5 Coffeehouses Around the World I’d Love To Visit
The world is full of incredible coffeehouses. Besides serving delicious caffeinated beverages and mouthwatering desserts, many are rich in history. In my earlier traveling years, I had always considered it “cool” to search out Starbucks while in foreign countries (Spain, Portugal, and Peru to name a few), but my older and wiser self has said “goodbye to all that.” Now, when I visit a foreign locale, I seek out those coffeehouses that are historical gems, that once played host to some of the world’s greatest creative minds. Here’s a list of five coffeehouses around the world I’d love to visit and I hope one day I’ll make it to each one of them.
Cafe Central (Vienna, Austria)
I’m not going to lie, I think one of the things I would look most forward to on a trip to Vienna would be the food, specifically trying out as many delectable Austrian sweets as possible. Even though I adore sachertorte (a specific type of chocolate cake that was created for a prince back in the 1830s), to get it where it was invented, the Hotel Sacher, well, the whole experience has become a bit of a tourist trap experience. So I’d prefer to stop at Cafe Central, another famous Viennese cafe instead. Established in 1876, it was once frequented by the likes of Trotsky and Freud. I’d satisfy my culinary cravings with either the Mohr im Hemd mit Vanilleeis (warm chocolate cafe Viennese-style) or the Kaiserschmarrn mit Zwetschkenroster (torn pancake with stewed plums). To accompany my sweets, I’d like to try either the Maria Theresia (double espresso with orange liqueur and whipped cream) or the Chocolate Amaretto concoction.
Cafe Tortoni (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Okay, I’m technically cheating with this one since I have been to Argentina’s most famous and historic cafe before where I feasted upon an amazing bowl of dulce de leche ice cream. However, keep in mind I was 21, traveling cheaply, didn’t have a great camera, and didn’t consider food experiences to be the be all/ end all I do now. A French immigrant opened it in 1858 and it’s been going strong ever since, even if its patronage today is more of the tourist demographic than the artists and writers who were once regulars back in the 20th century. As my love for churros has grown exponentially since then, I would opt for the chocolate with churros (Spanish-style, clearly) and an Irish coffee. The interior is also stunning with its glass ceilings and wood paneling decor, from another era indeed.
Al Fishawy (Cairo, Egypt)
To this day, the 2009 film Cairo Time starring the always wonderful Patricia Clarkson and an actor who’s not in enough roles, Alexander Siddig, remains one of my favorites. The story is sweet and charming and the cinematography, out of this world (it was shot entirely on location in Egypt so it should come as no surprise that you’ll want to visit Egypt about 15 minutes in). In the movie, Siddig’s character Tareq owns a coffee shop in Cairo, where according to tradition women are not allowed and also one few tourists would venture to. I like to think Tareq’s establishment is like the famous Al Fishawy in the Egyptian capital, a 244 year old coffeehouse located in the heart of Islamic Cairo, a place where individuals still drink hot steaming tea served in glasses, where you see shisha pipes all around, where people are content with talking and people watching, and most importantly, everyone’s eyes aren’t staring at their smart phone screen. I’d go for some mint tea (a must throughout North Africa) and anything of the phyllo variety, preferably something dripping with honey.
Cafe Florian (Venice, Italy)
Coffeehouses aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Venice, and yet in the case of Cafe Florian, the oldest cafe in the world in continuous operation, I suppose it should be based on its incredible history. It opened in December, 1720 with two simply furnished rooms. In its early days it was patronized by numerous individuals of prestige including the playwright Casanova (legend has it that he was naturally attracted to Cafe Florian due to the fact that it was the only coffeehouse that allowed women). In later years, everyone from Lord Byron and Proust to Charles Dickens were visitors. Seeing as how it’s Italy, I’d opt for Tiramisu Cake and to drink, the Cioccolata Casanova which consists of hot chocolate, mint cream, and chocolate shavings.
New York Cafe (Budapest, Hungary)
I’ve said it before but Budapest is the number one city I would like to visit in Europe (now having satisfied my bucket list with Prague). There are of course two dozen sites I want to see in Budapest but at the top is New York Cafe, dubbed by some as the most beautiful cafe in the world. Originally built in 1894, the building employs a design of half Neo-Baroque, half-Neo-Renaissance; in short, it’s over the top opulent. Completely restored in 2006, you’ll think you’re back in the Gilded Age when you dine/drink there although there are infinitely less cafes today than there were in 1900, when the Hungarian capital had more than 600. It’s also all the more historically rich to visit Budapest’s coffeehouses today rather than during the drab years of the Communist era (remember, Hungary was under Communist control for more than quarter century). In terms of what I’d order, I’d go for the New York Cappucino and a slice of the amazing sounding Rakoczi Cottage Cheese Cake with Apricot Jam Ice Cream. Oh, and the Vanilla Mousse with Hungarian Sour Cherry Palinka. I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
Sadly, I have no trips planned to any of these destinations. So in the meantime, as I dream about the cafes above, I’ll console myself with some of my Gourmesso Rooibos Vanilla Infusion and Coconut coffee capsules. If I close my eyes hard enough, I can smell the tantializing aroma of Egyptian mint tea and those mouthwatering Hungarian pastries.