Where to drink in Zagreb
The team behind this place are big music enthusiasts and are attached to several major events in the city's calendar. The atmosphere often buzzing, thanks to its mix of backpackers and locals, and if you enjoy cocktails, it's a fabulous place to drink them without breaking the bank.
First and foremost it’s an excellent multi-tap, serving the Garden’s five core beers, a handful of their seasonal specials, and one or two guest brews. It’s also a very good place for lunch or evening munchies, with a menu artfully poised between creative fusion cuisine and grub that goes well with alcohol.
Mutating from a wine bar that did smart lunches to one of the city’s leading gastro-bistros, Pod Zidom marched straight into the 2019 edition of the Michelin Guide and is now pretty much a must-visit when it comes to contemporary Croatian cooking. A lot of the credit goes to head chef Jurica Jantolek and his desire to investigate the creative possibilities of traditional food, retaining the local ingredients but throwing out any formulaic attitudes to their preparation. The menu certainly has an old-school local look about it at first glance, with oxtail, black sausages, duck breast and buncek (pork hock) vying for attention alongside modish bistro-u-like regulars like beef cheeks and white fish. Best way to sample Pod Zidom’s culinary approach is to opt for the three or four-course daily lunches (165-190), composed according to what they picked up that morning at Dolac. The bistro-wine bar informality of the place is well-maintained: the interior is bright, contemporary; service is brisk and informative; music tends towards the serious end of blues and jazz.
As much a bar as it is an essential hub for alternative culture. The music prgramme is dizzyingly diverse and there's usually something happening in the bar's basement. An upbeat vibe and reasonably priced craft beer on tap (Nova Runda and The Garden) makes Pločnik a reliable choice.
Botaničar is a stylish café, bar and sometimes art gallery near the botanical gardens. One of Zagreb's best-looking venues, the café is like a lookbook for retro furnishings; the well-lit room is scattered with '70s hairpin-legged tables and bright velvet sofas.
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.
Just a few doors away from local cultural hub Booksa, Program is run by the same people who brought you the late, lamented Divas, the famously eccentric living-room-gone-bonkers café that arguably set the whole Martićeva trend rolling.
Kulturni Centar Mesnička (“MesničkaCultural Centre”) is a vintage-style living-room bar with a side room devoted to art exhibitions and a live gig space (mostly jazz) in the cellar.
Noel Bar is arguably Zagreb‘s most aesthetically pleasing place in which to enjoy a relaxing daytime brew. Designed by local architecture studio Penezić and Rogina, it’s a great example of how to make the most of a small space, with a glass-cube bar area enfolded by a tiny L-shaped lounge with room for three or four tables.
The interior preserves the concrete, exposed brick and metal girders of the original factory floor, but clever lighting and comfortable seating ensures that this is far from being a minimalist post-industrial experience.
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.
Europe's quirkiest museum might leave you in tears, but at least you can console yourself in this breezy little cafe afterwards. Here, friendly staff will whip you up an ice-coffee or a thick hot chocolate, and everything's served with a homemade biscuit for good measure. It's spacious enough to sit and work for hours, and there's a broad beer selection for when you're done.
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. Timeless is the word you're looking for.
Opened a decade ago, Sax is one of the best spots in town to see live bands. The stage is big and the venue is spacious and awash in orange with plenty of booths for the partied-out and also plenty of room for dancing. The crowd here is JJ Cale-mellow and half-litres of Tuborg are only 16kn.
The extravagantly decorated, cutesy 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.
Long considered a cult destination on Zagreb’s craft-beer strip of Opatovina, Ro & Do has upped and moved to a new location opposite Britanski trg market. It has lost its snug wood-panelled interior, but gained a much bigger courtyard terrace – which might make it into a key destination as the Zagreb summer takes hold.
