The Christmas Holiday Season in Ljubljana

There’s a special magic to visiting small European cities around Christmas. They tend to be decked out in lights. A warm and welcoming atmosphere cuts through the cold, ideally snow-sugared windows. The fresh chill air outside contrasts so beautifully to the warmth indoors.

Ljubljana is one of the great December cities to visit for just this reason, adorned with intricate lighting, a tradition previously orchestrated by the artist Zmago Modic, and now continued by his photographer son, Urban. The cityscape feels more like an art installation than a cliché Christmas scene.

Indoors, we can take in a concert, ballet, or opera. Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is performed annually (180 performances and counting) and always sells out quickly. but not to worry if you can’t score a ticket. There are plenty of other events to choose from. Ljubljana is a great place for classical music, from the opera to one of the oldest Philharmonic halls in Europe.

When it comes to shopping for gifts, you’ll find popup stalls along the Ljubljanica River, as well as popup Christmas markets. The largest one is at the newly-renovated Rog Center,, which hosts the ARTish arts and crafts fair every December. Once one of Yugoslavia’s most famous bicycle factories, it has become famous as a squat-turned-informal-art-venue and has now been completely restored as Ljubljana’s leading cultural center.

And don’t be surprised if you encounter more than one Santa Claus-like character. There are three parallel traditions of gift-bearing, white-bearded men. Saint Nicholas arrives on December 6, Santa Claus comes on the night before Christmas, and there’s also Grandfather Frost, a socialist alternative to Santa, who appears around New Year’s Day. That means that Slovenia offers three times the holiday cheer!

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