Zagreb’s café culture is one of Europe’s best, rivaling that of Paris and Vienna. This post includes an overview of Zagreb café culture as well as several of my favorite Zagreb cafés from around the city. Use the detailed map on the go and in planning your trip!

Zagreb cafés and café culture, so, so GOOD

It’s no secret that I love coffee. I also love cafés, and Zagreb’s cafés are among the best I’ve encountered, with Zagreb’s café culture rivaling that of Vienna and Paris. So many terraces, so many wonderful hidden cafés to try. A month wasn’t nearly enough time to experience them all, and I am already missing all those wonderful hours spent in Zagreb cafés.

An introduction to cafés in Zagreb. 

This post introduces you to Zagreb cafés and café culture, including popular areas for cafés, as well as a list of my favorite Zagreb cafés and why I think that you’ll love them, too. I’ve  grouped cafés in categories such as good for working, unique, great terraces, nonsmoking indoors, etc. so that you can pick the right one for you.

Detailed map of Zagreb cafés included 

Because I often found that when I was looking for lists of cool cafés, they weren’t organized by location, this post also includes a detailed map. Use the map for planning your day, and when you are out and about in Zagreb and need a coffee (or just want one).

Cafés are a perfect solo travel activity

As a solo female traveler (and, if I’m being honest, as a middle-aged person), I tend not to stay out to all hours at bars and clubs. I do, however, go to tons of cafés. Cafés serve many purposes for me—people watching, a reading spot, an inviting place to get some writing or other work done, a place to meet people, and just a way to be around people while also enjoying my own company. Oh, and you know, to get a cup of coffee.

I go to cafés in the morning after I leave the apartment, and throughout the day and into the evening (I usually switch to wine or beer in the evenings). They’re generally safe spaces, especially in Croatia, where even petty crime is very low (normal street smarts still apply). While Zagreb café culture tends to be social, there are always tables for the solo patron.

An espresso machiatto with a heart shaped foam design and a packet of Sugar with the Kavana Lave logo. Kavana Lave is one of my favorite Zagreb Cafes

Croatia takes coffee seriously

Finland may consume the most coffee per capita, but Croatia gives them a run for their money. In general, Croatia’s coffee is of excellent quality. They take coffee seriously, not just cafés (sorry, Paris, your cafés are divine, but the coffee at most of them is not), and even the more touristy cafés have something decent. Zagreb has several local roasters (my favorites are Quahwa and Cogito—their cafés are below), and you can find locally roasted, high-quality coffee at cafés across the city. If you’re missing your pour-over after all that espresso, you can usually find it at one of the more artisanal cafés.

Croatia’s café culture

Croatians go to cafés with their friends, and they stay there for hours, talking and smoking with their friends. “Let’s go for a coffee” in Croatia is not an invitation to be taken lightly. You might not get home until the next morning (and it might not always be coffee, but a lot of it will be coffee—they drink it well past the time when I’m used to people switching to hootch).

Zagreb cafes feature terraces, like this one at Velvet. It's a cool day, and the woman in focus is wearing a hat and a leather jacket. There's a cafe umbrella visible in the foreground, and one of the chairs.

Zagreb’s café culture

Croatia’s capital takes this to another level. Zagreb’s café culture even has a specific tradition, the Zagrebačka Špica. Saturdays from 10–14 is the time to go for a coffee in Zagreb to see and be seen.

But even if you’re just having coffee on a Tuesday afternoon, you’ll find an amazing café culture in Zagreb. Cafés are the highlight of social life, not just a place to get a caffeine fix. Terraces are everywhere and of every sort, from the historic and ornate to the functional and hip, and everything in between. Even the laundromat had an inviting little café table and coffee available (I didn’t try it, but I did sit at the table).

The longer you’re in Zagreb, the more you’ll find yourself just wandering into a café and whiling away the hours. And when you leave, you’re really going to miss it.

Zagreb Cafés

Zagreb café culture highlights—and when to go

This post includes my favorite individual cafés, but there are also general areas and times where you can go and just find an inviting spot on a terrace and watch the world go by.

Zagrebačka Špica in Flower Square

As mentioned above, Zagreb has its own specific café tradition, the Zagrebačka Špica. Saturdays from 10–14 is the time to go for a coffee in Zagreb to see and be seen. Špica means peak, and this is the highlight of the week. Make sure to look sharp—people dress for the occasion. You can combine your špica with a trip to the Dolac, as the main gathering spots are the nearby Flower Square (Trg Petra Preradovića) and the surrounding streets.