'Central Zagreb' is becoming an increasingly broad geographical expression, thanks to a burgeoning archipelago of drinking venues sprouting up on the periphery. Located near the busy crossroads of Savska and Ulica Grada Vukovara, Greenery Procaffé functions perfectly as a local meet-up for residents and office workers as well as a destination café for urban explorers. A neat and welcoming L-shaped space with a first-floor gallery, it looks out on green hedgerows and leafy plants, pulling off the unusual trick of creating an intimate garden feel slap bang in the middle of a neighbourhood best known for its modernist buildings and grey blocks. As well as good coffee it takes tea drinkers more seriously than most Zagreb cafés, with a choice of quality brews. Gins and cocktails are Greenery’s other strong suits – and with a big outdoor terrace occasionally massaged by the friendly rumble of passing trams, it could be a good place to linger once the warm weather comes.
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.
The Garden taproom serves the brewery's latest creations in a transformed warehouse space. Occupying a redbrick factory in Zagreb's industrial east, it's a characterful venue for after-work drinks and all-night parties. There's plenty of seating and a huge garden with picnic tables-perfect for sipping a fresh pale ale when it's warm outside. Worked up an appetite? Submarine serves gourmet burgers from a yellow shipping container indoors. As well as leading the way in Zagreb’s embryonic craft beer scene, The Garden Brewery doubles up as an excellent late-night spot, attracting hip-hop legends, international DJ’s and the cream of local talent to the industrial eastern estate of Žitnjak. Every weekend the brewery throws an open-armed party - head there on Saturdays for DJ-led club nights.
Just below the Grič cannon (hence the name), this leafy terrace is a summer evening favourite. When the weather turns cold the enclosed terrace warms the mood. Service is excellent and the clientele cosmopolitan.
A rather tatty-looking café-bar by day, by night the Funk Club is lively indeed. Spontaneous interaction sparks around a horseshoe-shaped bar, while thumping beats come up from the cellar.
Located within staggering distance of Zagreb University’s Student Centre, this cult drinking location is a constant den of smoke and people shouting to be heard above indie-rock tunes. The yard is packed with enough wooden benches to accommodate several hundred at a time.
One of the most popular neighbourhood cafes on the Vlaška strip, Cajt had a reputation for serving speciality beers well before the craft boom took hold, and it can still be replied upon to deliver a vast choice of bottles. Only one minor drawback: Cajt is primarily a daytime meeting place, and can be rather quiet on week-nights.
This venue 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. Live music from Wednesday through to Saturday, featuring funk, rock covers, and plenty of blues.
The fashionably black, 1,800-capacity main hall (Veliki pogon, ‘Large Workshop’) has now been augmented by the addition of a much more intimate small hall (Mali pogon), which hosts gigs by local bands and disc-spinning after-parties. Mali pogon also works as a café during the day.
A top choice in the Savska cesta area, this deliberately eccentric bar flaunts its quirky Alice In Wonderland theme. Impressively lit at night, the garden features a painted mural, a checkerboard floor and a white-picket-fence treehouse. They make a mean gin and tonic, which can be served in a teacup, consistent with the theme. Cosy outdoor seating means you can laze around beneath the trees. Sometimes there'll be a DJ entertaining you; better that than the staff's radio choices, which at times stands in sharp contrast to the clever consideration that has gone into this venue.
The café-bar of the Gavella Theatre is something of a Zagreb classic, with its smoky ambience, looks-like-marble-but-isn’t-really interior, and odd mixture of dressed-up theatre-goers and garrulous middle-aged men who just popped in to see if the football was on TV. The likelihood of actually seeing any stars of the stage in here are slim indeed – the thespians have got their own private drinking club at the back of the building.
Zagreb’s first real craft beer pub, this should be 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. There are also more than 150 bottled options.. The atmosphere gets a bit headier on weekends. A DJ plays from a catalogue of funk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, and the place fills up quickly. Phone to reserve if you’d prefer not to jostle for a table.
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.
