Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Landmarks, museums, markets, shows ... The list of must see travel activities is long and varies by destination and according to each traveler. A must see, in my travel plans, worth making the list in any trip, is a coffee break.
Be it an interval between one market and another, or a quick stop in the marathon of strolls in big cities, cafés are a great opportunity to take a break to observe the locals and their habits, and to appreciate the beauty in slowing down. Ah! If you're not on the caffeine fan team, don't worry. Water, tea, sparkling wine … whatever your drink of choice, coffee shops usually offer a broad variety of options. Left to my own devices, I will take a hot espresso, please!
While modern cafés appear every day in the most visited cities in the world, with all sorts of innovative proposals, lines continue to grow at those considered more traditional (well, pre-pandemic life… and hopefully, post-pandemic too!). They are places that reflect the spirit of the cities where they are located and host a lot of its history and that of its residents. Among us, we have had the good fortune of visiting several of these coffee shops, and here we list the ones that impressed us the most.
Grab a coffee (or your preferred drink ;p), sit on a comfortable chair and come travel with us around the world enjoying a cup of your favorite beans.
Rio de Janeiro - Confeitaria Colombo
The most traditional of Brazilian coffee shops was founded by descendants of Portuguese in the then capital of the newly established Republic in the 19th century. Before you indulge in the house menu while looking at the Art Nouveau details of the store's lounges in downtown Rio, get ready to face long lines. The Confeitaria has other less popular branches at the CCBB, at the Galeão Airport and at the Copacabana Fort, the most interesting of them, which has the highlight of the city's natural beauty.
Cafe Regatta: pulla, makkara and cafe by the sea, in central Helsinki
Photos by Andrea Brito
Did you know that Finns are the biggest coffee consumers per capita in the world? In Helsinki, every corner has a café (kahvila), but our highlight goes to Cafe Regatta. Close to sights such as the monument to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, in the park of the same name (Sibeliuspuisto, in Finnish), or to the island of Seurasaari, Regatta is, without a doubt, the most traditional cafe in the city. More Finnish, impossible.
The red wooden construction dates from 1887 and resembles the old houses by the river in the historic city of Porvoo. The Regatta is open every day of the year, from morning to night, sunny, rainy or even snow, regardless of the temperature. In summer, you can rent kayaks, canoes and SUP boards to enjoy Helsinki from the water before breakfast. In the winter, be aware that there are very few tables inside the café, so it is best to come with proper clothing (don't worry, if the cold gets cold, you can sit in front of the fire and bake your own makkara, the Finnish sausage) . The ideal, at any time of the year, is to grab a table right in front of the bay and enjoy the view.
To better enjoy your coffee, be sure to indulge yourself with a traditional pulla: Finnish sweet roll whose dough is seasoned with cardamom. The most traditional is the cinnamon korvapuusti, but my vote goes to the decadent voisilmäpulla (the butter eye pulla): the cardamom roll is made with a depression in the center, which is filled with a mixture of butter and sugar . Delight and, in my opinion, the best voisilmäpulla in Helsinki !! Don't forget to also ask if there are any special sweets: Finland has a tradition that I love of days to eat sweets (which are only available at these times of the year), such as the Runeberg cake (February 5), laskiaispulla (Tuesday fat) or tippaleipä (May 1st).
Café Tortoni - Buenos Aires
Opened more than 150 years ago, the Café was a meeting point for artists, intellectuals and politicians at the beginning of the 20th century. The People's Group of Arts and Letters, by Benito Quinquela Martín, for example, met in the basement where the cellar used to be. In the current days (well, pre-Covid) the cafe continues to be crowded with tourists and there are always long lines at the door. Tango performances are an opportunity to see dance in its most traditional version, unlike other great shows that are offered in the city.
Sant' Eustachio Il Caffé - Roma
If you want to understand Rome, go to Sant'Eustachio. There, there are no formalities. Italians flock the place ordering their coffees at the counter, speaking loudly and gesturing effusively as they chat with each other.
Is it worth tasting the espresso? For sure! The creamy foam is unbelievable. The cappuccino is another major attraction at this place that, after the success of the best seller Eat, Pray, Love, became internationally famous.
Were you able to get a table? Lucky you!!! Enjoy coffee and sweets calmly watching time going by at the Eternal City. No table? Experience it like the locals, and enjoy your coffee right there at the counter - and don't miss the chance to take a packet of beans home!
Café de Tacuba - Cidade do México
Photo by Hmaglione10, CC BY-SA 3.0
Our impressions about Café de Tacuba were already shared in the post 24h in Mexico City, but it is also worth including Café de Tacuba in this list. The place is open from morning until night, and brunch is one of the highlights. The ambience, a large house with natural lighting and walls with colorful paintings is an attraction in itself. Given its proximity to the historic downtown, it becomes a mandatory stop during your visit to the region.
Café de Flore - Paris
Photo by Ayustety, CC BY-SA 2.0
In the most touristic city in the world, Café de Flore is a tourist spot. Opened in 1880, it was a preferred gathering place for intellectuals and artists in the early 20th century, which guaranteed its long lasting fame. Located on a corner of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the café preserves its art déco style that has become synonymous with French restaurants around the world, with mahogany furniture and red chairs.
Caffè Florian - Veneza
Operating since 1720, Caffè Florian is the oldest continuously operating coffee shop in the world (as far as we are aware). Located at Piazza San Marco, at the heart of the city, the café includes among its famous habitués Goethe and Proust. To immerse yourself in history, sit at one of the tables and order the delicious Caffè dell'Imperatore (coffee, liqueur of zabaione and sour cream). That said, the menu is extensive and perfect to be explored while listening to the live music echoing in the four corners of the piazza.
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