Looking for somewhere special and “Christmassy” to celebrate the season this year? The lit up cobbled streets of Dubrovnik in Croatia might just be the perfect vibe!
Here I will share all about December and Christmas in Dubrovnik, as well as New Years. (Stick around to find out when we would leave!)
Christmas Markets in Dubrovnik
The big fancy and famous Christmas market in Croatia is in Zagreb, but Dubrovnik does have a quaint Christmas market of its own.
The Dubrovnik Christmas market has two parts: One is outside of the Old Town gate (Pile Gate) and the other is on the main walking street inside the Old Town (Stradun).
The Christmas market in Dubrovnik is limited to things to eat and drink. I don’t recall a single knick knack or homemade treasure stall.
This kind of makes sense, because the Old Town in December has far more locals than it does at other times of the year, so the market isn’t necessarily catered to tourists.
Stalls are cash only, and offer a variety of treats including churros (our favorite!), mulled wine, and sausages. This is the place to get an affordable snack in Old Dubrovnik.
Christmas Eve Celebrations in Dubrovnik
Christmas Eve is the major Christmas celebration in Dubrovnik!
Christmas Eve Day
Festivities begin with church in the morning on Christmas Eve. After mass, the locals flood the streets in their Sunday best and have a coffee while they mingle with their friends and family.
We had no idea what to expect for Christmas, and Christmas Eve morning was crazy! It was hard to even cross the main street, Stradum, because there were so many people! The coffee shops were full up.
If you want to feel like a local, pack something very nice to wear on Christmas Eve. We looked and felt extremely out of place in our regular clothes.
I haven’t been to an evening at the opera, but I get a sense that this was the dress code.
Christmas Day Evening
Once the sun goes down, the partying really begins!
Children go door to door, much like Halloween, and collect sweets. If you are renting an apartment and want to take part, be sure to buy some candy the day ahead, as most places are closed on Christmas Eve.
The locals head out to their friend’s homes to sing, dance, and celebrate. We were lucky to be “party adjacent” and enjoyed the singing from the upstairs neighbors.
Like most of the Balkans, any holiday is an excuse for fireworks, so you will see and here them randomly throughout the evening.
This is where Christmas Eve tradition in Old Town Dubrovnik seems to depart a little from Croatian traditions.
We had heard that typically in Croatia, the door-to-door partying begins after midnight mass, but this was not the case in the Old Town. Most people seemed to celebrate into the evening, and after midnight mass they streamed out of the churches and straight out of the Old Town, heading home.
Post-mass partying continued at the Christmas markets, but was reserved for the 20-somethings.
I’m not sure if this is because hardly any locals actually live in the Old Town, or if the info wasn’t right to begin with. Regardless, we had a nap and got up to see what the festivities would be like after mass, and we ended up back in bed.
What to do on Christmas Day in Dubrovnik
Christmas Day in Dubrovnik is what you might expect on Boxing Day in other parts of the world. Everybody partied hard on Christmas Eve, and now they relax at home with their families and a bottle of advil.
The Christmas market stalls are open, as well as a few coffee shops.
Christmas Day is a good day to go for a stroll, or sit by the sea.
Where to Get a Christmas Dinner in Dubrovnik
As North Americans, it was hard to understand the total lack of Christmas din-dins in Dubrovnik. We couldn’t confirm anywhere to eat a Christmas meal ahead of time, so we planned to make our own and made sure our apartment had an oven.
We were finally able to find a couple of hotels that offer a Christmas lunch. They are :
- Piano Bar at Hotel Lero – Christmas Lunch served from 10 am to 1 pm – 25 Euros
- Restaurant Turquoise at Rixos Premium Hotel – Christmas Lunch served from 12 pm to 2:30 pm – 56 Euros (Kids half price)
We had already planned to make our own roasted chicken, so that’s what we did.
Where to Stay in Dubrovnik for Christmas
We stayed in the area between the Old Town and Lapad. If we were to go back at Christmas time, we would try to stay in the Old Town. There wasn’t a lot to do in our area that didn’t require a hike to Gruz, Lapad, or the Old Town.
The good part about our area was that we had an incredible sea view, and it was budget friendly.
In December there are a million and one empty vacation apartments in Dubrovnik, but it’s almost like you need to know someone in order to rent them. Everything is empty, and yet it’s still pricey in the Old Town. If you are okay with being flexible, you might be better off asking around after you arrive.
Of course if you are staying for a week over Christmas, it’s worth the splurge to book ahead in the Old Town. You will save money and have more choices if you leave before New Year, because that is a busier time in the city.
Visting Dubrovnik in December
We really enjoyed our December visit to Dubrovnik, and highly recommend visiting during the winter!
Downsides to a Winter Visit in Dubrovnik
- Few restaurants open
- Some tourist attractions closed
- Cable car not running
- Tours unavailable
Reasons to Visit Dubrovnik in the Winter
- Few to no crowds – better photos, better atmosphere, beautiful empty seaside views
- Comparatively good weather
- Christmas lights and markets
Really the lack of crowds is the main selling feature of December in Dubrovnik.
You can get amazing photos without loads of people in them, have the beautiful cobbled streets all to yourself, and wander down to an empty rocky beach for your morning coffee. The city walls are also pretty quiet, and when we went, there was even a winter discount!
The weather in Dubrovnik during Christmas and the whole month of December was unpredictable.
Some days were very cold because it didn’t stop raining and we were really damp. Other days were sunny and beautiful. Temps averaged around 16 C, which is a far cry from winter in Canada, so we were happy. If you live in Florida, you might not be so impressed.
New Year’s Eve in Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is much more famous for New Year’s Eve and their fireworks than they are for Christmas, however New Year’s Eve in Dubrovnik wasn’t our favorite.
- Churros (Christmas Market)
- Live Music
- Not kid-friendly
- Good restaurants are totally booked out
The New Year crowd was quite heavy like Christmas Eve, but a different crowd entirely. Most people were in the Old Town to go clubbing. There really weren’t a lot of other families with kids around, and there wasn’t anywhere kid friendly to go. All of the usual restaurants were reserved, and there wasn’t even a place to sit down.
We ended up settling at a restaurant that ushered us in off the street (our mistake) and were charged a huge amount for dinner. The mains were reasonably priced, but they charged us an insane 30 Euro cover charge, 10 Euros for a bottle of water, and 8 Euros for coffees. (Drinks were not in the menu, I assume on purpose.) So that left a sour taste in our mouths for the evening.
If we were to go back to Dubrovnik for Christmas, we probably would go somewhere else in Croatia for the New Year. If we stayed we would make food at home.
Where to Watch the New Years Eve Fireworks in Dubrovnik
To watch the fireworks, we found a quiet spot out of the Old Town, and I highly recommend that.
The beach restaurants are closed in the winter, so you can walk down from the street and right onto the beach to watch the fireworks.
From there you will have a great view of the fireworks at midnight as they go off over the marina.
Should You Spend Christmas in Dubrovnik?
Over all we loved Christmas in Dubrovnik! It was very family friendly, quiet, and relaxed. We can even see it becoming a tradition.
The lights and Christmas market in the Old Town really made the season feel special, plus, Dubrovnik has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
If you prefer a LOT of parties and festivities, this might not be the right fit for you. Split is a bit younger, and their Christmas market has an ice rink and a beer garden.
Not the winter destination for you? Try Lisbon: