People in Croatia's capital city always give themselves time to linger and socialise over drinks. Whatever the time of year, new Zagreb bars are always raising and lowering their banners across the city centre and beyond, while traditional landmarks stay firm. Time Out's experts discover the best places to sip across town.
Where to drink in Zagreb
This leading music bar and student hang-out has expanded into the next-door room to double its size and smartened up the decor. Located under the gleaming glass-and-steel National University Library (NSK), it's a coffee-break bar for students during the day, and an alternative music bar serving discerning bohos by night. The interior features comic-book murals by Igor Hofbauer, vintage movie posters and twinkling ceiling panels that look like the sky at night. Indie and cover bands occasionally squeeze into the corner of the room; DJs spin garage-rock discs at weekends.
Thank to a gaggle of designer stores the narrow, arcade-like Dežmanova is fast becoming one of Zagreb’s coolest addresses, an impression only bolstered by the opening of this chic new café-bar. The interior is as modernist as they come but soothing with it. Matt-black walls jostle with warm woody tones, and geometric light fittings convey an arty bent. As far as the drinks are concerned the accent is very much on quality at a decent price – coffee is supplied by local direct-trade roasting outfit Cogito, beers include the locally brewed Zmajsko Pale Ale, long drinks a refreshing Bellini (25kn), and there’s a good wine list with plenty of sparkling options. The cakes are hard to turn down, and there’s an evening menu of pršut and cheese platters.
Occupying one of the best pitches in central Zagreb, right in the middle of the pedestrianised strip opposite the Grounded Sun sculpture, newly opened Vinyl is a bit like a rambling apartment, with five separate rooms on the main floor and a live music and events room downstairs. Each is decorated in a slightly different style. The drinks menu is big on whiskies; among the bottled beers, look out for Rock and Roll (17kn), an extremely palatable red variety from Daruvar in eastern Croatia. The previous tenant of this roomy property was a Japanese restaurant, which helps to explain the samurai-fixated graphic art on the walls of the back bar. The weekly schedule includes live music on Wednesdays, literary reading on Thursdays, vinyl-only DJs at weekends, and – perhaps uniquely for a Zagreb café – the ‘Flying Bookshop’ second-hand book exchange on Monday evenings.
Right at the top of the Tkalčićeva strip, this new venue launched in autumn 2014 looks exactly how a music bar should do, with a small stage at one end of a dark but imaginatively lit space and all kinds of musical memorabilia hanging from the walls. Lamps hidden inside bass drums hang above a long bar stocked with the the kind of things that any self-respecting rock-and-roller would want to see – with whiskeys, rakijas and boutique beers (from Istrian brewery San Servolo) lining the shelves. Live music from Wednesday through to Saturday, featuring funk, rock covers, and plenty of blues.
This first-floor flat in a charming old Tkalčićeva building has been transformed into an agreeable warren of quirkily decorated sitting rooms, with mix-and-match furnishings, paintings on the walls, and agreeably low-key lighting. There’s also outdoor seating in a slightly raised garden overlooking one of the busiest stretches of this bar-filled street. Rakijas are the stars of the show: if there’s a fruit or vegetable that you can make brandy out of then rest assured that it will be on the menu here somewhere. Bottled beers include the excellent Velebitsko pivo and the boutique-brewed Visibaba range.
Known by all as 'Krolo' after the writer Miroslav Krleža who lived here, this beautiful old wooden bar near the main square gives its many patrons a flavour of pre-1991 Zagreb. The bar staff are easy-going, the inviting older clientele religiously scan the day's newspapers and the younger regulars gather round the semicircular bar. No DJs, no hipster-attracting tricks, but still crowded and raucous at weekends. Timeless is the word you're looking for.
Opened in June 2014, Pod Židom has effortlessly elbowed its way to the top of the wine-bar league, offering an affordable-to-expensive mixture of great Croatian wines, a range of Mediterranean-style lunches and tapas dishes, regular live music, and a wonderful outdoor terrace overlooking a street that’s very central but also slightly hidden from the hubbub of the main square. Done out in a mixture of greys and pale wood tones, it manages to look smart but laid back at the same time. The weekday ‘set lunches from Dolac market’ are a steal at 40kn-55kn.
Diagonally opposite the enduringly popular terrace of Kino Europa, Tesla Power House attests to the creeping spread and growing popularity of Zagreb’s Flower Square bar hopping area. First came Bogovićeva, then Preradovićeva and now round the corner into Varšavska. Smart, but sufficiently dark inside to feel like a groovy nightspot rather than just a café-bar, the Power House covers up for its rather mainstream choice of bottled beers with a good wine list and cocktail menu. Cover bands, regular DJs and happy hours fill out a varied weekly programme. If you’re looking for signs of epochal inventor Nikola Tesla, then yes, there are a few pictures of the Croatian-born Serbian genius – but the theme is disappointingly underdeveloped.
Cult bar Sedmica does little to advertise its presence on the street. The clue is a small sign above a residential doorway. It's the meeting place of people from the creative arts, an obvious rendezvous spot before a private view at a trendy gallery or for an impromptu cast party. You enter through a corridor lined with concert and exhibition posters. Inside, a small room contains a crowded bar counter upon which stand taps of Fischer's and Erdinger. Long, thin marble tables provide a place to prop, otherwise you can join the boho crew on the wrought-iron mezzanine behind.
Just off the first square as you walk up from the station, the Bacchus Jazz Bar is an ideal place to meet friends, listen to jazz and either have a civilised party evening or get revved up for what's to come. Relaunched as a jazz bar in 2008 after several years on the social margins, the bar exudes a homely Dalmatian feel: the owner is from Split, and there's a fig tree next to the terrace, which is tucked into a passage off the street. Inside you'll find a hodgepodge of wooden furniture: a 1960s-era television and telephone, and wooden-plank floors under a brick ceiling. It's almost always busy, so tables will be at a premium. Wines, mainly Dalmatian, have been chosen to suit the mood. There are cocktails too, but few seem to be paying them much attention. Live poetry or spoken-word on Wednesday nights, live jazz or soul on Friday and Saturday.