Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead!

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Last year Jaime experienced his first real winter ever and since he was always cold, we skipped advent manifestations around the Europe and visited the Christmas market in Zagreb only. Even we had a great time, this year I wanted to show him how advent looked like in other, more famous cities.

Vienna was an obvious choice – it was close, reachable with the car, and well known as an advent destination. I visited several times before, but it seemed to be a perfect destination for Jaime to explore. Two days later, we realized we might be wrong. Vienna is probably the most popular city in the terms of Christmas markets, but we actually liked Zagreb better, and here is why.

Read more: Tips & trick for a day trip to Vienna

Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead! | Mexatia

Crowds vs. moderate crowds

Wherever you go in Vienna, it is crowded. If there are no people – then it sucks. Weekends are the worst, buses and buses full of tourists are coming to the city and you can see groups of 40 – 50 people following their guides everywhere. 

Visiting Christmas markets during the peak hours is a nightmare. Long wait lines for food stalls (which was obviously not enough), walking around surrounded by a bunch of people stopping and taking photos all the time, … I’m not going to lie and say there are no crowds in Zagreb. There are, of course, but a number of people in Vienna and Zagreb cannot be compared at all. Do not forget, the popularity is not always a good thing!

Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead! | Mexatia

No music vs. music everywhere

We decided on Vienna because we expected it to be more fun than Zagreb, but we got unpleasantly surprised. During our visit to Rathaus Christmas market on Friday evening, we realized there was no music at all. I’m not sure if something was wrong with their sound system or it is always like that. 

I remember having a better time in Vienna past years when there was an ice skating ring next to Karl’s church and Christmas songs were blaring from the speakers. This year, it was awfully quiet. In contrary, Zagreb is full of music wherever you go. If there no a live performance, there is some kind of music. 

Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead! | Mexatia

Expensive vs. affordable

Austria is generally more expensive than Croatia (of course), but prices in Vienna went up high. For example, the same cup of mulled wine will cost you 4€ or more in Vienna and only 12 – 15 kuna (2€ or even less) in Zagreb. The same goes for  sausages, coffee and basically anything you wish to buy or try. Everything in Zagreb is approximately half priced than in Vienna. 

Read more: Where to eat in Vienna – Here are the best cakes in Vienna

Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead! | Mexatia

Shop till you drop vs. having fun

After walking around the whole Viennese city center, we realized there is nothing really going on in the city. The markets were all about the shopping, 80% of the stalls were selling souvenirs and other goodies (even products from Venice – not sure why would you want to buy a Venetian mask during the advent in Vienna?), while the rest were reserved for food and drinks.

There is so many different happenings, performances, concerts and workshops going on in Zagreb that we could not believe we did not notice any in Vienna. Being one of the most popular winter destinations, Vienna was surprisingly boring for us, who did not come to shop but to have fun. At the same time, in Zagreb, we saw the concert, checked out kids workshop and went to ice skate. 

Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead! | Mexatia

Already seen vs. new and innovative

As I mentioned before, markets in Vienna were all about the shopping and less about new experiences, trying out different food and enjoying street activities with your friends and family. At the end of our stay, when I asked Jaime if he would like to visit another market, he answered “What for? They are all the same and I am not interested in buying the souvenirs.”. I guess that reflects the best how we felt about Vienna.

Read more: When did Zagreb Christmas market become that awesome?!

Forget Advent In Vienna And Head To Zagreb Instead! | Mexatia

In Zagreb, we did not know where to go first. Should we go to ice skate in the biggest ring or should we choose the one in the museum’s atrium? Are we going to try traditional food like sarma, sausages, and fritule or modern Christmas burgers and all kinds of international food? Should we check out the designer district or ride a funicular to reach the new markets in the Upper town? I think you got the point. 

These are some of the reasons why we liked Zagreb so much better. We found Vienna to be too crowded, too expensive and too boring. I am looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen in the years to come. Could the “little Vienna”, as Zagreb is often called, actually surpass it’s *big brother* and become known for it’s Christmas markets all around the Europe? Until then, forget Advent in Vienna and head to Zagreb instead!

Did you visit any Christmas market this year? Which one was your favorite?


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19 Discussion to this post

  1. Jean says:

    I love the idea of having fun, less crowds and more happy time. I’d love to see a white winter. It’s gets stupidly hot or stupidly cold here in Australia around Xmas time

  2. This is so helpful! I absolutely love the Christmas markets in Europe, and the one in Zagreb seems absolutely perfect! The perfect balance of everything. I love that it’s more affordable too! Europe can be so expensive sometimes, so it’s always great to find a good bargain there.

  3. I would definitely prefer lesser crowds in Croatia. It is no fun if you have to stand in long lines if you want to buy some food during Christmas markets. I was in Vienna during beginning of summer and it was crowded then too. Never been to Zagreb though.

  4. Ivy says:

    It sounds like Zagreb is the way to go as opposed to Vienna! We were there last August and felt a little underwhelmed because it was so quiet, looks like we went at the wrong time! Will have to go back in December soon

  5. I wouldn’t mention Zagreb as the #1 Christmas market destination but it looks absolutely lovely and I’ll definately add this to the 2017 wish list!

  6. I’d love to visit Zagreb! It sounds lovely for Christmas, from the way you describe it. I’ve already been to Vienna in December and found it rather overpriced and most of the waiters at restaurants/cafes/bars were extremely rude to us and refused to speak English… Somehow I believe that’s not the case in Zagreb 🙂

    • I would be extremely disappointed if it was! Of course I can guarantee for the attitude of some people, but prices are really affordable and visit to the markets is very pleasant.

  7. Zagreb does sound like an awesome Christmas market. We’ve seen the one in Vienna so we’ll definitely check out Zagreb’s. It does sound more affordable and more fun with than just shopping in Vienna.

  8. Abigail says:

    Those lights are UNREAL! Christmas markets do that to me – I always feel like a little child with my eyes wide open. Zagreb seems like such a gorgeous city to visit.

  9. Croatia has been high on our list and you have given us one more reason for it to be. 🙂 We would definitely experiment on visiting non touristy and non popular places seeking to explore something new and unexplored. Thanks for these comparison think will go with Zagreb 😉

  10. utravelshare says:

    I love all the European Christmas markets and to confirm it this one is pretty nice!! I have never visit it because every year, during Xmas time, I stay with my family and think about my next travel destination (usually on February and November)! anyway, nice post and thanks for sharing it

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