthquakes that do not represent an additional financial burden. We developed four promotional campaigns from March to October, organized 'hybrid' activities with live broadcasts on our online channels. We also do online presentations and marketing projects for further positioning in the international market, as well as virtual meetings and workshops in targeted markets from which we expect the return of guests as soon as the situation is more favorable," says Bienenfeld.

She believes that careful planning is now needed, with quick and ad hoc reactions and flexibility in decision-making, and, like others in tourism, estimates 2021 as uncertain, emphasizing that everything will depend on the situation and they will need to further adapt and innovate in all spheres of tourist activity.

"The focus should be on sustainable tourism through an adequate strategy for the development of health aspects of staying in the destination, and more than ever, cooperation, support and mutual trust of all tourism stakeholders are needed, especially since it is estimated that there will be no normalization before 2022. Given the importance and share of tourism in GDP, both in Europe and Croatia, it is imperative in these difficult times to encourage the creation of joint solutions by all levels of government to get out of this crisis," Bienenfeld concludes.

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