Coffee. It gets us up in the morning. It picks us up in the afternoon. It keeps us up at night. Going to cafés is what we do for first dates, cafés are where we meet friends to discuss those first dates. Coffee and cafés have both been an integral part of social life for centuries now, and to celebrate that, we’ve brought you a list of some of the best coffee you can drink and some of the best cafés you can visit throughout Europe. Pull up a chair caffiends, and see how many of these brews you’ve crossed off your bucket list…
Origo Café on Lipscani Street is extremely slick looking. Hundreds of gleaming white teacups are suspended from the ceiling, the walls are black and the countertops are wooden. But it also has the substance to back up all that style – the coffee here is widely touted as the best in Bucharest. It’s gorgeous. They roast the beans themselves, and serve beautiful cakes and pastries to go with your coffee. It’s non-smoking indoors, with a terrace outside where you can have a smoke if you want one. And their Irish coffee is just sublime. This is one for coffee connoisseurs.
You may or may not have heard of the Bicerin. It’s Turin’s own special coffee; a luxurious blend of quality coffee, quality chocolate and fresh cream, layered and served in a small coffee glass. It’s velvety and sweet, and it hits all kinds of cravings in one go. It’s the perfect taste of Turin, and the place to try it is in Caffe Al Bicerin. It’s been served there since the 18th century, so you know they have it absolutely perfected by now. Get one of their beautiful desserts or pastries with your coffee. And some gianduiotti (hazelnut truffles, also a Turin specialty).
The very appropriately named Café Majestic is probably one of the most beautiful cafés in all of Europe, never mind Porto. This isn’t a ‘third wave coffee’ place, so don’t expect the finest espresso, beans roasted in the fires of Mordor and brewed using the tears of orphaned unicorns – this is old school. It’s about feeling incredibly fancy as you sip your coffee in the most opulent Belle Époque building imaginable. It’s an experience. Have a custard tart while you’re there.
This is the place to go in Prague for perfectly percolated coffee. They have a great selection of beautiful coffee you can try, you can order pour-over coffee here, and they make their espressos using a La Marzocco 3-group Strada. This may or may not mean anything to you, but trust us, it’s a very good espresso maker. Best of all, in addition to genuinely beautiful coffee, these guys sell really, really nice cake. The only downside to the place is that you won’t want to leave but you have a whole city to see. Try the cranberry pie and a flat white.
Café Central is one of the places where it all began. The Viennese coffee houses are famous – these are the places where the great minds of the time used to congregate, debate ideas, play chess and solve the world’s problems. Today, they’d probably all be at separate tables staring at their macbooks, but never mind. The Central Café, like the Majestic, is not 3rd wave, it’s classic. Sit in the opulent surroundings, sip your coffee, eat phenomenal pastries, and imagine the place a hundred or more years ago, when people like Freud and Trotsky used to frequent the place.
3fe regularly tops lists as one of the best places in the world for coffee. This is the place that revolutionised Dublin’s coffee scene, and it’s one of the best places in the city, if not the whole country, to get your fix. Perfect crema on your espresso, every time. Flat whites as smooth as silk. Last year, they even began roasting their own beans, and you can buy bags of the stuff to use in your own home. Try their Bolivian beans (the trio tasting menu is a great way to really do it); coffee will never be the same again. Get cake too. Always get cake too.
Not just a café but a micro-roastery, The Coffee Collective is a place where coffee is taken seriously. The baristas know coffee inside out, they love it – it probably runs through their veins at this point. They have a few branches open now in Copenhagen but the one in Godthåbsvej – the latest one they opened in 2012 that includes their roaster and head office – is our favourite. You can do a tour of the roaster on the first Friday of every month.
Florian has been around since 1720. Like all the great Italian cafés, it has age, history and unapologetic opulence on its side – none of this minimal wood and chrome business here thank you very much. No, here you get gilded mirrors and brocade wallpaper, an orchestra, and waiters in white tuxedos. It’ll also be one of the more expensive coffees you ever drink, and you do get charged a ‘music supplement’ for the orchestra too. It might make you wince, but the trick is to go there prepared. You will pay through the nose for coffee and cake, but you’ll drink it in the oldest cafe in the world. You’re getting a little history with your coffee. Do it, once in your life.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Sweden has its coffee culture down to a fine art. Every country in Europe (and beyond) should embrace Fika. If you’re in Stockholm, Fika as often as you can, and make sure you do it at least once at Vete Katten. The coffee is great and the cakes are… I don’t want to get too hyperbolic here but they’re pretty much transcendental. Get a lovely coffee, and sip it while you eat a big, fat cream bun. And a lemon meringue pie.
Tim Wendelboe began his coffee business in Grünerløkka, Oslo in 2007, but its foundations were being built years before that, when in 2004 he became World Barista Champion, and World Cup Tasting Champion the year after. His coffee bar and roastery are now award winning, serving Aeropress brewed coffees and superb espresso drinks. They don’t serve cakes or pastries or food. They serve coffee. Really, really, really excellent coffee. This is right up there with 3fe as a place for people who are serious about the stuff.
Café de la Paix has been open since 1862, and it’s just the epitome of grand old Parisian fanciness. It’s the most belle example of Belle Époque style you can imagine, fabulously over the top and about as different from the modern, minimalist 3rd wave cafés as you can imagine. It is not cheap, but it is a quintessential Parisian experience, something to do at least once in your life. The desserts are probably more of a draw than the coffee here – the Mille-Fueille in particular is a crispy, creamy little slice of heaven.
Café Spinnato in Palermo has been serving up good coffee for a long time. It’s been serving up ridiculously good cannoli for the same amount of time. It’s the combination of the two, as well as it’s old school Sicilian charm, that makes this place a café bucket list must. Take your time over this one – grab a table outside on a sunny day (these are thankfully not a rarity in Sicily). Sit, and sip, and watch the world go by. Eat as many cannoli as you can physically handle.
The Barn is a roastery and coffee bar in Mitte, and it’s where people who appreciate good coffee go for their brew in Berlin. It’s definitely a little strange as far as cafés go – they don’t like noise, or laptops, or soy milk, or prams, or sugar, or any variation from their menu (just try and ask for a vanilla soy latte and see where it gets you). What you get here is expertly roasted, expertly brewed coffee, made by people who care very much about it. There’s a small selection of cakes/pastries and they are good, but like Time Wendelboe, this place is all about the beans. Go be a coffee snob.
This is where the poets, authors, dreamers and thinkers used to hang out and drink coffee back in the day. These days, it’s probably more tourists, backpackers, day trippers and travellers – but it’s a Roman institution and a lovely place to grab that famous Italian breakfast of a cappuccino and a pastry. The coffee is smooth, the tiramisu is absolute perfection, and the service is a little gruff (but in a delightfully Roman way). Being right beside the Spanish Steps it’s expensive enough, but you’re paying for an experience too, it’s one of the world’s best historic cafés. Head to Via Condotti and don’t forget your camera.
- Dee Murray