I’ll admit that I didn’t particularly love that area, so I didn’t spend too much time there, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

“Old man” cafés around the Dolac (green market)

You shouldn’t miss Zagreb’s green market, known as the Dolac. While you’re there, you can take advantage of one of the many café/bars surrounding the market. I’ve always called these type of cafés “Old Man Cafés,” because they usually are populated by, well, old men. Grade A people watching opportunity, but beware taking too many photos lest you get yourself the stink eye (I learned this a long time ago and didn’t snuck one in as I was walking by, not daring to snap a photo while sitting at a table).

Tkalčićeva Street

Charming, buzzing Tkalčićeva Street (Ulica Ivana Tkalčića) is lined with countless cafés for when you need a break from wandering about the Kaptol neighborhood. Even in cold months, terraces remain popular, with blankets available for patrons. It’s perfect for people watching, and, while certainly very touristy, it’s not strictly for tourists. Find a spot that looks inviting to you and while away the hours.

Outdoor cafes in Britanski Trig. In the Background, you can see Vicorian buildings. There are people in the foreground walking, wearing coats, and there are red cafe umbrellas

Britanski Square on Sundays for the antique market

I loved going to the antique market in British Square (Britanski trg) on Sunday mornings, not least because of the cafés surrounding the square. After wandering through the tables, I would stop and get an espresso at one of the cafés and people watch. I now believe that all flea markets should be flanked by cafés. If you’re there, I found Ambar to be a good choice, but any one around the square will do just fine.

The terrace at cafe Quahwa in Zagreb

Zagreb cafés I’m already missing

Below are the Zagreb cafés I’m already missing. I’ve put them in alphabetical order, and have included why I think you’ll love them, too, as well as their neighborhood. Use the map below while you’re out and about in Zagreb to pick the perfect café for you. Where applicable, I’ve included the websites in the map, so that you’ll always have up-to-date hours of operation, etc.

Find the Zagreb café for you

Sometimes, the best café is the one nearest you. However, sometimes you’re looking for something specific. All of these are included in the map and in the detailed listings below.

My favorites (in order)

Great terraces

Unique cafés

Historic cafés

Locally roasted coffee (* indicates local coffee roaster)

Nonsmoking indoors

Good for work

My favorite Zagreb cafés: the listings

A blue motorcycle on a cafe terrace, with a dog bowl in the foreground and a sign for Abesinija Caffe Bar in the background

Abesinija Caffe Bar

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: Good terrace for chilling out, good coffee, hip, nice place for an evening drink

I happened upon Abesinija Caffe Bar my first evening in Zagreb, as it’s located right around the corner from where I stayed. This rather hipster Zagreb café opened only recently. I mostly had drinks sitting at the pallet tables on the terrace, but the coffee is good. So’s the music.

The café is named for a line in an old Croatian film (you’ll have to Google Translate the article) that takes in the neighborhood—that explains the plane and mural, in case you were wondering.

A’E Craft Bar

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: Outstanding hidden terrace, with a great view of Kaptol, accepts credit cards, good coffee

This place is cool—and well hidden. Head down a hallway and down a flight of very old stairs, and you’ll find A’E’ Craft Bar’s funky terrace with incredible views of Kaptol. This place is mostly a bar, but they have good coffee and hot chocolate, making it a good daytime haunt too. The inside is cozy and cool.

Botaničar

Neighborhood: Lower Town

Why you’ll love it: Good design, excellent coffee/drinks, hip, good for working

This is one lovely café, near the Botanical Gardens. It is on the small side and can get very crowded, but it’s also a great spot to get some work done if you can sneak a table. Head back in the evening for cocktails. It does seem that I managed not to get a proper photo of Botainčar, but that was because I was too busy admiring the soothing green décor.

