With the upsurge in popularity of craft beers and general trendifying of bar hubs either side of the city’s main square, Zagreb
is now a cosmopolitan place to drink, as well as a busy one. But it hasn’t lost its homely atmosphere, as these recommended pubs prove.
Pivnica Mali Medo
The main downtown outlet for Medvednica, a long-established local brewery set up in Zagreb in 1994, the Mali Medo first occupied a modest building in the middle of Tkalčićeva when this thoroughfare was folksy and somewhat tumbledown. Now bustling and contemporary, ‘Tkalča’ is where you’ll still find Mali Medo, only it has extended across several spaces facing each other, each with a terrace, and offering the many brews now produced by Medvednica, including light, stout, IPA, dark, cherry and seasonal varieties such as for Christmas.
Bare brick, dark wood and old Czech posters provide the backdrop to this unpretentious hostelry, set halfway between Zagreb train station and the main square. Featuring mainly, but not exclusively, Pilsner Urquell and Kozel, this corner pub makes a welcome change from the standard offering of Croatian Ožujsko and Karlovačko, or new-school craft beers. Brewed from 1842 and 1874 respectively, these stand-out Czech lagers need little dressing up or repackaging, as quaffable now as they ever were.
Tucked in an inner courtyard off busy, pedestrianised Preradovićeva, the Golf Caffe was here long before the locality became fashionable and filled with trendy cafés. A homely ambience ensures that it keeps its sizeable crowd of regulars, though there are now umpteen other bars to choose from. The history of golf, illustrated on the walls, has little to do with the venue’s longevity or popularity, more a nod towards the range of whiskies on offer. The fireplace and Biedermeier-style furniture also echo comfort and conviviality.
Defiantly old-school, the traditional Pivnica Pinta holds out where so much around Zagreb’s main square has turned trendy. In fact, with its wooden interior and terrace, Pinta doesn’t look too far removed from the sepia photographs of horse-drawn transport in Habsburg Zagreb decorating its cosy interior. There’s nothing fancy to the drinks selection either — standard Croatian beers on tap or by the bottle, poured and served with polite aplomb in a chatty, communal atmosphere.
The main Brit-style pub on bar-starred Tkalčićeva now occupies a considerable chunk of this well-beaten thoroughfare, its terrace a major feature of any summer-evening bar crawl. Oliver Twist ticks most of the obvious boxes — TV football, tick, Guinness on draught, tick, pub grub, tick — thus appealing to Croatians as much as to visiting foreigners looking for the easy option. Random names from the works of Dickens add a little individuality to the otherwise standard decor and furnishings.
Arguably the most authentic of Zagreb’s pubs, the Old Pharmacy feels loved and lived-in, its traditional dark-wood furniture made for a cosy evening with friends. Football here is a main focus, particularly on big European nights when this is probably the best choice of venue in town. It isn’t cheap, but once one or two Paulaners go down, expenditure doesn’t seem to matter. Proximity to a handful of business-friendly hotels means that the clientele is a little different to what you’d find on trendier Preradovićeva.
The Queen and the Beckhams were among the guests when this establishment opened beside Zagreb’s Flower Market, in the heart of the city’s trendy café zone. Carling, the beer in question, has made itself associated with key areas of British life, including football and live music, so having impersonations of iconic UK figures welcome everyone at this pub unveiling was perfectly appropriate. Football remains the main focus here, as well as an expansive terrace overlooking the statue of romantic poet and war hero, Petar Preradović.
Sheridan’s Irish Pub
Sheridan’s is that rarity, an Irish pub actually run by an Irishman. Just along Savska from the Student Centre, it’s well located, even if it requires a tram hop from the main square or train station. Live music, pub quizzes and TV sport are a regular feature, plus events nights such as Halloween and St Patrick’s. Drinks prices are affordably low, and the chatty ambience smacks of authenticity.
It’s been here forever, the Bulldog, certainly long before the tourist boom around Croatia. Now comprising three elements — pub, eatery and club/live venue — the Bulldog stands a few paces from Zagreb’s main square, its terrace part of the laid-back, pedestrianised vibe around the city’s Flower Market. Of all the pubs in town, this one probably serves the best food and may well have the better selection of wines and cocktails.
Ožujsko Pub Tkalča
Flagship outlet of Croatia’s most popular beer, produced at Zagreb Brewery, the Ožujsko Pub Tkalča occupies a prominent space on ‘Tkalča’, the bar-lined thoroughfare of Tkalčićeva. Ožujsko has been brewed here since 1892, its long history depicted in the cosy interior of this convivial bar. A terrace, framed by glass, roofed and warmed in winter, allows you to observe the comings and goings of Tkalčićeva, busy morning, noon and night.