Zagreb Ban Jelacic Square

Holiday Greetings from Slovenia, Croatia & Italy

I know, I know, you haven’t heard from me in a while and have been wondering what the hell I’ve been up to! Well, let me break it down for you… These past few months have been the first time I’ve ever traveled while having an actual blog and it became apparent to me, early on, just how challenging it is to post while being on the road. Shaky wifi connections, being too tired to post from running around all day, not having a proper space to work and using my time to actually enjoy myself … these were some of the challenges I faced and my blog was put on hold. So, I apologize for my lack of posts, but hey, better late than never, right?

And I made it just in time for the holiday season! I’d never been abroad during the Christmas season before and I wanted to see and experience as much as I could in the places I was visiting. Below is a quick recap of my past few weeks through photos of Christmas markets, lights, decorations, events and even food, in cities spreading that feel-good holiday spirit during the most wonderful time of the year.

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA

First, I headed to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I planned my itinerary to arrive just in time for their annual Christmas lighting “switch-on” event in Prešeren Square, the city’s main gathering spot, on December 1st. This marks the beginning of the holiday season and the official opening of the Christmas markets. A brief ceremony was held and then as the clock moved towards 17:00, we counted down from ten. You could feel the anticipation in the air, as the main square and Christmas tree came to life with lights. Fireworks went off and people toasted with mulled wine. It was magical.

 

Prešeren Square Ljubljana Advent

 

Ljubljana Advent

 

Ljubljana Christmas Market

Christmas Market stalls along the riverfront

 

Ljubljana Christmas Market

Gingerbread and candy, two of my favorite things!

ZAGREB, CROATIA

“Zagreb is the most beautiful city during Advent. You must go!” I don’t know how many people in Ljubljana told me this or something similar, but it was more than a handful.

 

advent in Zagreb

 

Not having any solid plans, I did some research online and found that Zagreb has been recognized for having one of the “Best Christmas Markets in Europe” and there was no way I was going to pass something like that up! I took a 2.5 hour bus from Ljubljana to Croatia’s capital city and found myself in a winter wonderland.

 

Advent in Zagreb

 

I headed first to Ban Jelačić Square,  Zagreb’s main square, around which most of the events were concentrated. Cute wooden huts sprinkled with faux snow were selling (more) mulled wine, craft beers and holiday cocktails along with multiple types of grilled sausages and fried dough balls called fritule covered in chocolate sauce or cinnamon sugar for dessert.

 

Advent, Ban Jelačić Square

Ban Jelačić Square

 

Advent in Ban Jelačić Square, Zagreb

 

Advent in Zagreb

Now that’s what I call a sausage fest!

 

Fritule Zagreb

Fried dough balls called “Fritule”

 

Christmas music was playing from speakers I was not able to locate, but I was happy as could be, standing at a table outside, drinking a beer, listening to “Jingle Bells” in Croatian, taking it all in. This is when I saw them…

 

advent in Zagreb

MINI HORSES!

They had free rides, but I think I’m too big and didn’t want to hurt the little guys, so I just petted them instead. Just kidding, the rides were for children only 😉 They were so adorable.

 

Numerous events were spread out among the enter city center, throughout the lower and upper towns. There were so many things to see and do – live music events, countless food and drink stalls, Christmas market stalls and even a mailbox to send your letter to Santa!

 

Advent in Zagreb

Zagreb’s Upper Town

 

Zagreb Santa's Mailbox

Santa’s Mailbox

 

Zagreb Upper Town Advent

 

Advent in Zagreb

 

Zagreb Christmas Market

 

Zagreb Christmas Market

At the Christmas markets

 

But it was in the evening, after the sun went down, when the Christmas spirit in Zagreb really came alive. A portion of a Ledeni park, across from the train station, was transformed into an ice skating rink. The trees and streets of Zagreb illuminated the city center with countless strings of lights. Of course, photos really can’t do this feeling justice – for the full effect, you’re gonna have to book that plane ticket and go!

 

Ledeni Park Zagreb

Ledeni Park Art Pavilion with the lit-up ice skating rink in the foreground

 

Zrinjevac Park Zagreb, Advent

Zrinjevac Park

 

 

Advent Zagreb

 

Advent in Zagreb

 

Zagreb’s Advent events and celebrations are held every year from the first week in December until about the first week of January. Plenty of time for you to plan ahead and experience a piece of this magic for yourself!

 

FLORENCE & ROME, ITALY

From Zagreb, I headed by bus to Florence, Italy (something I do not recommend and will tell you why in another post, briefly stated – it was a travel day from hell) and staying overnight before heading to Rome. I was surprised at the lack of lights, decorations and events in both of these Italian cities. I’d only found a sprinkling throughout each when compared to the other places I’d been to.

 

Florence Italy

The streets of Florence at night

 

Christmas in Rome

Even Santa needs to stop and take in the sights sometimes!

 

But, it is possible that I was there too early in the month, I can’t be sure. I did happen to find one Christmas market in Rome, in the Lepanto area near the Vatican, but for me it was a disappointment because it lacked authenticity. I mean, some of the stalls were selling things I could easily buy in the Porta Portese flea market in Trastevere!

 

Lepanto Christmas Market Rome

The Christmas Market in Lepanto

 

Rome Christmas Market

 

However, what Italy lacked in lighting, it certainly made up for with food. It seemed, in Italy, Christmas time is more about decorations through food than decorations through city lights … And by no means am I mad at that!

 

Italy Christmas Deserts

From the windows of a pasticceria in Florence

 

Italian Christmas Deserts

 

Struffoli Rome

The fresh Struffoli in Rome had me drooling!

 

And they didn’t stop there… even the cheese had it’s own Christmasy flair!

 

Italy Christmas

Caciocavallo cheese dressed as a Snowman

And a nativity scene set in a round of Parmigiano Reggiano…

 

Italy Christmas

I like to call this one “Cheesus Christ”

 

And that, my dears, is a brief recap of what I’ve been up to the past few weeks – celebrating the holidays in different cities and getting fat off Italian Christmas cheese and pastries! Haha … just kidding about the last part… (I hope!) 😛

I wish you and your families, wherever you may be in the world, a safe and happy holiday!

Until next time, cheers!

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