Christmas in Croatia

Croatia is a beautiful country situated between central and eastern Europe. Here you will find an exceptional tourist infrastructure, with lots to do and plenty to see. Whether you’re seeking a getaway relaxing on beautiful beaches, or would prefer to explore historic towns and cities, there is something for everyone in Croatia. 

The country is made up of more than 1,000 islands, providing plenty of space to explore. Croatia offers excellent diversity providing something for a range of holiday itineraries. Its stunning landscapes and impressive scenery allow for the perfect backdrop that will impress even the most experienced of travellers. 

Many tourists also choose to head to Croatia for Christmas. Its wonderful climate and neverending beauty provide an excellent place to spend the holidays. If you’re seeking a festive break in this outstanding country, keep reading as we have all the information you need below!

Weather in Croatia at Christmas

Croatia, Cruise Croatia

Before booking your Christmas break in Croatia, it’s best to know what to expect when visiting. With so many places to see and lots of interesting sites to explore, the weather can be an important factor for many. 

Croatia is relatively mild throughout December, providing a comfortable environment to enjoy the holidays. Some parts of the country are colder than others, however, the temperatures average around 5°C throughout the month. 

Although the weather isn’t as hot as the summer months, winter in Croatia is a must. With cosy Christmas markets, festivities taking place in towns and villages across the country and slopes to explore, a trip here during this time won’t disappoint. You can also enjoy all that Croatia has to offer in December without the crowds, as the cooler temperatures tend to attract fewer tourists. 

Croatian Christmas Traditions

Red wine, Dubrovnik
Dinner in Croatia

One of the best things about visiting anywhere in Croatia for Christmas is that you get to experience different traditions and cultures during this holiday season. Travelling is all about learning more about other parts of the world and a trip to this country is no exception. The information below will help you learn a little more about some of Croatia’s Christmas traditions. 

Traditional Christmas Food

A common practice across many countries during Christmas is a feast! Many of us spend the whole of December indulging in festive treats and Croatia is no exception.

Christmas Eve is when most of Croatia enjoys a variety of fish dishes. From dried codfish, cabbage and potatoes to squid and baked goods, much of the country has some form of seafood during this time. This is a great way to try out some of Croatia’s fresh produce! 

On Christmas Day the feast truly begins! With rice, meats, roasted pig, lamb, turkey, bacon, pancetta, cheese, bread and much more, you will be spoilt for choice when enjoying a traditional festive meal in Croatia. The dishes vary slightly depending on each of the regions throughout the country. Some prefer beef stew, while others cook turkey and pasta. There are also plenty of delicious desserts for after, so be sure to leave some space! 

Church For Christmas

Christmas marks the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, making it a prominent religious event for many. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that throughout Croatia, many choose to head to the Churches to honour this special time of year. 

Some Croatians already attend church regularly. However, the difference with Christmas is that they attend midnight mass once they have eaten their Christmas Eve dinner. This is to partake in the religious ceremony and to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

With so many stunning churches and cathedrals across Croatia, a visit to these during Christmas is a great way to spend your time here. Marvel over the impressive architecture whilst taking in the intriguing historical background of these remarkable structures. 

Badnjak

There are many Christmas traditions in Croatia, with Badnjak being a prominent part of the country’s customs. Badnjak relates to the practice of bringing a log into the home, similar to those who bring Christmas trees in during the holidays. The log is then set alight with the intention of it burning until Christmas Day. 

Previously, the logs went through a religious tradition which would involve the oldest man in the family putting holy water and frankincense on the item whilst saying a prayer. To keep the log burning, members of the family would take turns getting up through the night. Today, the tradition is less common, with most Croatians using their fireplace in place of the Badnjak.

Christmas Markets in Croatia

Dolac Market, Zagreb
Zagreb

If you’re planning a Christmas holiday in Croatia, you’re no doubt pursuing the festive markets whilst visiting. Luckily enough for you, there are plenty to choose from! Whether you’re seeking souvenirs to take home, or just want to stroll through the traditional stalls whilst marvelling at all the crafts on offer, there is a market for all in Croatia. 

Spend some time with family and friends whilst enjoying a mulled wine, take in the twinkling lights and allow Croatia’s Christmas markets to get you in the festive spirit! Here are a few of the best in the country so that you can visit here with these places in mind.

Zagreb Christmas Market 

A highlight for tourists and locals alike is a trip to Zagreb’s Christmas Market. It is the biggest market in Croatia and offers everything from souvenirs, to cheese and tons of local produce. The city transforms into a true winter wonderland with wooden stalls lining the streets. 

This is a great way to truly experience Croatia’s culture and customs during the festive season. Find the Christmas Market at the main square in Zagreb, and be sure to also check out the city’s Ice Park where you can glide beneath the pretty lights. Indulge in traditional food, or spend some time soaking up the magic that surrounds you in the country’s capital. 

