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Zagreb is the capital of Croatia and unfortunately an overlooked city. It seems that most people arrive in Croatia via Zagreb and then automatically beeline for the coast. The coast is phenomenal, don’t get me wrong but that’s no reason not to show Zagreb some loving especially its restaurant scene. It’s a funky city filled with hidden gems that deserves at least 48 hours to enjoy. So let us show you our favorite places with our Zagreb restaurant guide!
Eat Local in Zagreb – A Zagreb Restaurant Guide
Ilica 49 – Through the Arcade
Open Monday – Saturday 10:00 – 24:00, Sunday and holidays: 12:00 – 24:00
If you are a beer lover then this is the pub that you need to visit. Not only do they have unrivaled pub fare full of Croatian specialties but they are also a brewery. They started brewing beer in Zagreb in 1994 and in 1995 they were the first brewery in Croatia to brew a wheat beer. They have continued innovating in their two decades of brewing and in 2014 they actually brewed Croatia’s first IPA, the Fakin IPA! (and it is delicious)
We were introduced to this Zagreb restaurant by Andrea from Zagreb Honestly and thank goodness she did because this place is so good we went back twice. First off the beers are spectacular. One of our favorites is a special they make called a Rezano which is a mix of their DVA Klasa (their wheat beer) with their Crna Kralijca (their dark lager). This combination is impeccable as it gives you everything you want out of a wheat beer but doesn’t have the lingering sweetness thanks to the dark lager. For me, this is a perfect combination as I generally find wheat beers a little too sweet.
And I can’t forget about the food here; it is sooooo good! I am seriously drooling thinking about it. The menu is full of hearty fare with a large amount of Croatian specialties. The food is definitely on the heavier side; this is not your light Mediterranean meal with fish and vegetables. Instead the fare is more substantial and reminiscent of the type of cuisine you would find in Hungary and Romania. I personally loved their trganci (homemade Croatian pasta) with sausage, bacon and sour cream. It is a perfect dish to fill you up in winter, but even in 30 degree heat I was able to eat the whole damn thing, it was that good!
Alex opted for one of their house specialties, the veal knuckle. Normally this is a dish that has to be pre-ordered but we were there later in the day and they had left overs. The dish was simple cooked veal knuckle and potatoes. Veal knuckle is a very tender and flavorful piece of meat. It’s a very lean but what fat it had melted in the oven over golden potatoes. Chewing did not seem to be needed as the meat seemed to just melt as it hits your tongue. The potatoes were buttery and complimented the veal nicely. It was one of the best dishes that Alex had in our time in Croatia.
Seriously, if you visit Zagreb you should this Zagreb restaurant! The food is to die for and did I mention that they make their own brandies and the strudel is to die for! Try for the cherry strudel if you can, since its traditional 🙂
Tkalciceva Street nr. 39
Open Mon – Friday 09:00 – 23:00
Agava is a posh little Zagreb restaurant located on Tkalciceva Street, which is the pedestrian heart beat of the city. It has a beautiful terrace that overlooks this quaint street and is the perfect spot for a late lunch. The meal here was so much more than we expected, especially since we were a little wary that there was only another couple eating lunch. However, we were absolutely blown away by the service and cuisine of this gem of a restaurant. We began our meal with a Sauvignon Blanc which was recommended to us by our waiter who is studying for both his sommelier qualifications and also the Croatian equivalent.
For our starter we split a burrata appetizer between the three of us (my sister was in town at the time!) and unfortunately this was a mistake as it was so good we easily could each have had our own. Then it was on to the entrees. I ordered the Pag Island risotto with thyme and pears and it was heavenly. Pag Island in Croatia is famous for their sheep cheese and my risotto was basically a mac and cheese risotto but the classy version thanks to the pears. The pears perfectly cut the overwhelming cheesiness (overwhelming in a good way, mind you) and it was perfection. If I could have that dish every day I could, waistline be damned. Alex had the paccheri pasta with adriatic prawns, chorizo sausage and smoked scamorza which was simply divine and Hailey had the truffle pasta because we can’t say no to truffles 🙂
The whole meal was in fact, fantastic, from the service to the cuisine to the view and I would highly recommend a late lunch or dinner here at this classy Zagreb restaurant. Plus if you have a late lunch here you will be so full you won’t need dinner, so why not splurge?
Open Friday 11:00 – 23:00, Saturday 11:00 – 24:00, Sunday 11:00 – 16:00
Trilogija was suggested to us by Andrea and Nick for a more high end dining experience and man, did it deliver! Trilogija is a Zagreb restaurant that has no set menu but changes daily depending on what the chef can pick up at the local market. So if you are looking to explore Zagreb’s seasonal cuisine, this is the place for you. When we arrived we were welcomed into an almost cave like atmosphere and were lead to our table. There are two sections of the small restaurant and we were close to the door which was perfect because there was some religious ceremony going on at the Stone Gate and we were able to get a glimpse of it and hear the singing!
