We already planned out our visit to Zagreb Christmas markets, when I noticed the special Nutcracker exhibition will be opening the very same day. Of course, we extended our visit to the city center and headed straight to the Zagreb’s Museum of Arts and Crafts first.
From November 26, 2016, until February 27, 2017, the Museum of Arts and Crafts is the venue to visit in the city. Unique and never seen before, the Nutcracker Christmas exhibition in Zagreb will capture your heart easily, no matter if you are a fan or not.
Read more: When did Zagreb Christmas market become this awesome?!
The Nutcracker Christmas Fairy Tale
Following the story of the most popular Christmas ballet in the world, the Nutcracker exhibition will draw you into a magical story of Clara and her toy. Even the story is based on “The Nutcracker and the King of Mice” written by E. T. A. Hoffman, today’s ballet is a bit different. However, the basics remain the same – it follows the story of young Clara, a German girl who dreams of a fierce Nutcracker Prince battling the scary Mouse King with seven heads.
It all starts with Clara’s family hosting their annual Christmas party where her Christmas present, a beautiful Nutcracker toy, becomes a hit. Her jealous brother breaks it and the family tries to repair it. They did the best they could but Clara, worried about him, sneaks back to the tree and falls asleep with the toy in her arms.
Read more: Forget Advent in Vienna, head to Zagreb instead!
As the clock strikes midnight, the toys around the tree come to life and the Mouse King attacks them with his army. After the grand victory and thanks to Clara’s love, the Nutcracker turns into a prince and takes her on a magical journey through the Snow Forest and the Kingdom of sweets where they dance and celebrate. Unfortunately, every dream comes to its end – Clara wakes up underneath the tree still holding her beloved Nutcracker.
The Enchanting Nutcracker Christmas Exhibition in Zagreb
You do not need to know the story, or see the ballet to love this exhibition. It will enchant you with its fairy tale scenography, details from behind the scene and those wonderful costumes which were worn by some famous ensembles.
You can see the material from Saint Petersburg 1892 premiere, costumes worn in Milan’s Scala and Zagreb National theater as well as some items from Jelko Yuresha’s (Željko Jureša) private collection. He was Croatian / British artist who traveled the world with his wife Belinda Wright in order to promote the ballet. They were both regulars in the Nutcracker ensemble since late 1940-is and together they staged many choreographies and designed costumes, jewelry, and sets.
As the Nutcracker is the most frequently performed classical ballet, many theaters around the world made their own adaptations. This exhibition shows several costumes designed by a famous costume designer Nicholas Georgiadis, designed for performances in Milan’s Scala during 1960-is. They are amazing, aren’t they?
In Zagreb, the Nutcracker has been performing since 1931. However, in the spirit of the former socialist Yugoslavia, the story did not take place on a Christmas Eve (Christmas was not celebrated back then), but on Clara’s birthday and, since then, several versions of the ballet were performed over the years.
Read more: Croatian winter comfort food you should try
Ticket for this wonderful exhibition will cost you 40 kn per person (around 5,5€), just make sure to come before February 27 when the fairy tale ends. Museum is located in Zagreb, Croatia, just across the National Theatre in the city center, so you can’t miss it. If you have some time free, in the basement there is also an excellent restaurant and cafe (a place where we had our wedding celebration, actually!).
Besides those spectacular Nutcracker toys exhibited, the youngsters will enjoy Santa’s workshop house in the museum’s lobby, music listening corner and dreamy toys they can bring home as a souvenir.
In total, the exhibition about the ballet performed in the most beautiful time of the year is very well organized, attractive and interesting. I would call it being extremely successful since it made us want to see the ballet performance again. Too bad all the tickets were already sold out. But, if you have an opportunity, make sure to visit the Nutcracker Christmas Exhibition in Zagreb! Also, it is a great place to warm up while going around the city and trying all those delicious winter comfort food.
Museum of Arts and Crafts
Trg maršala Tita
Entrance fee: 40 kn
If you or your little ones are fans of the Nutcracker, you might consider treating yourself with this precious souvenirs.
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Not so long ago, Christmas markets in Vienna and all around Germany were the most popular places to visit during the advent. Then appeared Budapest, Bratislava, Ljubljana… and Zagreb. Since I was a child, there was a small market in the city center, where you could buy Christmas ornaments and winter clothes of all kinds. It was the only place where you could feel the Christmas spirit in the city, besides seeing the lights on the main square and surrounding streets.
Why visit Zagreb in December?
Slowly, year by year Zagreb was getting more and more facilities and it turned into one of the most attractive winter destinations. Last year, Zagreb Christmas market was voted to be the best one in Europe, leaving many much more popular and traditional cities behind. The story of the rise of Advent in Zagreb is quite impressive and the fact it became the most important event in the city says a lot.