Winter Festival in Dubrovnik 

Another popular place to enjoy the festive season is Dubrovnik. The city’s historical architecture and fantastic sites attract tourists year-round. However, Christmas allows for a particularly lovely time here.

Dubrovnik’s Winter Festival usually starts in the middle of November and ends in the early spring. The winter season is particularly great for visiting, as the city has fewer crowds, making it easier to navigate the sites. 

With New Year’s Eve, the Festivity of St. Blaise, Advent in the City and Dubrovnik Carnival all being celebrated during the Winter Festival, plenty is happening for all. The Christmas Market in Dubrovnik is a particular favourite for many, as the Old Walls of the city light up with festive decorations. Stroll around the wooden stalls where you will find Christmas ornaments, traditional food, souvenirs and much more! 

Sibenik Christmas Market

The Christmas Market in Sibenik starts on the 6th of December and ends on the 3rd of January, giving visitors plenty of time to enjoy all that is on offer here. Something that makes Sibenik particularly special is that it is the first in the country to offer a plastic-free Christmas Market, perfect for eco-friendly travellers. 

All food and drink are served in sustainable packaging, doing good for the planet as well as being a wonderful festive market to explore. The main event takes place in the city park, here you will find trees beaming with beautiful lights. With an ice rink, live concerts and plenty for the kids to do, you will find something for the whole family when visiting Sibenik during Christmas. 

Sibenik is situated in central Dalmatia meaning there are plenty of other things to do and see when visiting here. Explore the stunning cathedral, or wander through the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a place certainly worth adding to your holiday itinerary due to its outstanding attractions and wonderful atmosphere. 

When is the Start of Advent in Croatia?

Dubrovnik
Split

Many tourists question how Christmas is celebrated in Croatia, with multiple celebrations happening across the country, you won’t be disappointed when visiting during this time. The first of the festive extravaganzas in Croatia starts 4 weeks before Christmas and it kicks off with the marking of an Advent Wreath. 

The Advent Wreath has four candles, with each of them being lit every week in the lead-up to Christmas. Many locals present this tradition in their homes as a way of marking the start of the holiday season. Each of the candles stands for something different, with one representing creation, another for incarnation, the third symbolises redemption and the fourth representing the end. 

After the start of Advent has taken place, the towns and cities then come to life with Christmas Markets littering the streets. Lights hang from buildings and decorations are scattered throughout shops, restaurants and bars. A trip to any of Croatia’s towns or villages provides a magical experience for the whole of the festive season. 

There is also plenty to do in Croatia at Christmas for kids. Spend your time wandering around historic castles, browsing Christmas Markets, skating on the ice rinks, shopping in the capital or indulging in excellent cuisine. There is so much to see and do in Croatia throughout Christmas, you will find yourself needing more time just to experience it all! 

Key Dates in Croatia around Christmas

If you want to plan your Christmas trip to Croatia around the country’s key dates, below are some worth putting on your calendar. They all mark a significant time for the people in the country and are celebrated throughout the many islands.  

December 6th – St. Nicholas’ Day

December 6th marks St. Nicholas Day in Croatia, a particularly exciting time for children. The Catholic holiday celebrates the third-century saint who was said to inspire the current Santa Claus. He was known for selling all his possessions and donating his money to the poor. On December 6th children throughout Croatia are rewarded with gifts, symbolising the generosity of St. Nicholas. 

December 24th – Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is known as Badnjak in Croatia and begins with a family gathering to decorate the tree. There is usually a feast served, with families attending midnight mass afterwards. This is a lovely time to take in all the lights and decorations around the country as the streets are filled with festive cheer and a lovely atmosphere. 

December 25th – Christmas Day

Much like many other countries across the world, Christmas day is celebrated on the 25th of December in Croatia. The festivity is held to celebrate the birth of Jesus, alongside the twelve days of Christmas. During this time, families in Croatia gather together to enjoy a hearty meal consisting of meats and plenty of dressings which is usually followed by the traditional Kuglof dessert. 

December 26th – St. Stephen’s Day

After the Christmas Day celebrations come to an end, many people in Croatia spend the 26th of December honouring St. Stephen’s Day. This is a time to see extended family, friends and neighbours and wish them a Happy Christmas. Much like the other dates during the festive season, the day consists of food, drink and quality time with loved ones.

Summary

Split, Croatia
Aurelia Small Cruise Ship, Croatia

A trip to Croatia during Christmas provides an unmatched experience. With festivities taking place throughout the country, it is an unrivalled destination for the best holiday getaway. Wander the ancient towns and cities, browse the quaint markets or indulge in delicious feasts. Whatever you choose to do, you will enjoy a Christmas break that is perfect for the whole family. 

If you want to see all that Croatia has to offer, why not take a cruise around the islands? With a range of small ships to choose from, you can explore many of the Croatian Islands, all whilst enjoying the Christmas festivities across the country.