It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Zagreb. The first snows have already fallen and Advent is about to take over the city. Zagreb's award-winning Advent lights up three new areas this year, charming residents and visitors of all ages. The city's nightlife is in full swing and there's not a week without music highlights between now and New Year's Eve. Here's our rundown of the best things you can do in the capital this month.
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Great things to do in Zagreb in December
The leafy Zrinjevac looks spectacular dressed up in fairy lights. Advent here consists of market stalls selling warm food, with a particular emphasis on traditional Croatian dishes - here you can try goulash, sour cabbage rolls, smoked leg of pig or braised cabbage with home-made pasta, and a sweet strukli for dessert. Zrinjevac's stand-out centrepiece is a majestic pavilion that hosts a regular programme of live musicians and children's entertainers.
Internationally attended fun run which raises money for charitable causes, Zagreb Advent Run is open to participants of all ages and abilities and is perhaps one of the most fun of all such happenings, with the vast majority of runners choosing to run in costume, many being seasonally themed. Pre-registration is a must. The race's starting point is in front of the city centre's Westin Hotel.
The tree-lined Strossmartre parade, which looks out over the city, is a romantic spot at any time of year, but it's all the more magical in winter. Enjoy gingerbread by the truckload, while guzzling craft beer and mulled wine from fairy-tale styled kiosks. Look out for the chicken and roasted vegetable gyros made by Fantastic Foods, the first and largest food house on the parade - they are the best in the city. Musical guests include Balkan Jazz band, Gramofon band and La Papa. The full lineup is listed over on their website.
This free-to-attend film festival showcases campaigning films from politically-committed directors, plus panel discussions and after-show DJs. HRFF gives you a chance to see indie films by upcoming directors as well as inspired, world-spanning documentaries before they hit the festival circuit.
The beautiful tree-lined Maksimir is thoroughly made over during Advent, with twinkly lights and wooden huts decorating the park.
Fuliranje, which translates as 'fooling around', encourages passersby to do just that. Leading Zagreb restaurants present their culinary expertise, while local DJ heroes like Brighton, Felver, hrwoE, Kuzma & Shaka Zulu, Pepi Jogarde, Pips, Burek's Mario Pytzek, Goulash Disko's Yves Taquet and Imogen Recordings Ilija Rudman play everything from funk to techno, with the aim of getting you all to drop your Christmas shopping and dance in the street.
A treat for your inner child (or your actual child), this exhibition focuses on the work of American Modernist Alexander Calder – also known as the man who invented the hanging mobile. Calder was the most playful of the great 20th century sculptors, obsessed with movement and theatricality. His mobiles seem to have a life of their own, and watching them as they spin and cast shadows on the walls is joy incarnate.
Sfumato are a Zagreb based trio comprising guitarist Matko Bobić, bass player Viktor Slamnig and drummer Ivan Cimi Marinović. Each of them also plays outside of the group and Sfumato exist within the Zagreb-based Jeboton music collective. In comparison to other members of this collective, Sfumato are without doubt the most accessible to anyone who doesn't speak fluent Croatian, because they make instrumental music. Funk is the backbone of their sound, but there's a rock edge to the guitar in particular that prevents it veering off into noodley jazz-funk territory. It's not perhaps complementary to compare them to early Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but it's very easy to do so. The band released their debut album 'Walhali' in 2018 with their second due any moment now. Haller Meurer is a band that plays the kind of electronic dance music that you'd usually hear from DJs, only they do so with the full band set-up of with drum, synthesizers, samplers and guitar.
Whether you glide across the ice like an Olympic figure skater, or clutch onto the sides for dear life, ice skating is exhilarating fun. The spectacular Tomislav Square serves as this ice-rink's setting but if the very thought of ice-skating fills you with dread, you can retreat to the food and live music tent. Here, you can watch the skaters falling over as you sip mulled wine.
One of the most significant Swedish death metal bands of the last three decades, At The Gates are credited with establishing a distinct sub-style of the music now attributed to their home city of Gothenburg. Their melodic take on death metal has earned them Swedish Grammy nominations and, despite two periods of extended hiatus, the band continue to tour the world with a line-up still recognisable from that with which they achieved fame in the 1990s. The band are arguably more popular now than ever before and released their fifth studio album 'To Drink from the Night Itself' in 2018.