When we sat down we were given the wine menu and then the server let us know what the daily menu was. There were four appetizer options and four or five main dishes but I am sure that this switches depending on the ingredients at the market. We decided to start with a bottle of bubbly from Croatia and Hailey and I shared what was essential a truffle grilled cheese but way fancier and Alex had the leg of duck with sour cherries to start. The fancy truffle grilled cheese was perfect but I am so glad we split it because otherwise it would have been a touch too rich and filling!
After we devoured our appetizers we moved on to the main course. Hailey and I shared a bottle of Posip white wine to pair with my sea bass and Hailey’s leek risotto. Alex had a glass of ridiculously delicious Plavic Mali from 2008 (which is the father of California’s zinfandel) to pair with his pork chops and polenta. We finished up then with a chocolate cake and a berry tart.
The meal was fantastic and we could not have been happier! What made our meal even better was our waiter who was incredibly friendly and joked with us like we were old friends. I love when you visit somewhere and have a conversation with someone that makes you feel like one of the family!
Drink Local in Zagreb
Kordunska ul., 10000
Open 07:30 – 24:00
Ex Kinoteka is a cafe that originally was a part of a movie theater when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia. The movie theater housed a range of films including part of the national collection of historically and culturally significant films, however after the break up of the Soviet Union these films were transferred to Belgrade and the movie theater shut down. Since then the original cafe of the movie theater has been revived and is a perfect place to grab a cappuccino or a beer for a chat with friends. There is ample seating outside to enjoy a lovely day or hunker down inside and soak up the cinematic ambiance.
Triestino Kn 11 Ilica 63
Open Mon – Fri 08:00 – 19:00, Sat 08:00 – 16:00, Sun 09:00 – 14:00
This Zagreb restaurant is THE place to go if you are a coffee lover because these guys take their coffee seriously. We actually came here after grabbing coffee at Kinoteka just because we had heard how amazing it was. The cappuccinos we had were definitely excellent and that was to be expected since Eli’s Cafe was Zagreb’s first specialized coffee shop. These guys really love their coffee and more importantly their coffee beans as they actually roast their beans onsite. So if you love coffee then you need to stop here while you are in Zagreb! The place is quite small but you can always squeeze in 🙂
Strossmayer Promenade is a pedestrian walkway in Upper Town which gives you not only the perfect place for an afternoon stroll but also a breathtaking view of the city. The tree lined promenade is a perfect place to escape the afternoon heat and take a seat along one of the numerous benches. It is also a perfect place to share a bottle of wine or some beers with friends. There is a cafe there where you can pick up a few drinks and share some laughs with the city as your backdrop.
Sherry’s Wine and Bites
Ilica 73 in the Yard
Open Sunday – Tuesday 10:00-24:00, Wednesday – Saturday 10:00-02:00
Croatian wine is spectacular and if you are looking at diving into their wine scene, there is no better place to start than Sherry’s Wine and Bites. They have an extensive menu of Croatian wine from sparkling, whites, roses and reds, basically anything you could ever want. Plus they have a fabulous food menu for bites to accompany your wine. While we were there we picked up two bottles, a Malavizja from Istria and a Dignac from Peljesac. The Dignac was probably my favorite wine we had in all of Croatia.
If you ever have a chance to have a Dignac take it because it is a very special and limited production wine in Croatia. Dignac is a very small wine growing region in Croatia and is famous for its sloping southwestern facing terrain. This is considered the prime growing region for Plavic Mali, the father of California’s zinfandel (the favorite grape in Healdsburg), and all the Dignacs we had were 100% Plavic Mali. Seriously, you need to try this wine!
Everything was on point at Sherry’s from the wine, the decor and the food. The bites we had were so delicious including the starter of pate with grilled bread which Alex devoured and it was complimentary! We also had the egg rolls and they were damn good. Alex and I had not had any international cuisine since Holland and I wasn’t expecting much but they were so good we ordered another serving of them! We also had the caprese bruschetta and in my opinion you can never go wrong with that. I mean all it is is tomatoes, mozzarella and bread; how can you?
