Visitors don't always discover the best clubs in Zagreb. Lurking in unlikely locations, they're guarded by a close-knit circle of regulars and are largely unadvertised.
But if you're looking for somewhere to party, you might be surprised at Zagreb's proficient offerings - behind the city's pretty facade lies a thriving subculture, whose holy houses are the post-industrial warehouse clubs scattered around the city. As with neighbouring capital Belgrade, Zagreb's party scene has a hint of Berlin about it, with its unwavering focus on electronic music and that special sense of camraderie that comes from co-raving for whole weekends. Here are the best clubs in the city.
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Where to party in Zagreb
Still going strong despite the municipal authorities' threat to dramatically raise the rent, this shrine to all things alternative grew out of Zagreb’s anarchist movement and is still run as a non-profit-making collective. A courtyard decorated by some of Zagreb’s best street artists has a café-bar on one side, and a concert venue-cum-club space on the other. Events range from anarcho-punk gigs to dub reggae DJs and cutting-edge dance music, with all kinds of other styles thrown in for good measure. Visual arts association Otomptom throw impromptu film evenings screening animation and shorts. Popular with a broad spectrum of Zagreb’s club-hungry youth, Medika is much more than just a gathering point for the grungey underground.
The intimate Masters is located next the clay courts of the Maksimir Tennis Centre and in a loft bedecked with wooden floors and a tree-house-style bar. The DJ presides over a relaxed vibe and offers music from deep house to dub, techno to reggae. International names make appearances here in this relatively secret dance enclave.
One of the warehouse clubs tucked away in the industrial outskirts, Depo keeps it simple, with just a large concrete dancefloor and a rudimentary bar - although a new technicolour strobe light ceiling has made it a bit less stark. Most Fridays and Saturdays mean Techno until 6am, with yearly highlights including festivals such as The Future Sound of Zagreb, which brings the cream of Croatia's DJs and dance musicians to the underbelly of Zagreb.
A 15-minute walk south of the train station, Boogaloo is a 1,500-capacity DJ club and live venue, opened in a spacious former cinema and cultural centre – scene of seminal shows by Laibach and Einstürzende Neubauten in the mid-1980s. Expect a varied schedule of retro parties, house or techno DJs, and live international metal acts.
The organisation at the core of the Katran-factory warehouse scene runs weekend club nights that are a mixture of DJ dance culture, live music, mainstream fun and alternative art madness. Despite the grizzled post-industrial minimalism of the location, there’s a relaxed, private-house-party vibe.
Taboo is the place if you're looking for the afterparty. Neighbouring the swanky Hotel Esplanade and the train station, it's a party-goer's hideout in the middle of the city. Impeccable soundsystems and dazzling light displays never fail to have revellers electrified.
Housed in an old red brick factory in Zagreb's industrial east, The Garden 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.
This legendary venue that has hosted innumerable international names (the Buzzcocks, Jonathan Richman, Mac de Marco) doubles as a club beloved of Zagreb's young alternatives.
You'll as soon find a Drum & Bass night as a gothic party or the Pride after-party here. Just off the banks of the Sava, it holds about 600 people in an abandoned factory imaginatively muralled by graphic artist Igor Hofbauer. Močvara, 'the Swamp' is a hotbed of open-minded fun.
Run by event promoters Pozitivan ritam and organisers of Croatia's Lost Theory Festival, it's well worth the trek from the centre, with its super-cool decor, decent craft-beer selection and late-night music sessions. The music programme is diverse, with everything from reggae to grime; the switched-on staff and artsy, alternative crowd ensure a reliably upbeat vibe.
The one club on the Jarun lakeside to be open 12 months a year, this 2,000-capacity, two-floor venue, which opened in 1992, is still ahead of the field. This is largely due to its commitment to mixing danceable beats with innovative DJ styles, augmented by a regular agenda of live music (with international rock and world music predominating) and Dj sets by international big names. The two floors – Aquarius 1 and 2 – pump different sounds but do, on occasion, come together. Friday might feature anything from Goa Trance to RnB (check the website), while Saturdays usually see an eclectic mixture of cutting-edge House and electro. In summer, Aquarius opens its beach branch at Zrće at Novalja on Pag.