Sign for the Museum of Broken Relationships, with a plastic vintage doll looking at a love letter with surprise

Brokenships Café  (café attached to the Museum of Broken Relationships)

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: Really good coffee, tongue-in-cheek décor, terrace, pastries accepts credit cards, nonsmoking indoors

You don’t have to go to the Museum of Broken Relationships to enjoy (or recover at) the Brokenships Café, but definitely make a point of going there when you make your trip to this unusual museum. If you need something stronger than coffee, they have it, but the coffee is lovely. While I didn’t make myself a regular at the café, I went more than once, as it’s nonsmoking. The décor is tongue-in-cheek and all about the breakup, and the music’s maudlin, which is perfect for a café devoted to broken relationships.

Cotigo has several Zagreb cafe locations. There is a yellow seat in the foreground, that contrasts with the yellow on the window frame and doorway of the cafe across the street. A young man sits in the window.

Cogito

Neighborhood: Various Lower Town locations

Why you’ll love it: Excellent coffee (they are a roaster), hip, good terraces

Cogito is a roaster as well as having cafés in a few locations in Lower Town. They supply cafés in the area, as well. The coffee is excellent, and the cafés are cool. You can’t go wrong.

Café Dubrovnik

Neighborhood: City Center

Why you’ll love it: History, good coffee, nonsmoking

Step back in time to a classic café right in Ban Jelačić Square (Trg bana Josipa Jelačića). Café Dubrovnik is one of those historic cafés that one should experience, even if just once. The checkered floor, the old style café seats, the lovely service. You’ll find a lot of tourists (it is attached to Hotel Dubrovnik), but it also still feels like a bit of old Zagreb. Plus, there’s no smoking in there, so you can breathe easy.

Figa Garden

Neighborhood: Lower Town

Why you’ll love it: Excellent coffee, good place to work, hidden from the crowds, nonsmoking, accepts credit cards

If you missed the little placard out on the street, you might miss Figa Garden altogether, which would be a shame, as Figa Garden just might become your favorite Zagreb hideaway café. Located in the same place as one of Zagreb’s oldest cafés, Figa Garden feels a world away from the bustle of Zagreb.

I discovered Figa late in my Zagreb stay, and I wish that I’d found this cozy café earlier. When I was there in the afternoon, most patrons busily worked away, while a couple had a quiet conversation. I got a lot done there.

If you’re hungry, they have Jerusalem bagels and some other bites. You’ll go back for the coffee and the nonsmoking atmosphere (I understand this happened fairly recently—maybe a start of a trend?).

Kavana Lav

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: great terrace, comfy indoor seating, good coffee, cake, accepts credit cards

I stayed right near Kavana Lav, but even if I hadn’t, I still might have made its terrace my homebase. Located just inside the Stone Gate (the last gate in Gradec’s city walls that now houses a shrine). Kavana Lav, like most Zagreb cafés, has really good coffee, and the clientele is an interesting mix of politicians (Croatia’s national government is right across the street, tourists, and locals). Inside, you can sit on some of the comfiest seats in Zagreb, or at one of the more traditional tables. This is an all-day café, and a nice spot for a nightcap and a slice of cake.

Zagreb Cafés often have branded coffee cups, like the one here in Kavana Palinovka, with a painting of a woman with rainbow hair. A water glass is visible on the table, and in the background, yellow walls and patrons are visible

Kavana Palainovka

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: Great terrace, cozy indoor café, old-school, good for working

Kavana Palainovka lies tucked behind the Zagreb City Museum and Observatory, but it feels like a world away. One of the oldest still existing cafés in Zagreb, Kavana Palainovka dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. It doesn’t necessarily look it now, and it’s not the hippest place, but it’s a great place to get coffee and meet up with a friend or get some work done. You might even the bodyguards of Croatian politicians on break here (at least, that’s what I assumed, based on the earpieces and the stature of the gaggle of gentlemen). If the weather is fine, you really can’t beat the graceful terrace.

Pod Starim Krovovima

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: Travel back in time, cozy, good mix of people

Zagreb’s oldest tavern, Pod Starim Krovovima is also a great spot to get a cup of coffee, and, like many Zagreb café/bars, you’ll see people enjoying both. The name of this charming spot translates as “under the old roofs,” and it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Old photos of days-gone-by Zagreb line the walls, and you’ll find a real mix of people in here. Be forewarned, though, this cozy spot is very smoky.

The entrance to Quahwa, one of the many excellent Zagreb cafes in the city. The entrance is on the lower level of an old fascade, there are other storefronts visible including a women's wear store. The entrance leads back to the cafe.

