The Bar Street

This is a story about one of the most vibrant streets in Zagreb

One thing is in common to all the foreigners when they encounter a street that goes by the name of Ivana Tkalčića Street. While they are breaking their tongue trying to pronounce the street’s name, a friendly local approaches and says: 'Hey, just call it the ˝bar street˝.' If you think about it, it’s completely logical to name it this way since it mostly consists of sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and bars. Luckily, there is more to it than it meets the eye. So my dear reader, let’s start from the begging to reel you in and let you embrace the fascinating stories this street offers.


Image credit: Filip Donadic


Today’s Tkalciceva street is one of the most vibrant streets in the city. There's always a stream of people in it. But if we would go back to medieval times, we would encounter another stream – stream Medveščak. It was a natural border between the two settlements that Zagreb emerged from. The secular merchant part of Gradec and the bishopric part Kaptol. At that time, people of Zagreb were not friendly as they are today, which means there were a lot of conflicts between them. Most of the fighting occurred in the famous Bloody Bridge Street that is directly attached to our bar street. An ongoing threat from the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century prompted the fortification of Kaptol. Some of it is still preserved and you can see it while strolling through this area. You will stumble upon the beautiful Prislin tower and the remnants of the old defensive wall. The tower is nowadays conveniently used by Histrion Theatre Troupe as a part of the scene while performing the plays in the summer months. Where there were conflicts and struggle, now there is art and amusement. An excellent turn of events!

Our tale brings us to the start of the 20th century and the oldest line of business in the world. Believe it or not, Zagreb was one of the most popular places in Europe to drown one's sorrow and put a smile on a face with the ladies of the night. Everything was regulated by local authorities and all the women had to have their working permits. Furthermore, all the brothel owners paid city tax and the madams had to have health insurance. Every brothel had a different light, and the most popular and expensive one was ‘’At the green lantern’’ that also had a pianist playing in the lobby. Since they were not allowed to market their ‘’merchandise’’ directly, there were different tell-tales to state the house was, in fact, a brothel. Probably, the most interesting one was the garden gnome. It would be placed on the window, and if he was lying down, this would mean that the lady is occupied. If you observe carefully, you will notice a statue of a lady on the window which brings back memories to that part of Zagreb’s history.


Image credit: Filip Donadic


Shall we continue our walk? My favorite stairs that take you directly to the historical Upper town have their start point here. I am talking about the famous Bartol Felbinger stairs. One of the most prominent architects in the first half of the 19th century has also left this in his legacy. Next to the stairs, you will notice a vineyard which is quite peculiar to this location. The locals call them the 100-stairs. All of us that weren’t lazy and actually conquered the stairs know they are wrong. Count them and you will see.


Image credit: Filip Donadic


Where there is smoke, there is also fire, and where there are beverages, there is food. What kind of a bar street would this be without one of the best places in town to have a meal? A mixture of cuisine and flavors can be found on this promenade. When you get tired of roaming the street just take a seat in one of the restaurants or smaller food joints and bring joy to your belly. From oriental food to classical hamburgers, you will find everything here. On top of everything, if you have an eye for detail you will also discover cool urban graffiti. Just look up and open your eyes.


Image credit: Filip Donadic


The thing that gives this street its essence and undisputable charm are the people. One of their favorite rituals is something I like to call the philosophy of lounging. When you are from Croatia you know how to appreciate a good cup of coffee! One of the best spots in the town center to be seen and enjoy your morning black beans is Tkalča. The abundance of cafes definitely urges you to have your morning sip. Especially with these first rays of spring sunshine that are shouting out at you. Soak them up and cherish the sunnier side of life. The whole bar street turns into a big lounge filled with laughter and easygoing daily subjects. Try it, you’ll love it!

So, with all aforementioned, is it really suitable to name the street as the bar street? This part of Zagreb treasures a spirit of past times, it shows us how far we have come. From a stream full of windmills and pedestrians in fistfights on a daily basis to a posh street with one of the best establishments in the whole of Croatia. Because of this, my dear reader, try to correctly pronounce the name of the street: Ulica Ivana Tkalčića. Mr. Tkalčić deserves it since he was one of the most fruitful historians of Zagreb history. Put your sunglasses on, hit the street, capture the dynamics of locals and forget about your worries. Get hooked with this appealing flow and make it last forever. Tkalča is the perfect setting for that. But most of all, #LoveZagreb.


 Header image credit: Filip Donadic

Author: Filip Donadic