A classic-looking old pub: a mirror behind the brass bar, pharmacy-related sepia photographs and vintage adverts crowding the walls, and dark wood everywhere. A couple of screens are tuned to football matches on big European nights, although they're unobtrusive enough not to ruin the evening for non-sporty types. The no-smoking section in the back is full of leather armchairs and cosy corners, perfect for an intimate chinwag. There is a wide assortment of beers but also, and importantly, a menu of Irish whiskeys, scotches and bourbons. Nice place to start the evening with a band of good friends.
Compared to Vienna, Budapest or Ljubljana, Zagreb contains a relatively modest number of faux pubs. This is the best of a motley bunch – and the best loved. Cosy, communal and staffed by sweethearts, Sheridan’s encourages a loyal if limited regular custom with pub quizzes and craft brews to complement the mainstay draught option of O’Hara’s – the nearest you’ll find to Guinness. Darts, TV football and occasional live music sessions provide further entertainment.
The anchor of the café and pub scene on the buzzing street between the Hotel Dubrovnik and Flower Square (parallel to and one street south of the main square), Bulldog offers something for everyone. The interior is upscale: electronic sliding-glass doors; big flat-screen TVs for match days; a wide selection of Belgian beers on draught; cocktails; wine; and the standard list of coffee concoctions. A terrace leads to a boat-shaped front room with its giant-paddled, propeller-shaped ceiling fans, deck flooring and mezzanine observation level. Downstairs, a club, with green leather chairs and marble tables around a bandstand, hosts pop-rock cover bands, blues and jazz at weekends, no cover charge.
Smack in the middle of Tkalčićeva, Oliver Twist has a giant terrace with a beer-garden feel and goes elbow-to-elbow when the weather is nice. Inside, they serve Kilkenny and Guinness on tap under the words: 'Oliver Twist Pub Finest Porter'. There are also pictures of 'Jack Daniel: Our Benevolent Sponsor' and newspaper etchings of Charles Dickens' trip to America. Scattered among the three floors and around leather couches and under wooden-beamed ceilings are books, Dickens memorabilia and the occasional suit of armour. The crowd is all ages but leans toward the younger set.
It simply doesn't get any more local than this. And, you'd be hard-pressed to find a place more central. Located in an alley just metres north and west from the main square, this passage was once used to stable Ban Jelačić's horses. The patio spills into this passage. Inside, it's a real bar – everything is wooden and people are there to drink. There are pictures of old Zagreb strewn about the two rooms and lots of beer – Kilkenny, Paulaner, Erdinger and local drafts – and liquors to keep folks happy.
An early adopter of American-style craft beers, as well as cask ale imports and local Croatian favourites, Tolkein's House has been on the progressive beer and ale trail for years now. It's name would suggests a full on fantasy theme, but could disappoint Tolkein geeks hoping for a quirky bar-cum-attraction. This isn't really a hobbit-house but a local's pub, with a few Tolkein-themed knick-knacks adorning the walls. It's a lively place, especially during weekends, head there early to guarantee a table.
The bars of Opatovina used to constitute one of Zagreb’s key drinking strips back in the day; nowadays the parallel street of Tkalčićeva has taken over. There’s still a lot of charm to be found in Opatovina’s haunts; Ro & Do in particular exemplifies the kind of characterful boozer with friendly staff and loyal following that one yearns for when roaming a foreign city. The jumble of pop-cultural references – a picture of the Monty Python team here, Audrey Hepburn there – help set the tone in a plush but slightly worn interior. Alongside the usual Croatian mainstream beers there are a few bottled Belgian varieties; while the extensive rakija menu (shots of fruit and herbal brandies are a snip at 10Kn) is worth making the trip alone.
Is Zagreb finally getting the craft beer scene it deserves? The recent popularity of Craft Room would imply so. This elegantly styled boozer stocks progressive beers from near and far – and it’s always packed with punters. The vibe is more gastro-pubby than your standard Zagreb café-cum-bar. This theme is accentuated by a modern day hunting lodge aesthetic, and food here tends towards the classic, pairing beer with brew-tavern favorites like burgers, chips and stew. Make this your first stop for new releases from regional breweries. There are 12 beers on tap – around half of these are local, with one or two from the UK and Germany. If these don’t take your fancy, there are over 150 bottled options. The atmosphere gets a bit headier on weekends. A DJ plays from a catalogue of funk, blues and rock and roll, and the place fills up quickly. Phone ahead to reserve if you’d prefer not to jostle for a table.
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.
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.