You need to experience the special atmosphere Zagreb offers in the time of Advent. It’s streets and squares invite you explore local traditions, sample traditional delicacies and enjoy fun activities everywhere in the city. The city looks classy and elegant, it is lively and joyful.
Read more: Winter activities for couples
When to visit Zagreb Christmas Market?
This winter, Zagreb Christmas Market is going to be the best one and the biggest one yet. From November 26 until January 8, in more than 20 locations around the city, you can enjoy everything Christmas brings: comfort food like sausages and fritule, drink hot mulled wine, heat up dancing and see few concerts and performances, all accompanied by your dear family and friends. This year, Zagreb Christmas Market is so wide and diverse that everybody can find something for themselves.
What is the best way to visit?
Being spread all around the city center, a walking tour around Christmas markets will give you the chance to see many popular locations in Zagreb as well. Last weekend we visited most of the locations in five hours and, even it is doable, I would recommend spreading it in two or three days for the first time visitors. If you are not sure how to plan your visit, what to wear and how long to stay, check out this amazing How to plan your Christmas market trip.
When the most of the events happen?
The most of the concert and performances are happening during the weekends or in the evenings, so the best time to visit is after 7 pm. However, keep in mind the city gets pretty crowded (especially on weekends) and it is hard to find a parking space (extra tip: parking is free on Saturday after 3 pm and Sundays). For most of the popular food stalls, you will need to wait in line too. If you wish to skip the crowds, we advise you to come a bit earlier.
We started our stroll around 4:30 pm, right after it started to get dark. By 8 pm city was already full. We had an opportunity to visit some of the markets, browse their offer and take pictures without many people around. Of course, more people means more fun so make sure to attend some event later on as well.
Read more: Christmas traditions in Croatia
Zagreb Christmas Market Walking Tour
Our walking tour started at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, where we check out the new Nutcracker exhibition. It served as a perfect intro to the Christmas fairy tale and we decided to see the ballet, showing in the nearby National Theatre, soon.
Christmas in the Tunnel
From the Museum we walked up on Frankopanska and Mesnicka street until we reached the newly opened Grič Tunnel. They say there are many tunnels under Zagreb’s Upper Town and this one is the first and only opened for public. It is the newest addition to the Christmas market as well! From December 16 it will be decorated with lights and a perfect venue for creative concerts.
Advent on Stross
A little brother of Summer on Stross, the Christmas market in Zagreb’s most beautiful promenade has a special charm. White wooden chalets decorated with Christmas ornaments, selling traditional foods and drinks as well as souvenirs and music in combination with the best views on Zagreb cannot go wrong.
Concerts on the Gric Meadow
Right behind the Strossmayer promenade and Lotrscak Tower, you can find a small market on Vranycyzany meadow. Being one of the newest additions to the Christmas offer, those two places are ideal for the ones who would like to escape the crowds – at least until the people discovers them. And it will – because some great concerts will be performed right here. It is also said to be the most romantic advent location!
St Mark’s Christmas Tree
The least popular square (a reference to the government buildings) in the city got one of the biggest trees this year. Stop by and take photos of Saint Mark’s church in the even more beautiful setting.
The Courtyards – Winter Edition
One of the most popular summer events got its winter edition! The Upper Town magical courtyards are always a fun place to visit and this advent they became even more magical. It is a unique experience because most of them are normally not open for public – some of the courtyards you can visit this winter are Palace Balbi, Zagreb City Museum, and Palace Amade.
Advent in Klovicevi dvori & Plato Gradec
The free concerts, ice sculptures, and the most attractive selfie location in the whole city. Come and visit the coolest skate rink, workshops and performances for the whole family and stand behind the photo frame. Don’t forget to press the button for the snow to start 🙂
Fuliranje in Tomiceva Street
After having a great time in the Upper Town, we took a funicular back to the downtown. During the advent period, the rides are completely free! After stepping out from the oldest vehicle in town, you will find yourself in Tomiceva street. A few years ago, “fuliranje in Tomiceva” (often wrongly translated like “fooling around” – actually means “flirting” in old city slang) became one of the most popular locations during the advent. Lots of fun and food – this winter in Tomiceva the Croatian celebrity chefs are cooking for you.
Christmas Fairy Tale in the Main Square
City’s main square is a home to the main Christmas tree, a concert venue (the biggest New Year’s concert is hosted here as well), small Christmas market in the western part and various food stalls on the east. Last year, they set up a magical forest decorated with snow, which looked very attractive and it soon became people’s favorite.
