Coffee-drinking is taken seriously in Zagreb. In the city centre, you can barely move for coffee houses sprawling into the streets, although it's surprisingly hard to find cafés with menus that extend beyond drinks - and even harder to find non-smoking cafés. But once you've found your café, you won't be disappointed: the finest offer expertly-made coffee, and treats to have a sweet-tooth grinning for hours. Here are the best cafes and coffee shops in Zagreb.
The best cafés and coffee shops in Zagreb
In need of a caffeine fix? Discover Zagreb's coolest coffee shops and cafés with Time Out
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.
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. The cafes aesthetic theme is inspired by the nearby gardens: leafy plants are everywhere, with hanging creepers flowing out of oak cabinets The drinks-only menu features coffee from Zagreb roasteries, a selection of craft beer and a respectable list of domestic wines. A soundtrack of gently jazzy music and the occasional chanson provides a relaxed, low-key atmosphere. The café gets buzzier when the after-work crowd arrive. An outdoor terrace overlooking the National Archives provides further inducement to visit in summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kim’s is one of those cult neighbourhood cafes that rarely makes it into the guidebooks, probably because it lies outside the strict centre – although just uphill from Kvaternikov trg, it’s hardly difficult to get to. As well as a regular coffee-supping joint for local residents it’s also something of a destination café for interlopers – it’s an ideal venue for an intimate meeting or an informal natter. As well as regular coffees they do a range of Kim’s specials (26kn) such as Gingerbread Latte, or Pumpkin Spice Latte, which come in bowl-like mugs topped with generous swirls of cream. Decor reflects the folksy-crafty side of the Ikea catalogue with a lot of whites and reds, and hearts and flowers as key motifs. The iron railings out front give an intimate garden feel to the terrace, even though the street scene itself is a bit on the grey anonymous side.
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.
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.
If quirky, imaginatively-designed cafés are what you’re after then Martićeva is the place to find them. 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. Program goes for a rather novel refurbishment-in-progress look, with (totally unnecessary) scaffolding in the middle of the room and bags of builders’ cement stacked under the tables. Artwork on the walls and pink chairs on the ceiling provide an additional degree of abnormality, without taking anything away from the café’s eminently comfortable and relaxing vibe. The coffee is good; the cakes look a bit on the heavy-duty side at first sight but turn out delightfully soft and springy when they’re on the end of your fork.
Zagreb’s off-street courtyards remain a much-underused resource, one of many urban attributes which are talked about with great affection but which rarely seem to take off. Which is why courtyard cafés like Regular Bar are such a good thing, drawing customers into a cute passageway diagonally opposite the Britanski trg market. It’s primarily a coffee bar and a lot of effort has gone into getting this just right: the brews are good, the décor goes for a cool uncluttered Sixties feel that hits the right balance between modernity and nostalgia, and service comes with an added citrus twist - patrons are provided with (free) jugs of drinking water flavoured with slices of lemon and lime. The tree-shaded terrace makes for a great off-street hideaway, while DJ events provide reasons to push the boat out on weekend evenings.
A long-standing favourite in the cake-shop stakes, Zagreb is a dependable all-rounder that also has a solid selection of ice cream. Pick of the treats is the Zagreb torte (20kn per slice), a spongey combination of chocolate, hazelnuts and apricot jam that is a worthy rival to any of the chocolate cakes on offer elsewhere. Other highlights include the Geraldine, with chunks of pear enclosed in a cone of custard and cream (18kn), and the mille-feuille slice (16kn) – the latter an exemplary piece of pastry-pulling that is not always done quite so delicately elsewhere in the city. Slastičarnica Zagreb’s terrace, right next to the Nikola Tesla memorial on the corner of Masarykova and Preradovićeva, is a quiet alternative to the bustling cafés of Flower Square just around the corner.