photo: Christine Zenino
It’s been a while since I’ve traveled (for leisure and not a wedding), and I’ve longed to have wanderlust related content, so I’ve asked my international friends to contribute to Glass of Win with their favorite local spots and tips for travelers. Please welcome my friend Barbara, a Croatian native born and raised in its capital city, Zagreb. Zagreb is located in the northwest of Croatia, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. It’s the only area of Croatia with over one million residents and boasts a rich cultural scene with museums, music, performing arts and of course, food and drink. The latter of which Barbara will be discussing.
You’ll often hear Balkan people take a lot of pride into their food. Croatians will, of course, take pride into everything that is considered Croatian, especially their food. And how could we not? Croatia is the meeting point of many cultures, geographically and historically. It’s a place where Central European, Mediterranean, East European and Turkish kitchen meet, and it’s the best of all worlds. In my humble, Croatian opinion. If, by any chance, you stumble into this part of the world, there are some awesome places to eat, visit, and hang out – from a students’ perspective.
photo: Peter Malovrh
Bakeries for Snacks
We love pastries. And after a night out, or in between classes, it’s most likely people will aim for warm bread, or a nice, hot burek, a be puffy pastry filled with meat, spinach, or cheese. This originated from Turkey, their version of the Greek spanakopita. Also very good for hangovers! They are all over town, but there is one and only bakery of choice for many students and night owls: Dafina. Favorite combination? Meat burek and a croissant filled with Nutella.
photo: Tiago Bortoletto Vaz
Sweet tooth? No problem. Do you know about Hansel and Gretel? In these parts they are more known as Ivica & Marica, and that is the name of my favorite pastry shop. Their cakes are magnificent, the entire place is decorated like the witch’s house and the entire collection of their yummy food is made without artificial colors or sweeteners. And you never just eat a cake there. The best way to enjoy it is to order a nice cool glass of lemonade.
Something to Eat?
Zagreb has plenty of restaurants to go to, and most of them have excellent food. Everyone has their favorites, and mine definitely has to be Sofra. Specializing in Bosnian food that is heavily influenced by Turkish cuisine, it has one of the most delicious, finger-licking meals in all of Zegrab. The way you eat there is: First you order some pita. Meat and spinach are my combination of choice. Then you take a break, sip on beer and order the main. Best way to go about it is to bring as many friends as you can and each one should order something different with extra plates, so you can eat more things from the menu. After that comes the dessert, and after that you can’t finish such a good meal without Turkish coffee.
photo by Barbara
Another favorite place to go to, especially for many students, is any pub that has the word ‘bear’ in it. Mali Medo, Zlatni Medo, Medvedgrad… Other than great beer, they serve great food from all over the country, and are places where you can most often find and meet now people, share a nice chat, listen to some good live music, and just enjoy yourself.
Lastly, and one of my favorite options is one of the many random barbeque joints all over the city. They are everywhere, though their food and hygiene is questionable at best, they’re extremely charming, but unfortunately, they close up pretty fast. I personally don’t think I’ve been in many of them more than once, but my favorite is Čingač.
photo: R Arno
Coffee Culture in Croatia in general is very important. There are cafe bars everywhere. Quite literally everywhere and they are the absolute favorite place to be for Croatian folk. Everyone has that one cafe where they’re considered a regular, and as soon as they enter the waiter already knows what they’ll order. It’s pretty simple. Drinking coffee is not just drinking coffee; it’s a social event. When you get invited for coffee at 8pm, don’t be surprised. Most likely, you’ll be drinking beer at a cafe bar.
It’s very common to sit at the table for three or more hours, drinking one espresso. It’s more about talking and hanging out than coffee. In Zagreb, on Sundays at noon starts something we call špica. Everyone comes together and meets at their favorite cafes for coffee and chat and latest gossip. Preferably somewhere around the Main Square. So, if your new and awesome Croatian friends invite you for a cup of coffee, remember to take it easy, slow down, there is no hurry. Enjoy the chat and coffee, scan for interesting people walking by. And while you’re at it, remember to pick up some pastries from the bakery. Those two go excellent together.
photo: Mario Fajt
Thank you, Barbara!
Croatia National Tourism Board
Zagreb Tourist Board
Zagreb at The Lonely Planet