Zagreb’s prime literary club also doubles as a café. There is a symbolic membership fee of 10kn/year, but members can then enjoy WiFi, carefully chosen music, a laid-back atmosphere and regular events that include readings by the big beasts of the local literary scene – with occasional ones by visiting English speakers. One Thursday in a month is reserved for unplugged concerts by local musicians. There’s also a small library of English-language books. Good coffee and several varieties of leaf tea help to make Booksa well worth the quick tram ride or ten-minute walk from the centre.
Opened next to a bookstore in 2015, editions piled up around the furniture and ornaments from the first half of the 1900s, Finjak is unique enough to attract custom from anywhere in the city centre. A courtyard also helps. The drinks selection is extensive but geared towards daytime consumption: exotic teas, fine coffees, San Servolo and sought-after beers.
The menu is the same as at the open-air Kava Tava on Britanski trg, but the experience couldn’t be more different: a sequence of barrel-vaulted spaces that seem to tunnel deep into the interior of this historic Tkalčićeva building. The interior designer clearly has an eye for quirky detail, with hairdryers turned into lamps, airline seating doubling as cafe chairs, old sewing machines perched on ledges, and (somewhat disconcertingly if you’re not much of a Pink Floyd fan) the lyrics of ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ straggling across the walls. All in all, it’s a soothing place in which to tuck in to KT’s trademark menu of strong coffee, breakfasts and pancakes; the outdoor terrace, perfectly situated on a curve of this pedestrianised street, comes into its own in spring and summer.
Just off Ilica in a passageway lined by some of Zagreb's fancier shops, Velvet displays the kind of flamboyant-but-minimalist interior typical of its co-owner, avant-garde florist Saša Šekoranja. A big mirror above the marble bar and wine glasses share space with displays of croissants, chocolate cake and quiche. A well heeled gaggle lounges on low couches or elegant wooden chairs, supping strong quality coffee.
Flagship city-centre bar of the Cogito bean-roasting outfit, this recently-opened clinic for unrepentant caffeine-a-holics is just off the main street, at the start of the mysterious, half-hidden passageway which leads from Varšavska through to Masarykova. Minimally decorated save for some salvaged furniture and a few pictures, it serves a hard-to-beat brew, plus leaf teas, some freshly-squeezed juices, and that’s about it – save for some muffins and cookies provided by the Piknik bakery and sandwich bar.
Quahwa treats coffee with the reverence it deserves. One of the few independent roasters in town, Quahwa an easy walk from the main square, located in an attractive courtyard on Teslina. The beans, organic Arabica, are imported from Ethiopia and roasted in the café downstairs. Upstairs, the minimalist interior is cool without feeling cold: cushy ‘70s armchairs and hairpin-legged tables are strewn haphazardly about the polished parquet. Coffee is slightly more expensive than what you'll find in the cafés clustering around nearby Cvjetni Trg. The difference in quality is obvious and worth the few extra kuna. Beyond coffee, Matcha-lattes, specialty liquors and excellent craft beers from The Garden provide a respectable list of alternatives.
Done out in tones of blue, grey and light wood, this funky new cake shop and café provides enough variety sweet treats and salty snacks to keep a regular, interesting and chatty clientele through the door from breakfast time to evening drinks. Pride of place, though, goes to the bright and inventive cakes on show, sold by the slice or as dainty, individual creations, topped by a sliver of strawberry or dollop of meringue.
Consisting of a wooden-shed bar surrounded by a scattering of stools and chairs, the al-fresco Kava Tava delivers just about everything that makes a good café – except, arguably, for four walls and a roof. It occupies the north-western curve of Britanski trg, the square that hosts a Monday-to-Saturday fruit and veg market and a hugely popular collectors' fair on Sunday mornings. What makes Kava Tava unique in Zagreb's cafe-land is the all-day breakfast menu, comprising eggs and bacon, eggs and sausage, cereals and muesli. Sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and pršut platters are also on offer. Otherwise the quality coffee will keep you motoring, and there's a full range of wines and beers (including Leffe, Erdinger and Paulaner). It's as popular in winter as it is in summer, with mulled wine and shots of Istrian rakija warming the cockles.
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.
With a mixture of old wooden chairs and modern cast-iron affairs upholstered in pale blues and pinks, this delightfully twee, Frenchy-flavoured little place is the ideal spot to sip tea and munch your way through some of the Croatian capital's best lemon-meringue pies, cheesecakes and quiches. There's invariably a strong showing of different cakes in the glass display cabinet, rendering the selection process tantalizingly difficult.