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 – although you will find muffins and cookies provided by the Piknik bakery and sandwich bar. Cogito have gone on to open new branches in Croatia and beyond, there’s another café at Prilaz Gjure Deželića 40.
Providing another great reason to visit the nether regions of Savsk cesta (Vintage Industrial Bar is one other), Bikers is by no means a niche bar for a niche public. Biking provides the design theme and indeed there’s a motorbike repair shop at the same address, but the general atmosphere is one of easygoing alternative lifestyles plus rock’n’roll. The exposed brick interior contains a few post-industrial touches; there’s a large inner-courtyard beer garden; live rock/blues a couple of times a week. As far as the drink is concerned; there’s Erdinger on tap, a good choice of bottled beers, and Perković rakijas on the spirits menu.
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.
An unexpected find in an unpromising courtyard, “22,000 Leagues Under the Sea” is very much a Zagreb one-off, decked out in wood paneling, metal rivets, and several clusters of dials that look like the kind of pressure-gages you might find in a submarine. It’s a wonderful piece of steampunk-influenced design, and is very popular with young locals – it’s the kind of place that might be full on a Tuesday in February when all other bars in the neighbourhood are empty. It’s also one of the few central pubs that serves bottles of San Servolo beer (25kn/half litre), the malty boutique brew from Istria.
The boutique-brewery phenomenon is not entirely new - Zagreb’s Medvedgrad brewery has been brewing its own lagers, wheat beers and porters for 20 years, and currently runs four pub-restaurants at various locations in the city. The Mali Medo branch on Tkalčićeva has an extensive outdoor terrace, turning itself into one of the most popular outdoor-drinking spots in the city.
Visitors accustomed to the old, grungey, rock-a-punk Melin will be in for a shock: Tkalčićeva’s favourite cult bar entered 2014 in a completely new guise. For starters, the guiding musical theme is now Jazz with a capital J – brassy blasts and sultry crooning spew forth from the sound system and there’s a tiny stage for occasional live performance. The decor follows the guess-what-I-bought-at-the-flea-market school of interior design, with misfit furnishings, and hollowed-out TVs setting a pleasingly vintage tone. The choice of wines and spirits is excellent (it’s less of a beer-drinkers joint than it used to be); your bill arrives tucked into the pages of a paperback book. The age range of the customers has risen slightly as a result of the makeover; although such is Melin’s swim-against-the-tide nature that it remains a favourite of youngish alternative types too.
This three-in-one mash-up on Zagreb’s main drinking strip comes from the makers of Alcatraz, the cult café on Preradovićeva that’s famous for its junk-shop interior and rock-and-roll soundtrack. The new venture is no less memorable than its much-loved progenitor, with an interior that rejoices in well-chosen clutter – Buddhas perch above the bar while a motley collection of Eastern deities and elephant gods gaze in relief form from the walls. Whether you sit in the café-cocktail bar or head down to the basement beer pub you’ll be treated to a big list of long drinks and a large selection of bottled beers. The first floor restaurant is a good place for cheap Monday-to-Friday lunchtime specials (30Kn), but otherwise concentrates on competent pub catering rather than special-night-out cuisine.
Tucked into a modern plaza just off the newly pedestrianized Europski trg, this swish glass-fronted café-bar looks like a suitably contemporary companion to its office-block neighbours. Inside it looks like a trendy modern flat, with matt-black furnishings set against a white-wall interior. It’s primarily a daytime place, with good coffee, a selection of toasted sandwiches and marinated-anchovy nibbles, although the selection of wines (including several sparkly varieties) helps make it a good choice for after-work partying.
Set in the hotel of the same name, overlooking the main square, this is one of the most revered coffeehouses in Zagreb, exuding classic charm and providing smart service. The location, of course, simply can't be beat.