The Nativity Scene and Cathedral
In front of the Cathedral, you can experience the real, live nativity scene. If you have some spare time, make sure to pay a visit to the beautiful Cathedral as well.
A Food Heaven in European Square
When you get hungry, you should head to the European square, the only square in the world decorated with the million hearts. In the square filled with more than 30 wooden houses, you will find something for yourself for sure. Many fun concerts, art expositions, and hot mulled wine will heat up your heart in no moment.
Fuliranje in Kurelceva Street
Fuliranje in Tomiceva got a younger brother – disco manifestation in Kurelceva, right next to the European square. We tried some tasty sausages here – Jaime the spicy one and I had a Debrecener sausage. If you are in the mood for other kinds of food, here you can visit our favorite Submarine and try their new Christmas burger.
Zrinjevac is the central point of Christmas market, where everything started and the most visited part of the market. The musical pavilion is a true symbol of Advent, hosting various performances and concerts almost every evening. Here you will take some of the most magical photos of Zagreb Christmas market for sure.
Visit Rudolph in Strossmayer Square
In Zagreb, there is something for every age. Strossmayer’s Square is turned into the North Pole for kids, with interactive workshops, music and stage shows for different ages.
Ice park in Tomislav Square
The biggest hit of Zagreb Christmas Market is for sure the ice park! This huge skate park is probably one of the biggest ones you have ever seen – and certainly the most stunning to skate on. Located right in front of the beautiful Art Pavillion, surrounded by cute wooden houses and the fountain, the skating here definitely will be memorable.
Read more: Salaj’s Family Christmas Fairy Tale
Christmas Markets in Gajeva and Bogoviceva
The markets in the city center are the perfect place to finish your walking tour. Buy handmade Christmas ornaments with Zagreb details and grab the last portion of fritule with sugar before heading home.
If you still have some energy left, you can head to Novi Zagreb. This year’s newest locations are in a new part of the town: the New Advent in the Museum of Contemporary Art and Santa Claus’ Frozen Fairytale in Zagreb Fair are just some of the newest additions.
So, if you have always thought about Croatia like of a country of sea and sun, you might change your mind. Croatia is so much more and the great way to start exploring it is to visit the best Christmas market in Europe – Zagreb Christmas market.
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When I first visited, there was a park literally two minutes from Jaime’s apartment in Mexico City. I was passing by for almost two weeks before I decided to change my route and stop walking the streets only. I thought it was a regular park, but when Jaime told me it is also known as an outdoor museum I finally took a camera and went for a stroll.
It was raining the day before and I was pretty concerned the rain is going to start when I’ll be in the park, but I was lucky. However, the weather was better for sleeping than for taking pictures and parts of the park were flooded so my stroll was somehow limited. Even the weather was bad, I met lots of walkers, dog walkers and runners in the park.
Briefly, Luis G. Urbina Park is located on the border of Extremadura Insurgentes and Nochebuena colonies in the southwestern part of Mexico City. Because of its topography, it is better known as Parque Hundido (“Sunken Park”). In the past, it was the location of Christmas trees’ forest and after Avenida de los Insurgentes was paved and widened at the beginning of 20th century, the park was made. Nowadays, the park is popular among parents with children, cyclists, runners and dog walkers.
Outdoor museum in Parque Hundido
Since 1972, the park has an enviable collection of 51 pieces of pre-Columbian art which make it an outdoor museum. The art is distributed in various parts of the park, organized by five different sections and five archeological routes were organized: Mayan route, Oaxacan route, highlands route, Olmec’s route and Totonac and Huestec route. Each route has been marked with a different color line on the trails through the park (red, blue, green, yellow and purple). The art is relatively good preserved, but it is really a shame that almost none of it has a table with the explanation.
Besides the art, in the park, you can also find a Floral Clock created by a famous watchmaker from Puebla, a statue of Vincente Guerrero (hero of the Independence of Mexico), an audiorama where you can listen to classical music and poetry, children playground and paying bathroom facilities.
Parque Hundido is a great place for a short walk, run or just to spend some nice time in nature if you want to escape from chaotic Mexico City. However, as much as I heard it is not safe during the night when it becomes a meeting place for prostitutes, so limit your visits on a daytime only.
Location: Avenida de los Insurgentes Sur, Colonia Extremadura Insurgentes, Benito Juárez, 03740 Ciudad de México, Distrito Federal, México
Great for: morning or afternoon run, relaxing stroll or dog walk
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Split City Break
Split, as a second largest city in Croatia and largest in Dalmatia, it is a great place from where you can start exploring Dalmatia from. It kept a wonderful balance of tradition and modernity and, luckily, it is no more seen only as a transport hub to nearby islands. Split finally started to get more well-deserved international attention!