Quahwa

Neighborhood: Lower Town

Why you’ll love it: Outstanding coffee, great place to work, covered terrace (heated in cold months), funky upper room that is nonsmoking, accepts credit cards

If I had to pick a favorite café in Zagreb, it would be Quahwa. I spent many happy hours in there writing, enjoying the delicious coffee that they roast themselves, and looking up to people watch from time to time. It’s popular, but not overwhelmingly so. Having to duck off the main street to get to the terrace seems to ward off overcrowding. The covered terrace can get smoky, but just head to the upstairs rooms (be careful on those stairs!) if that gets to be too much. You’d be hard pressed to find a better café for working or just hanging out.

Treehouse Caffe in Zagreb. In the foreground, a coffee cup and papers on a table made from a tree trunk. In the background, patrons are sitting, and the décor is reminiscent of medieval taverns.

Treehouse Caffe

Neighborhood: Upper Town

Why you’ll love it: It looks, well, like a treehouse. Super cute and cozy

I walked past Treehouse several times before ducking in to check it out. The terrace is like others on Radićeva, touristy and right in the street, but the inside looked very charming. It’s definitely worth stopping in for an espresso or a beer if you can stand the smoke, because it’s adorable. It looks and feels much like a Hobbit hole, and that means comfort. The tables are made from tree trunks. College me who didn’t mind smoky establishments would have called this place home.

Velvet

Neighborhood: Lower Town

Why you’ll love it: Charming, cozy, excellent coffee, really good cake, good spot to write, nice terrace, indoors is nonsmoking, accepts credit cards

This is one charming little spot in a charming little spot in Zagreb, a passageway just off of Ilica. Lucky me, it was just down the hill from where I was staying. This is a perfect spot to write in the afternoons, and there’s a lovely terrace for nice days. Get a piece of cake. It’s popular, but still manages to be quiet. You won’t regret going here. Take a walk in the forest park before or after your visit.

Zagreb Cafés await you—here’s a few tips

General

  • Seating—Café seating is open. Sit at any open table. This isn’t specific to Croatia, but if it’s just you, try not to occupy a large table if you can help it.
  • Stay as long as you’d like—You can stay for as long as you want after ordering. People spend hours in cafés, and you can, too. It’s going to seem weird if you’re from the States, but it’s fine. The one exception is when a café is about to close. Otherwise, have at it. I like to order an extra drink to make myself feel more comfortable, and I tend to leave after a couple of hours, but that’s really just me being a weird American.
  • A few words of Croatian can go a long way—English is widely spoken in Croatia, and you can get by on it without any problems. However, learning a few phrases is polite and can help you have a better experience. Learning a few coffee phrases can even save you some money. Here’s a way to start—coffee in Croatian is See below for more.
  • Food— Some cafés will have light food available (those tend to be the nonsmoking ones), but many do not. If there is no food available (usually to continue to allow smoking indoors), then it is acceptable to bring in outside food. People do it a lot. However, it’s also a good idea to read the room before getting out your snacks.
  • Sundays—Like a lot of Croatia, many cafés are closed on Sundays. Check websites for current hours of operation.
  • Laptops and working—Read the room when it comes to getting out your laptop. I’ve indicated which cafés I found conducive to doing work, but it’s still a good idea to assess the situation in the moment.
  • Photos and video— I love snapping photos and taking video. Having said that, it’s polite to try and be subtle about it. Let people enjoy their café time in peace. You just might get photobombed like I did below.

Security

  • Securing your belongings—Croatia is such a safe country, and you should have a great experience in Zagreb, too. However, just because you probably could leave your laptop and camera on the table when you go to the loo doesn’t mean that you should. To hold your table, just put down something to indicate that you’re still there.
  • Public wifi—I indicated above that I used my mobile hotspot most of the time for internet connections. Public wifi connections are risky. Consider a personal VPN to keep your data secure.

Accessibility

  • Croatia is making more of an effort in accessibility standards, but there’s a long way to go. Many of these cafés could present challenges to those with mobility impairments. I could not find a lot of information that was Zagreb specific. I would contact the café directly if you are unsure.