If Zagreb had a theatre district then Drama Bar would probably be in the middle of it, located just around the corner from a couple of major thespian institutions. There’s a peachy Eighties quality to the décor, with pastel-coloured furnishings and a fetching vegetal mural stretching along one wall of the smoking area. Health-restoring smoothies (20kn) and serviceable cocktails (from 35kn) ensure that Drama more than just a place to drink coffee. Breakfasts (available till noon) run from granola to boiled eggs; while there’s also a choice of toasted-sandwich brunch snacks. Expect a strident pop soundtrack, although there’s a regular menu of live jazz in the evenings.
Arguably Zagreb’s first steam-punk bar – a concept, perhaps, nobody really asked for –Mr.Fogg is garishly fun, what with its theatrical set-design pieces based on the theme of Jules Verne's ‘Around the World in 80 Days’. It’s already created a buzz in the trendy Marticeva district, where it’s USP is a range of international teas, exotic varieties of gin and a decent craft beer menu.
A recent addition to the growing number of top-drawer cafés in the city centre, Express serves direct-trade coffee from several origins (the specific farm will probably be chalked up on a board) and organic leaf teas. Decidedly mellow in atmosphere, it looks like a tiny place with room for only a handful of drinkers, but actually stretches back deep into the building with a long narrow corridor leading to a semi-hidden smokers’ lounge right at the back. Outdoor seating on the pedestrianised bit of Petrinjska, and decent on-tap beer (Erdinger and O’Hara) ensure that it’s a decent summer-evening spot too.
It’s a fake pub in a modern shopping centre, but don’t let that put you off too much. It’s certainly one of the best-stocked places in the city when it comes to international bottled beers (including some familiar Irish names and a lot of speciality Belgian stuff), although there’s a lack of quality choices on draught. The Beer Bar’s position next to the Cineplexx cinema and at the top of the Tkalčićeva strip makes it a useful inclusion in a busy night out.
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.
Though this place shouldn’t be difficult to discover – located above the Stone Gate and below St Mark’s – it is, somehow, oft-overlooked and thus a great find. The front room is an art gallery with local artists’ works for sale. The back end of the building is a posh café (with seating in the front gallery as well) with Persian rugs thrown about, wooden floors and leather chairs. Beyond coffee, expect 15 sorts of tea, Leffe beer, wine and cognac.
This is one of those places where the aroma of good coffee hits you as soon as you walk through the door. Just off the main street in Trešnjevka, a characterful Zagreb neighbourhood that’s always worth a wander, Karibu is a winning example of how to make good use of a small space, with benches fashioned from planks of salvaged wood facing friendly staff behind a small bar. The coffee is supplied by independent roasters and usually includes at least one blended option and one single-origin brew (Guatemalan beans were hitting the grinder during our last visit). There are also some excellent fruit juices, own-recipe iced tea, and a small but welcome selection of biscuits and tarts.
This small, rather narrow-looking space with a ‘coffee to go’ sign outside looks at first sight like the kind of place you would pop in for a takeaway brew rather than spend a night of drinking and bumping into people. With a well-chosen list of rakijas and wines, and a fridge full of the usual beers, it’s an increasingly popular spot, however, and the raucous, crushed-around-the-bar nature of the place only adds to its appeal. The name is a play on words – ‘gostiona’ is an old –fashioned name for an inn; while ‘gost & ona’ literally means “the guest and her”. Plainly decorated, and illuminated by what look like leftover Christmas lights, it’s very odd, very local, and very appealing.
Part of the (Russian owned) largest chain of Irish themed pubs in the world, the Zagreb franchise of Harat's has a prime position above Dolac market.
This popular community eaterie in the direction of Sljeme is within easy reach of the city centre. Two playgrounds keep the kids entertained while the grown-ups tuck into steaks, chops and grills or the house special of spit-roasted meats. If you feel like pushing the boat out, there's krvavice, blood sausage. Unless you go mad on the decent selection of draught beers, you can't spend more than 150kn a head.
