There is, I suspect, an image that appears in everyone's heads, when someone says the words 'European café'. It conjures up a colourful picture of an elegant mademoiselle sat at a rustic eatery on the harbourside of some Amalfi town, basking in the sunlight with a book, a macchiato and a wide brim hat, whose size grows exponentially depending on how many languages its owner speaks. There is a romance to European café culture, which has existed for centuries, and which with each year, becomes more and more refined.
The intellectuals of the modernist movement discussed the Bourgeoisie in Parisian eateries, the Guerrilla fighters of the Spanish Civil War recruited their forces in tapas joints and the anti-communists of Poland printed posters in diners during the 1980s - with so much history having taken place, it's little wonder that the European love of café culture has left such an enduring imprint on the continent's collective conscious.
So this list is dedicated to the best cities in Europe for cafés - and to the croissants, coffees, biscuits, teas that enchant and otherwise light up the daily commutes of workers across all 51 countries.
Let's start off with the big one: Paris. This is the mecca of café culture and everyone knows it - there are nearly 7,000 cafés in the capital and at the height of the coffee craze and the Belle Époque era in the late 1800s, there was an estimate 45,000 cafés to enjoy a pain au chocolat at. The culture here is so prevalent that there is even a Wikipedia page for the Parisian café, and a popular pastime of Parisian people is to head to a café, order a coffee and simply sit and watch the world go by.
Our recommendation for which café to visit during your time in Paris goes to Les Deux Magots whose tables once hosted the likes of Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre and other key figures from intellectual and artistic history.
For café culture that's just a little bit different, get yourself down to sunny Andalucía in southern Spain where you'll find the trifecta of excellent tapas producers, Seville, Cordoba and Granada. We're going to home in on Granada for our tapas pick for the simple reason that Granada's past as a Moorish capital has seen wonderful Moroccan foodstuffs find their way onto the plates of cafes across this historic city. The best part is, Andalusian cafés all benefit from that classic tapas tradition of serving up little complimentary snacks with whatever drinks you order for no extra cost.
Granada's famous Sacramonte district is a superb place to track down a café. This region is known for its hillside caves which have been turned into homes, and many of these have also been made into cafés where patrons can sit down to tapas against the stunning backdrop of the Alhambra Palace and the Generalife gardens. Our recommendation for a tapas bar or café here is the excellent Casa Junaillo, with its open-air spaces and its splendid views of the palace.
It's no secret that Italians love their coffee. This classic European country has produced some of the finest blends the world has ever seen and its no coincidence that the majority of different coffee types are all named in Italian, such as the latte, cappuccino and so on. Consequently, it should come as no surprise to anyone that this love of coffee has fed the café culture which is prevalent across Italy.
Our choice on this list takes you to sunny Naples on the western Italian coast. Naples earns this spot simply because there is nowhere which quite represents the Italian way of life as well as does this bustling city. There are a huge number of different cafés here, from tourist traps near the Piazza del Plebiscito to the family-run joints along the Spaccanapoli. Our pick however, goes to the Gran Caffe Ciorfito near the cathedral, for its spectacular pastries!
With sophistication, elegance and cultural pomp being the name
of the game in Austria's illustrious capital, Vienna is a hub of
thriving café culture. All along the Ringstrasse and in the city
boroughs can be found charming little eateries, often housed in
impressive Imperial townhouses. These cafes are so cherished by the
world, that in 2011, Viennese café culture was granted 'Intangible
Cultural Heritage' status by UNESCO.
Many of these of these classic cafés serve the apfelstrudel, Kaiserschmarrn and other sweet treats which are such a staple of Austrian and Viennese foodstuff - and who could forget the famous sachertorte, wonderful chocolate cake eaten with whipped cream or ice cream? If you ever find your self in Vienna, our choice for is various speciality coffees or its traditional Austrian dishes is the excellent Kaffee Alt Wien, hidden away in the heart of the city.