Given the intense competition to entice many random coffee-seekers, cafés in Zagreb have incorporated or amplified various quirks to make their joints unique and appealing. Coffee, after all, is just coffee, and these days it’s of decent quality almost everywhere. So there has to be a twist. Below is a list of the quirkiest cafés in Zagreb, Croation, where you may find yourself sipping coffee at a fairytale garden, in a mock-up of an Agatha Christie-era train compartment, or in a library of 100,000 books.
Cafe, Croatian, $$$
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Botaničar | Courtesy of Botaničar
The aptly named Botaničar sits within a few hundred metres of the Botanical Garden, hence the name and the fact that it’s full of plants, shrubs and cacti. A ‘galerija’ as well as a ‘caffe bar’, the Botaničar espouses a bohemian tone with its artsy photographs, differing from Zagreb’s other funky cafés by offering alcohol. And not just bog-standard wine but sought-after, small-batch craft beers from independent breweries such as Pivionica Zagreb and The Garden. Regular literary events keep the place buzzing for most evenings.
Also named Hendrick’s Garden after its sponsors, this bizarre yet bucolic bar-slash-café getaway near Savski Bridge is at its best in the warmer months, when blossoms surround its postcard-perfect treehouse. The rest is a garden with a kind of Alice in Wonderland feel and wind chimes thrown in. The main house, equally bohemian, gets filled up during chillier winter evenings. Opening from 8am, it serves mainly quality coffee, fresh juices and tasty pastries until the post-work crowd trails in. Ideal, too, for a first date.
You wouldn’t really notice it, tucked away along busy downtown Teslina but once you walk in to this unassuming café, you’re transported back to the 1920s. Greeted by the gleam of veneer, you quickly make out that it’s a vintage train compartment fashioned out of a standard bar interior, complete with gilt-framed mirrors and French signage. Poirot himself would not look out of place. No themed drinks, sadly, just standard coffees, softies and beers, but originality of design more than makes up for it.
Attached to the Swanky Hostel Mint, the Swanky Monkey Garden stays with the funkified industrial design, creating a home-away-from-home hangout spot amid bare brick and much greenery. Barely one tram stop from Zagreb’s main square, this daytime café and busy bar-slash-live venue offers quality drinks from 8am to bedtime, whether it’s fresh juices or the perfect cappuccino. Gentle background sounds give way to DJs after dark, which means after a hard morning’s sightseeing and shopping, you can rest up here assured that your conversation won’t be drowned out by silly rock music on the radio.
Always ahead of the game and opening up on trendy Dežmanova before it became trendy, Velvet made the national news in 2016 by becoming the first café in the world to provide a free reading zone to coffee-sippers. The so-called FREZ entails an app of some 100,000 books in several languages, accessed by an in-house code after you order your macchiato or freshly squeezed orange juice and toast. Literary treasures may distract you from the quirky decor of DIY starbursts and unusual framed portraits that are the work of an interior designer with a trained eye.