The beginning of winter means two things here in Europe — the start of Christmas market season, and getting acceptably-drunk-on-mulled-wine season. What a time to be alive!
The Christmas market in Zagreb, Croatia was recently named as Europe's best Christmas market. I was totally skeptical of this, as Germany and Austria are sort of known as the kings of Christmas markets here in Europe — so for an eastern European country to get it was surprising! So, some friends and I — Delaney and Miranda — made the trip to Zagreb, about a 5-hour drive from where we are in Italy, to check it out — because we have to do the tough research for y'all here on Freckle & Fair.
Now, I do not know if the Zagreb market is ~the best~ in Europe (I haven't been to them all!), but it did show off quite a bit, and we were totally pleased! The market is huge — it basically spans the entire city, with booths popping up in squares and courtyards all around. The ice skating rink is totally impressive and romantic, too. I was a little disappointed in the wares they were selling — they weren't beautiful, wooden ornaments or wool goods around every corner like in the German markets. But the food was amazing — there was a ton of it, and I had a hard time choosing what to eat before I got full. And so much mulled wine — which is good, because it demanded to be drunk fast because it was so cold out!
The city is decked out for Christmas, and Zagreb definitely looks best this time of year. The whole city was tinkling with lights and though I'm not sure if I would head to Zagreb at a different time of year, it was totally fun and worth the visit for Christmastime, if you're a market-hopping Christmas fool.
WHAT WE DID:
- Hopped markets, mulled wine in hand: There are Christmas markets literally all over Zagreb, and it's super easy to walk to all of them. We stopped by the markets at Ban Jelacic Square, Zrinjevac and the European Square. We also loved the ones by our place in Gradec, like the advent at Klovicevi Dvori and Strossmatre. I didn't find that these markets had as many things to buy as the German markets, but there was so much good food that it was hard to narrow down what to eat. We tried all the types of mulled wine, plus a stronger warm drink called winter Jack, as well as plenty of goulasch, weiners, pretzels and pastries.
- Feasted on germknedl, or yeast dough dumplings: I found a new favorite Christmas market food (probably, after kiachl), and this Austrian germknedl takes the cake. It's a yeast dumpling filled with plum jam and covered in a milky sugar sauce and poppy seeds. It's ridiculous and you need to eat it.
- Ate breakfast at Otto & Frank: After Mexican food, eating a good breakfast is the thing I miss most when dining out in Italy. So when I get the opportunity to grab a good breakfast, I always take it, and Otto & Frank delivered. We all grabbed different dishes — the banana and Nutella French toast, the Zagreb breakfast and the sunny side up, with cappuccini all around. We finished breakfast with their notorious carrot cake and were satisfied until we can eat breakfast out again.
- Checked out the ice skating rink at Ledeni Park: I'm a sucker for ice skating, and the skating rink at Ledeni Park is totally beautiful and romantic. Even if you just stop by to grab a few drinks at the bar on the upper deck of the skate rental hut, it's definitely worth stopping by.
- Stayed in Gradec: The upper town, surrouding the parliament buildings and old churches, is quiet and beautiful. We had a perfect girl pad with our Airbnb, which was also very close to the Christmas market in Strossmatre.
Photos and text © Katie Currid, 2016. All rights reserved.