Open Monday – Friday 07:00-24:00, Saturday 08:00-24:00, Sunday 09:00-23:00
We stumbled upon Tolkien’s House when it began raining (yes, in August!) and we decided to grab some beers to wait out the storm. Alex was immediately hooked by the Lord of the Rings references and I was hooked by their beer menu. They actually have their own Tolkien beer which Alex got, Hailey had Zmajska Pivovara Pale Ale aka DRAGON BEER and I had the Red Baron Amber Ale from Air Craft Brewery. All three of these beers are locally produced and forerunners of the craft beer scene in Zagreb. Tolkien’s House is the place to stop in if you are into craft beer and want to try several different local varieties. Overall it was a great way to spend 2 hours as the rain poured down!
See Local in Zagreb
Kaptol ulica 31
You cannot miss Zagreb Cathedral when exploring Zagreb. It is the tallest building in Zagreb and you can see its spires from all over the city. It is probably one of the most unique churches we have ever seen because of the fortifications that are built around it. These were built at the end of the 15th century to protect the church from Ottoman invasion.
Ul. Ivana Tkalčića
Tkalčića Street is a pedestrian only street which meanders up from the main thoroughfare of Ilica. This street is perfect for a leisurely walk with stops at one or several cafes and bars that line the street. The street is the heartbeat of the Zagreb restaurant scene in the summer with outdoor seating all along the street with restaurants’ music and laughter spilling out into the street. The energy of the area is infectious and is enough to make you want to become a local!
British Square Market
British Square Market is one of the few remaining local farmers’ markets in Zagreb and can be recognized by the distinctive Zagreb red and white umbrellas. We always love stopping at local markets while we travel to get a feel for the produce and cuisine of a city and this one was no different. Make sure you get there early though because the market begins to shut down around 11am. My suggestion would be to grab a cappuccino at Elis Cafe across the street and then take a wander around.
Tomićeva street / Lotršćak Tower
The Zagreb Funicular is an interesting sight to see as it is known to be the shortest public transportation funicular in the world! It connects Ilica and Strossmayer Promenade and it is such a short distance! The distance is only 66m and takes 55 seconds to ascend… Or you could take the stairs and walk up in about 2 minutes. Your choice but either way it is cool to check out.
Brala Bookstore and Antiques
Open Monday – Friday 09:00-19:00, Saturday 09:00-14:00
Alex and I love bookstores and old books and we can’t resist stopping in when we stumble upon one, especially if they sell old and used books. I actually collect old books in the local language of every country we visit. This bookshop was just too old school not to check out. We popped in and Alex couldn’t help himself and picked up a book of poetry. The floor to ceiling shelves are overflowing with new and old books and if we weren’t living out of backpacks I could have done some serious damage to our budget in there!
Lotrscak Tower + Canon
Strossmayerovo šetalište 9
We are ending our guide to Zagreb with a bang, literally! While we were at Strossmayer Promenade we had probably the scariest 2 minutes of our lives thanks to Lotrscak Tower and its accompanying canon.
We were enjoying a lovely afternoon soaking up the sun on Strossmayer Promenade when all of a sudden there was a gigantic BANG! Alex, Hailey and I all jumped and our hearts started racing. Alex and I were scanning the horizon looking for smoke or signs of an explosion and Hailey was trying to save us. After a few seconds which felt like hours, we realized that no one else was panicking but just going along with their day. Then I heard a man say “I don’t think those tourists realized that the canon was going off” as he looked pointedly at us and then it clicked. Zagreb wasn’t under attack but rather it was just the canon that goes off every day at noon.
Once we recovered from this shock and started feeling foolish we decided to go check out Lotrscak Tower and its fear inducing canon just 50m away. The tower dates to the 13th century and was originally part of the gates that surrounded the town of Gradec which is now Upper Town. The canon was not installed in the tower until the late 1800s and goes off at noon every day to signal exact noon for the city’s bell ringers. It is definitely worth it to check out the tower and the canon and hear it go off; it is quite impressive!
Stay Local in Zagreb
We stayed at Pisac Apartment while we were in Zagreb and it was a fantastic and centrally located place to stay. There were four of us and we were very comfortable in the one bedroom apartment. Andrea, of Zagreb Honestly has worked hard to make the apartment an ideal retreat for travelers and it felt like coming home. We highly suggest staying here; our experience in Zagreb was completed with our stay here.
Zagreb was a delightful surprise and we fell unexpectedly in love with the city. We highly suggest you take at least a few days to enjoy the Croatian capital before you head off to the coast as they are completely different but both quintessentially Croatian. Plus you can’t deny how amazing the Zagreb restaurant scene is. You can truly get a taste of what Croatian cuisine is, from the mountains to the sea, while visiting here!
Have you ever been to Zagreb? What was your favorite part? Any other recommendations of places or a Zagreb restaurant we should visit when we go back?
Also thank you Andrea and Nick for your incredible hospitality! We appreciate it so much and probably wouldn’t have had such a great time without you!
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