Split has earned its fame long time ago. When in 305 AD Diocletian Palace was built, it was the only structure in the area. After Diocletian’s death, it was used as a retreat palace for Roman emperors and, after the nearby city of Salona (today city of Solin) was abandoned in the 7th century, many of its inhabitants fled to Split and settled within the palace. Split’s rich history and influence of many different rulers can be easily seen in the area. Romans, Venetians, Byzantine Empire, Napoleon, and Austrians, they all left a piece of their culture in Split.
We arrived in Split in the early afternoon, after checking out the beaches along “magistrala”, the state road which is following the coastline. Our apartment was very centrally located so in less than 10 minutes, we were strolling down the Riva (that’s how seafront promenade in Split is called). Last (and first) time I was here, somewhere at the beginning of college, Riva just got renovated. It took a minute to realize Split has changed a lot past years. New touristic attractions, attractive accommodation, and well-designed restaurants found their place all around the city center.
Read more: Restaurant Perivoj in Split, a seriously good restaurant
Just a few steps away from Riva, Diocletian Palace is located. Build in 305 AD, it was built as a retirement house of Emperor Diocletian. It was an imperial residence, fortified town and military fortress, all in one. As the history changed, the city of Split engulfed the palace which literally became a heart of the city and home to more than 3000 people.
Today, this grand palace is like an antic jungle surrounded by the bustling city and chilled sea promenade. It is known as the old town of Split with numerous shops, restaurants, and apartments. It is considered to be one of the most imposing Roman ruins and, of course, the main attraction of Split. Along with Arena of Pula, Diocletian Palace is the most valuable surviving Roman architecture in the Adriatic.
As you step into this impressive monument, you will instantly realize here the life has been going on for thousands of years. When the night falls, palace becomes particularly attractive. Columns are illuminated by colorful garlands, the interiors become a beautiful scene and you can hear music everywhere.
Diocletian Palace was shaped in the form of an irregular rectangle, with towers on all facades except the southern one. Diocletian wanted to enter his palace from a ship, so it was rising directly from the sea. Along the seaside his rooms were located, as well as the temples and the octagonal mausoleum. The mausoleum was reconstructed into one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, today’s Cathedral of Split. It is hard to imagine lower parts of the palace were actually in the water and the ships were cruising around. But if you take a closer look, you can notice it by the location of the windows – they are very high, almost near the ceiling, in the case water would rise.
Read more: Split Food Guide – Fantastic places for a tasty meal
The southern facade of Diocletian palace
There were four gates to enter the palace. They were not preserved, but stone pillars and arches can still be seen. All the gates were named by a metal, so we had Bronze (south), Iron (west), Silver (eastern) and Golden gate (north). If you enter the palace through the Silver gate, you will have the best view. Just walk straight, following Krešimirova street (better known as Via Decumanus) to the western gate, which was separating the imperial residence on the south from the northern side which was used by servants and soldiers.
Soon you will find yourself in the heart of the palace, Peristyle. Peristyle is an open court located on the crossroad of the two main roads of the palace. It was a place where the most powerful citizens were gathering. Here Diocletian used to receive visitors, who paid their respect by kissing his cloak and kneeling. Today is known as the most lively place in the city with joyful atmosphere and “Roman guards” waiting to take photos with you.
Palace’s underground is turned into a tunnel full of souvenir shops and a museum. It is a perfect place to cool down during the summer while buying traditional souvenirs for your loved ones!
When you feel ready to go out again, you can exit the palace through the western gate and you will find yourself on Narodni trg (People’s Square), the main meeting point for people living in Split. It is like a living room withing the city and people watching paradise, similar to Cvjetni trg (Floral Square) in Zagreb. Back in time, it was a political center of the city, with Rector’s Palace (Knežev dvor) and Municipal Hall.
Read more: Split Dreams Apartment in Split, Croatia
Southern part of the palace
Ok, I think by now you understand Diocletian’s Palace is not what you expected. To begin with, it is not only a palace and it is definitely not a typical palace building like you thought. It is one of the most imposing Roman ruins in the world and it is a true heart of the city. It became the most amazing city center you will ever experience, the soul of Split, a maze packed with people and shops. It is a real-life labyrinth where each narrow street and passageway hides a different secret, different restaurant or a bar. At its beginning, each street has a sign stating what are you going to find in it – bars, restaurants, shops, museums, … what makes moving around much easier. But the most interesting way to explore it is to get lost.