Hemingway Lounge Bar is part of a chain of upmarket cocktail bars with two branches in Zagreb. This one is located opposite the imposing National Theatre. It has a gilded feel with ornate trimmings and chandeliers. There are the prerequisite photos of Ernest, of course – in pastel relief. Cocktails with fruit are among the establishment's specialties: the Mojito, of course, raspberry Martinis and the Amaretto Sour – with fresh oranges and lemons – is a showstopper. If the weather is nice, grab a pavement table among the pretty set dressed in all black and posing over sandwiches, healthy juices and macchiatos by day, and classic drinks like Mai Tais and Long Island Ice Teas at night to accompany DJs spinning house. The classy, more dance-club-esque venue at Tuškanac 1, behind the Tuškanac Cinema, is open noon-5am Monday through Saturday.
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.
A traditional central-European café experience probably wouldn’t work in the middle of trendy bar-filled Tkalčićeva, unless it was a trifle kooky, or a touch camp. Procaffe covers these bases with aplomb, offering coffee drinkers and cake nibblers a backdrop of lush fabrics, plush burgundy tones and zebra-print details. A respectable list of cocktails in the 35-55kn range provides the evening drinking crowd with ample reasons to drop by; and there’s a huge glass aquarium-style enclosure for smokers.
Established by qualified sommelier and long-standing Croatian wine enthusiast Jelena Simić Valentić, Pupitres is a great place to taste your way through the best tipple the country has to offer. A small intimate space with a jazzy soundtrack and only a handful of tables (it’s wise to reserve at weekends), it’s well set up for a long relaxing evening. Despite being geared towards wine buffs it’s certainly not intimidating to those who aren’t – the recommended selection of whites and reds cover a good range of vintages and prices, with the cheapest options starting at a very reasonable 18kn per glass. The 2-person platter of cold-cuts and olives (85kn) is the standard accompanying order, although more substantial tapas-style dishes are also available.
Once upon a time, a radio-era coffeehouse, the Gradska kavana, filled this side of Zagreb’s main square. A landmark but long closed down, it has recently been replaced by Johann Franck, sponsored by the afore-named and venerable Zagreb brand of coffee. Calling itself a café, bistro, bar and club, it still operates as a prime meeting place in the capital, a contemporary spot in a city full of them but in a prime location and with a heritage second-to- none. Elements of the interior created Nedjeljko Mikac reflect this urban legacy, with an Art Deco chair dating back to 1927 and a space dedicated to the pioneering vehicles of Ferdinand Budicki. (Budicki was the first man in Zagreb to receive a fine for speeding – in 1901.) Just as this establishment has undergone an overall change of style, so it serves a more multi-purpose function. As well as a fully working kitchen, today’s Johann Franck offers a full agenda of live performances, exhibitions, readings and sundry shows and screenings. Whether JF will achieve its aim of again becoming the vortex of social life in the capital is debatable – but this is certainly a step in the right direction. Its terrace, overlooking the statue of Ban Jelačić himself, will be busy come what may.
Hollywood Vanity Club has a gilded feel with ornate trimmings and chandeliers. Cocktails with fruit are among the establishment’s specialties: the Mojito, of course, raspberry Martinis and the Amaretto Sour – with fresh oranges and lemons – is a showstopper. If the weather is nice, grab a pavement table among the pretty set dressed in all black and posing over sandwiches, healthy juices and macchiatos by day, and classic drinks like Mai Tais and Long Island Ice Teas at night to accompany DJs spinning house.
Named after one of the most famous trains in the world, during its 100-year existence connecting Paris (and London) with Istanbul, the Orient Express took three routes. The most southerly of these passed through Croatia, with one of the dastardly deeds in Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express' famously taking place just outside Slavonski Brod, where the train also stopped. Themed around one of the train's luxurious carriages, this narrow, centrally-located bar is decked out with a wonderful series of black and white photographs of the glamorous passengers the train carried in its heyday, French-language signage, shiny copper and a bottle-green colour scheme. While the narrow seats in the front part of the bar are more fit for a drink on your own or with a friend, the back of the bar is spacious enough to fit a crowd. Apart from coffee, soft drinks and beer, the drink list offers a wide selection of cocktails, gin, whiskey and other fine spirits.
