Chestnuts in Croatia: Festivals, Picking Laws, and More

Roasted chestnuts in the background and text "chestnuts of Croatia, Pick your own, Visit events and Enjoy autumn!"

A taste of roasted chestnut is a great introduction to autumn and Croatia has a strong chestnut tradition that will delight the pickiest enthusiasts of this magnificent nut.

From delightful chestnut festivals where roasted chestnuts are served for breakfast and dinner to the joys of chestnut picking in pristine forests, this article explores the world of chestnuts in Croatia.

In this guide, we will delve into the various events celebrating chestnuts, provide tips on how to pick chestnuts and say a few words about the rich chestnut tradition in Croatia.

Chestnut tradition in Croatia

As the early days of autumn approach, chestnuts start to fall from the trees and put a smile on people’s faces as we all know how magical autumn in Croatia is.

Croatian regions, Istria, Kvarner, and the area around Zagreb are particularly known for celebrating this magnificent nut around which events and manifestations have been organized for decades.

The Croatian word for chestnut is “kesten” and it pulls roots from the old town of Hrvatska Kostajnica as the word “kesten” is derived from “kostajn”, the old Croatian word for chestnut.

Moreover, it’s important to mention how in the regions of Istria and Kvarner, people put more celebration on marun also known as sweet chestnut, as this chestnut variety is known for being bigger and sweeter than an ordinary chestnut.

It’s said that the sweet chestnut marun was created as a result of mixing the domestic chestnut with the exotic chestnut that arrived from the east (likely Japan) by local sailors.

Somehow they created a masterpiece, as in the 17th century the trend of exporting the famous Croatian chestnut to Italy, Germany, and Austria became a real business which later boomed in the 19th century and spread the word of the quality throughout the world.

Chesnut has been part of Croatian tradition for a long time as people discovered its gourmet flavors and health benefits a long time ago.

As you’ll soon discover there are beautiful chestnut-based festivals that take place in October and are a real place of joy!

Chestnut based festivals

Hrvatska Kostajnica

Plenty of roasted chestnuts accompanied by a brass band and majorettes in an idyllic medieval town set by the border with Bosnia and Hercegovina, doesn’t sound bad at all.

For the last 18 years, the chestnut festival at Hrvatska Kostajnica heavily leans on entertaining the youngest to the oldest, so it’s an ideal festival to visit with a family.

Local non-profit organizations join together to provide visitors with educative workshops, and various playgrounds and amusement parks will make sure no one ever experiences a bit of boredom.

Kestinijada at Hrvatska Kostajnica is a wonderful festival set in the beautiful region of Croatia which is often underrepresented by media and tourist agencies.

I believe that there’s more to Croatia than its sea, so take an itinerary around continental Croatia if you have only discovered the popular Croatian coastline because you’ll be positively surprised.

Marunada Lovran

First organized in late 1973, Marunada in Lovran is the epitome of a true chestnut festival as only the finest sweet chestnuts are served in all imaginable forms.

The fact that Marunada Lovran was published in the British The Guardian as the top gastronomic festival in Croatia speaks volumes.

Besides the chestnut dishes such as the unique chestnut cocktail that will make you come back next year for more, the folklore, family, and sports festivals will keep you busy.

As no parties are real without professional entertainers, you’ll be enjoying live music and art performances all day long!

Kestenijada in Oprtalj

Kestenijada is a festival first organized in 2009 set in the small town of Oprtalj in northwestern Istria.

This small Istrian town is known for its abundance of chestnuts in local forests, so many people immediately connect the town’s name with chestnuts before anything else.

Rakija, honey, cakes, bread, or pasta, all are made from one ingredient only that starts with Chest and ends with nuts.

Kestenijada is the youngest chestnut festival in Croatia, but each year they attract more and more tourists and add new festivals both for the elderly and the youngest!

Picking chestnuts for personal use

One of the most delightful moments from my childhood was chestnut picking in Istria and a decade later, the joy of the experience doesn’t disappear.

If you want to also participate in chestnut picking for personal use you are free to do so, but you need to understand the simple law first.

The law states that you are allowed to pick up to 10 kilograms of chestnuts per person from state forests with a license.

You can acquire the license online from the Croatian Forest Office, and it’s free and easily obtainable.

The purpose of the license is to collect data on how many chestnut pickers are there, as the office states how it is important to keep the ecosystem in balance.

There must always be enough chestnuts in the forest to allow for reproduction and the wildlife also finds important nutrients in chestnuts.

Concern with Private lands

As long as you have the license you are free to pick chestnuts, but be careful not to step into someone’s private property!

Some owners of forest properties are very protective of their land, so if you accidentally step into their property and collect chestnuts they could get very angry.

This is a particular problem in the area around Učka Mountain, the border between Istria and Kvarner.

For this reason, I no longer try my luck by venturing through the forests without a person native to the area.

Final take

Hurry up as chestnuts start to disappear as October closes, so you better visit the chestnut-based festivals before they are gone!

If you don’t manage to show up at the festivals, you can still pick up the chestnuts in Croatian forests and roast them in a pan in the comfort of your home.

My favorite recipe for roasted chestnuts is the following:

  • Take a kilo of chestnuts (not less because they are so tasty and you don’t want good things to end too soon)
  • Cut the top of each chestnut with a knife to form “X” so they can open and don’t burst
  • Roast them in a pan for 30-45 minutes
  • Cover chestnuts with a kitchen cloth and let them cool down for 15 minutes
  • Enjoy!

If this simple recipe opened your appetite, I recommend that you check out our guide to Croatian cuisine in which you’ll find authentic food in Croatia.

And oh, if you are lazy and don’t want to pick chestnuts in the forest you can always find people selling chestnuts on local farm markets or by the road.


Dino is a local who has spent 27 years of his life in Croatia. He's here to provide you with useful information and some local guidance.

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