It is big enough to find dozens of interesting places, but small enough to find your way out easily. It is a place where you are going to wine and dine in some of the most amazing modern restaurants, in a location thousands of years old, while locals are hanging their freshly washed laundry over your heads and old grandmas are closely watching what is happening around so tomorrow they could share all the gossips with their neighbors. This UNESCO World Heritage Site it is a place of the unceasing inspiration for travelers, architects, and painters and it is just amazing.
DO NOT FORGET TO…
- In front of the Golden gate, there is a statue of Grgur Ninski. Rub his left toe for luck and you will come back to Split for sure!
- Check out the Cathedral of St Dominus to see one on the oldest churches in the world. Climb up the tower for spectacular views of Split! Check it out at Natasha’s 24 hours in Split.
- Sip a coffee at Republic Square (Prokurative), imagining you are in Venice.
- Learn more about Split’s history, traditional costumes, and memorabilia by visiting Ethnographic museum. It also has some nice views from the top.
- Find the synagogue. It is one of the oldest ones in Europe that is still in use. It was created in the 16th century in the part which was then a Jewish ghetto.
- Listen to the local musicians, klape, singing in Vestibul.
- Enjoy beach life in Žnjan, Bačvice or Kašuni beach. Find out which are pet-friendly beaches in Split.
- Discover why Marjan hill is called lungs of the city.
Grgur Ninski’s toe
Did you already visit Split? What did you like the most?
If you like Split, you want to check out our Facebook album Discover Croatia – Split, Trogir, Zadar.
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Situated in Zagorje region near Croatian – Slovenian border, Trakoscan Castle is around 1.5 hour drive from Zagreb. The drive is well worth since Trakoscan is one of the most beautiful and best preserved castles in Croatia with beautiful surroundings and breathtaking views. Also it is one of rare castles which are actually restored and opened to public. It is a true must see destination in Croatia.
Trakoscan Castle © Mexatia
Trakoscan Castle © Mexatia
Welcome to a fairytale
It was built in the late 13th century like a small medieval burg and observation fortress for monitoring the road from Ptuj to Bednja. In 16th century it became a residence of noble family Draskovic, who lived here for almost 400 years. Trakoscan Castle was restored in the late 19th century, when it got today’s romantic looks. Also the surrounding area was modified in the park and artificial lake was created. In 1944 the castle was nationalized and it was established as a museum in 1954.
As said, Trakoscan is a real medieval fortress situated on the hill. Due to that, you need to do some climbing to reach it. The road leading to the castle is not so steep, but it may not be suitable for elderly people. Also, once you get into the castle, you will need to face the stairs, so make sure you are physically able to do it. The castle’s surroundings are worth exploring. You can take a walk around the lake (it takes around 1.5 hour), you can jog or hire a paddle boat to explore the lake. Expect to have your breath taken by the fascinating views.
Trakoscan Castle © Queenie Liewpin
Trakoscan Castle © Mexatia
Trakoscan Castle © Mexatia
If you decide to visit the castle, the fascinating interior will welcome you. Thanks to family Draskovic, the Trakoscan museum takes you to the past while you are exploring castle’s medieval heritage (such as furniture, paintings, weapons etc.) and learning about the life of Croatian nobility. The objects date from 15th to 19th century and the exhibition covers all the areas of castle. It consists of four levels (low and high ground, first and second floor) where you can visit a kitchen, a dungeon with torture machine, a hunter hall decorated with hunting trophies, knight’s hall, dining and other rooms, libraries, music salon with old piano, etc. Second floor is especially interesting because each room is decorated in different style (baroque, rococo, etc.). All info panels in the castle are in Croatian and English.
Unfortunately, it is forbidden to take photos of the interior, only on terraces. So here are the photos of us 😀
Trakoscan Castle © Mexatia
Trakoscan Castle © Queenie Liewpin
Grab something to eat
You may be tired after exploring the museum and discovering the forest and lake around the castle. There are two places where you can get something to eat and drink, but the recommendation goes to one situated literally on the lake. From there you can enjoy the lake, views of the castle, nature and food at the same time. The other restaurant is located in front of the castle, near the parking.
Besides Trakoscan castle’s stunning beauty, you can also enjoy visiting Croatian countryside which most of the visitors usually forget about. You can visit the castle all year round. In spring or summer you can enjoy the intense green color, during autumn the whole color palate and in the winter you can see the castle covered with snow. Whenever you decide to go, it is wonderfully romantic. If you want, you can also organize a wedding or a photo shooting here.
Did you already visit Trakoscan castle?
Trakoscan castle day trip is great to combine with visits to the city of Varazdin, Krapina Neanderthal museum or other castles of Hrvatsko Zagorje.
Trakoscan Castle © Mexatia
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