It's been here for years, the 'Cultural Information Centre', but still attracts a loyal, bohemian following throughout the week. It's an art school vibe. Cultural activities centre on film screenings, photo exhibitions, book presentations and lectures. Drinks wise, there's Heineken on draught, though most settle for local bottled varieties; gemišt spritzers at 12kn, and numerous teas. Many customers seem capable of making a single espresso last a whole afternoon.
This place has been around for a few years and it's a real locals' hang-out. The interior of Alcatraz is crowded with American number plates, beer flags, and mannequins – one of which wears a Mick Jagger mask and seems to be a part of the party. The weekends see it packed with locals, who stop by for a myriad of bottled beers – loads of Belgian speciality brews alongside the excellent local Velebitsko – and the DJs jamming rock and dance tunes. There are also a slew of home-made rakijas (grappas) such as honey, cherry or blackcurrant.
Built in 1924 and still retaining many of its period features, the 500-seater Kino Europa is the oldest still-functioning cinema in Zagreb. The grand auditorium is the main screening house for the Zagreb Film Festival in autumn, and serves as a first-run and art-house cinema for the rest of the year. For those into grappas, good beer, quality coffee and excellent wines, the Europa's other principal attraction is the café that spills from the spacious lobby to a glass-enclosed atrium with big outdoor terrace. Patrons sitting in black directors' chairs are served honey, apple, pear, fig and cherry (to name a few) brandies. Club nights fill the foyer following the final film screenings on Friday and Saturday nights, with DJs spinning an eclectic mix of rock, pop and retro-disco.EDITOR'S NOTE: Uncertainty regarding the future management of the cinema in 2018 and 2019 have resulted in both the cinema and its bar and cafe operating sporadically and it's possible the venue may be closed when you try to visit.
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.
'You are now entering Evolution Area' says the sign on the door, which leads through to a coolly minimal white space with a handful of tables grouped around the bar. For several years now Eli's has been Zagreb's leading venue for quality coffee, leading a brown-stuff brewing revolution that is slowly spreading to the city's other bars. It is also one of the few cafe-bars that has remained 100% non-smoking, ensuring that you can actually taste and smell whatever it is you're drinking. A foxy young professional clientele gather here to gas, goss and guzzle coffee from 100% arabica beans selected and roasted by the café owner Nik Orosi, the country’s first specialty coffee roaster and supplies a half-dozen cafés with enough taste to want the best coffee in town.
KSET is an excellent, adventurous venue for live music and DJs, with events taking place three or four nights a week. Well worth the hassle of finding, KSET has actively promoted new bands for decades, an oasis for underground, post-rock, Americana, avant-jazz, punk, rap, ethno and lots of other stylistically diverse artists. With a 400-person capacity this intimate and friendly space is the ideal venue in which to catch a band on the cusp of the big time. The choice of drinks is limited to beer, wine and fruit juices, but prices are rock-bottom.
Noel Bar is arguably Zagreb‘s most aesthetically pleasing place in which to enjoy a relaxing daytime brew. Designed by local architecture studio Penezić and Rogina, it’s a great example of how to make the most of a small space, with a glass-cube bar area enfolded by a tiny L-shaped lounge with room for three or four tables. Wall-hugging green couches provide a simple and effective sense of comfort. An outdoor terrace with decking, sofas and potted plants has the feel of a small urban garden, and is deservedly popular with local drinkers on languorous summer evenings.