What to order at Zagreb cafés

  • What’s available—Most Zagreb cafés will have a menu of espresso-based drinks, teas, soft drinks (try bitter lemon!), bottled water, and often beer, wine, and spirits.
  • Learning a little Croatian can sometimes save you money—While you can order common espresso drinks with their Italian names without any problem, I did notice in a couple of places that ordering basically the same drink in Croatian resulted in a bit of a discount (that was more true in Split). It’s worth doing a quick Google Translate of the menu and then attempting to order in Croatian.
  • Non-standard items
    • Trendier cafés might have pour-over coffee available for when you (if you’re like me) eventually just want a cup of coffee.
    • You are unlikely to find skim milk, etc., available at most cafés, but the trendier ones may have it. I’m afraid that I’m not of much help here, as I like whole milk for my coffee.
    • Vegetarian and plant-based diets are having a moment in Croatia, but that doesn’t mean that plant-based milks are available everywhere. If you need plant-based milks, the trendier cafés are your best bet. If it is available, expect a surcharge.
  • This blog post has some helpful tips for ordering coffee at Croatian cafés.

Payment

Always bring cash

  • Bring cash—while I’ve indicated cafés that accept credit cards, and many do in Zagreb, I encountered times when “the machine isn’t working.” You’ll want smaller denominations, too. A server is likely to balk at larger notes (Croatia has adopted the Euro, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the quest for exact change intensifies).
  • Tipping—here’s another reason for bringing cash. You’ll want to leave a small tip, either rounding up or 5%. You generally can’t add the tip to a credit card purchase.

How to pay the bill

  • Croatian cafés have a nice custom of dropping off the bill when they bring you your order—places that accept credit cards are likely to ask you how you intend to pay up front. If you order another cup of coffee later on (or cake, or whatever), you’ll get a check for that as well, and it’s likely not to be cumulative. If you’re paying with cash, you can just settle up whenever it works for you and be on your merry way.
  • If you’re paying by card or need change, you’ll need to flag the server down. Unlike the US, they will never hound you for the bill (I mean, maybe if they’re closing up, but not before). If you really need to get going, or the server is taking a while for the server to come over, it’s acceptable to go to the counter.
  • If there’s a shift change, a server might ask you to pay early. They are not telling you to leave.
Vintage ashtray on a checkered table cloth. Ashtray reads "let's talk."

Zagreb cafés are smoky

  • College me would have thought that I’d died (from lung cancer, probably) and gone to heaven had she experienced Zagreb coffee culture. People here, and in this part of Europe, smoke. A lot. Middle-aged me wasn’t a big fan (but she does breathe easier).
  • It’s rare to find a café that doesn’t allow smoking in Croatia. As I understand it, so long as the establishment doesn’t serve food, smoking is allowed (it’s not uncommon for people to bring their own food to cafés and bars). A few cafés do not allow smoking, but they are exceptions, and smoking is always permitted on terraces.
  • This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it. We don’t have to like it (and it sure as sh*t isn’t healthy), but, as visitors, it is not our place to try and change it or complain loudly about it, either. People smoke in cafés in this country, and Zagreb is no exception. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, I would avoid cafés and might even possibly reconsider traveling to this part of the world, because smoking is just part of the culture.

Map of Zagreb cafés

This map has every café covered in the article, as well as the areas where grabbing a seat on a café terrace is nearly always a good idea. There is a list below that includes websites and other information. A note about prices: I included a general $ or $$ range here, but the $$ places just indicate something more in line with what you would expect to see in the US. Coffee in Croatia is very inexpensive.    

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What’s your favorite Zagreb café?

Been to Zagreb? What’s your favorite café? What do you order? Let us know in the comments!

Headed to Zagreb, Croatia?

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Know Before You Go!

My new Know Before You Go series provides you with:

  • Practical information (think entrance requirements, transportation, money matters, where to stay/when to go, health & safety, and more)
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  • A roundup of blog posts sharing what I loved most about Zagreb
  • A link to my detailed Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb, Croatia, FREE for subscribers!

FREE! The Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb Croatia!

Here is is. Absolutely everything I loved about Zagreb! It’s absolutely FREE for subscribers (also free, and includes loads more goodies).

The Wonder & Sundry Guide to Zagreb, Croatia includes:

  • Neighborhood Guides: Discover what makes an area unforgettable, including things to do, food & drink, and points of interest.
  • Detailed Listings: Why you’ll love it, practical details, my personal rating, and more.
  • Annotated Map: Use to plan and on the go, this map has everything you’ll need, including website links