Without the waft of freshly brewed coffee, the rustling of notebook pages of a scribbler and constant sound of the colloquy in a baroque cafe it wouldn’t feel like being in Europe. The era of cafes in Europe originated during 1555 under the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul through coffee selling shop however, the culture that we imbibe today has its roots in Venice going back to the 1700s. Somehow cafes have always been the chosen haunt for artists be it sculptors, painters or poets. From the most ornate ones in Budapest and Rome to the quaint Parisien cafes, European cafes are a place of respite for the artist and the purveyor. In this post, I journey along the continent’s cultural wells that house the famous and historic cafes.
If not for Venetian merchants coffee wouldn’t be introduced to Europe as early as 16th century. Though Oxford is known to have opened a coffee shop in 1654, Caffe Florian at St Mark’s Square in Venice, is considered the oldest Café in continental Europe. In 1720 Florian Francesconi opened a cafe named as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” as an ode to the city, later the patrons rechristened it “Caffè Florian” in honour of its owner. Being a historical landmark of Venice, it attracted a stellar clientele, including Goldoni, Giuseppe Parini, Silvio Pellico and many others. Caffè Florian has always had a hand in glove association with art and culture. The idea to initiate a worldwide art exhibition for contemporary artists now called as Biennale di Venezia, was conceptualised here by the then Mayor of Venice. Ever since Florian has been home to many exhibitions hosting some of the world’s new and renowned artists. It has now extended the initiative to connect Venetian and Florentine artists by exhibiting their work at both the cafes in respective cities. Bruno Ceccobelli, Mimmo Rotella, are some of the many both Italian and international artists who, over the years, created exclusive pieces of art expressly for the Caffè Florian. http://www.caffeflorian.com/
We all know Italians for their coffee culture and thanks to them Europe was doused in it too. But like their cathedrals and palaces, their cafes were ornate too. Antico Caffè Greco, one of Italy’s oldest and ornate coffee shop, and sits in the Via Condotti across the Spanish Steps. The cafe has been in business since 1760 and has witnessed history in reality. From John Keats to Casanova every celebrity, influential politico and a regular tourist in Rome has been to Caffe Greco. The interior vaults are much more convivial to sip on an espresso and marvel at the rouge lounge. http://www.anticocaffegreco.eu/
Is it a museum? Is it a restaurant or cafe? Who could tell by a mere glance at Canova Tadolini? Not too far from Antico Caffe Greco is this restaurant cafe which surrounds the seating with sculptures and artifacts. The entrance and outer halls are quite overwhelming at first to sit down for a meal or a coffee and I’d recommend the inner rooms for a well-spaced table seating. http://www.canovatadolini.com/en/
Could Paris have a better location than Louvre to house some of the quaint cafes in the city? Not far from the Mona Lisa, Cafe Mollien in the Denon wing was built by the architect Hector Lefuel beneath Charles-Louis Müller’s painted ceiling, ‘Glory distributing Palms and Crowns’. After a day at the Louvre sipping coffee and quick bites of snacks while gazing at the Cour Napoléon and the Carrousel garden is a great way to relax. http://www.louvre.fr/en/le-cafe-mollien
The Austrian capital is known for its cafe culture thanks to the legendary and ornate Cafe Central. While it is a relatively new cafe in comparison to the Venetian, Parisian and Romans it has clocked 140 years in history. Cafe Central exudes Viennese love for gentle beauty, rich design and everything musical. The cafe has drawn many artists, musicians and writers of their times ever since it opened. After a long day around the Ringstrasse, a deserving portion of Viennese Apfelstrudel and cup of coffee is just what is needed. http://www.palaisevents.at/en/cafecentral.html
Saving the best for the last – New York Kávéház in Budapest is as opulent, grand and ornate as a coffee house can get. This isn’t the regular Starbucks we all are so accustomed to, New York Cafe seems like Budapest knew the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers were stopping by for a coffee while in the city. The splendour of this coffee house is second to only a palatial parlour room that can host an event. Baroque style is evident in its design and architecture. The century-old cafe has seen the turn of the 20th century and the devastating wars after. Its patrons were the elite, artists, writers, and editors who even took to editing many newspapers on the upper gallery. Budapest prides itself after the cafe and has been known to won many hearts and dubbed as the ‘most beautiful cafe in the world’. Today it is a part of the luxury New York Palace Hotel Budapest and serves patrons with Austrian Monarchy cuisine as well as the Hungarian favourite Goulash and Dobos,Sacher, and Eszterházy cake .http://www.newyorkcafe.hu/