Traditionally visited for its access to hiking routes rather than the chance to chill with a cup of the brown stuff, the prosperous hillside suburb of Šestine has finally got the natty café it has been crying out for. A simple structure with chic contemporary furnishings, big windows and grassy views, it’s the perfect place to spend a meditative hour or two. The drinks list may be small but it’s a masterpiece of shrewd selection; the coffee comes from the town’s top roasting outfit Cogito, the beer from the Garden Brewery, and there are tubs of the cold stuff from Samobor ice-cream alchemists Medenko. There are toothsome cookies and bake-snacks aplenty, and with Šestine’s children’s playground just a few steps away, it’s popular with families at weekends. Suddenly, there is a lot more to Šestine than the long walk uphill.
One of Zagreb's classic watering holes, patronised by writers and actors since the 19th century, 'Under Old Roofs' looks every inch the part, with its bare pine floor, wooden panelling, timber-beamed ceiling and old-style ceramic stove. It's one of the few bars in the Upper Town that has successfully held on to a regular late-night clientele, with art exhibitions and sporadic concerts helping to keep the bohemian spirit buoyant. With hard-to-get Vukovarsko beer on draft, and a handsome list of rakijas and wines, it's certainly the right place for the discerning drinker; while the baguette sandwiches will take care of any lingering hunger.
La Bodega represents the busy, café-lined Bogovićeva at its most chic; an artfully-designed wine bar whose outdoor terrace – set between incongruously rustic piles of logs - is constantly busy. Indoors, purple light bathes the fat legs of pršut ham hanging from the ceiling; old sewing machines, radios and TV sets jut from the walls. As the name suggests there’s a comprehensive menu of wine and nibbles (there are plenty of Croatian wines by the glass from around 20Kn upwards); jazzy music by day, house-y music by night helps to set the tone.
Hidden in an off-street courtyard, this mellow café next to a music shop has quickly built a regular clientele since opening in mid-2011. They take their (free-trade, Ethiopian) coffee very seriously, and serious caffeine addicts will trek halfway across the city to get their regular fix. With poetry readings, jazz in the evenings and art on the walls, it's something of a cult cultural hub into the bargain. The discerning drinks menu marks this spot out as more than just a regular boozer; with Erdinger, Fischers and O'Hara stout on draught.
A grotto-like interior beneath bare-brick vaults, this is an unexpectedly intimate spot, set slightly apart from the cafe-crawling bottlenecks of Tkalčićeva and Cvijetni trg. There’s a denim theme behind the decor, with a strange but compelling blue tapestry behind the bar, blue-topped tables and blue-upholstered stools. The people at Waves are serious about their wines, and a food menu featuring soups, pastas and salads makes this a solid choice for lunch.
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.
Opened in autumn 2012, the Beertija was one of the winning courtyard terrace locations of the 2013 outdoor drinking season. While the terrace sits behind trees and shrubs protected from the busy road, main body of the bar itself is in a neighbouring basement. Decked out in a mixture of red-brick and grey, it’s pretty post-industrial – there’s a glass-wall smoking tank in one corner for days when it’s too cold or wet to light up outside. As the name suggests (Beertija is a play on words based on the term ‘birtija’, a kind of Croatian pub), the accent is on amber liquids, with a simply mind-boggling choice of local and imported ales. This is probably the only place in town where both Newcastle Brown and cult Montnegrin Nikšićko pivo crop up on the same menu, alongside all manner of heady dark liquids dreamt up by crafty Belgian monks. There’s also a rock/alternative soundtrack that seems to go perfectly with this kind of drink.
Moody, mellow and rather chic wine bar offering an excellent range of local tipple, backed up by a small but toothsome menu of cheeses and cold cuts. By-the-glass options range from the light white Žlahtina (15kn) to the most velvety of Pelješac reds (55kn), with a few bubblies thrown in for good measure. Outdoor tables spread out across the newly pedestrianised cobbles of pod Zidom, just round the corner from the main square.
During the day Kolaž serves coffee to local office workers and lawyers, while by night it fills up with a sophisticated bohemian set with an easy-going straight-gay-whatever sense of social orientation.