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Photography courtesy of The Wolseley

Six of Europe’s Most Opulent Cafés to Perk You Up

Article by Rob Crossan 02.07.2019

The winter months are the perfect time to snuggle up in a classic European café. Whether it be for a steaming cup of fresh coffee amid Art Nouveau splendor in Vienna or a potent “bica” in one of Lisbon’s magnificent Art Deco-era cafés, here are six especially luxurious ways to get your caffeine kick.

London: The Wolseley

Photography courtesy of The Wolseley

Ask most Brits if they could fetch you a hot drink in wintertime (or, indeed, any time of year) and, before you’ve even finished the question, you can be sure a kettle will be boiling and tea bags proffered. These days, however, The Wolseley — Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s sumptuous former car showroom on Piccadilly — shows that the U.K. is no slouch when it comes to superior coffee. Corinthian columns, marble tiles and impeccably attired servers that seem telepathically tuned to knowing your exact needs are all good reasons to come here. But, on a misty London morn, before rush hour, to take a solitary “doppin” (two shots of espresso in one cup) with a fresh newspaper to hand is to savor a truly exquisite London moment. 160 Piccadilly, thewolseley.com

 

Lisbon: Café Nicola

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Photography by anouchka/iStock

Dating back to 1929, grand old Café Nicola just oozes retro atmospherics with tables spilling out on Rossio Square and a lavish Art Deco interior complete with acres of marble and huge wall canvases telling the life story of national icon and poet Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage. The coffee credentials here are impeccable — the café is named after the company that imported beans from Portugal’s former colonial possessions Brazil and São Tomé. Regardless of how alert and awake you already may be, ordering a “bica” is simply essential. A fearsomely strong espresso, its name is taken from the Portuguese word for fountain — the water flows from the espresso machine into the cup in just the same way. Praça Dom Pedro IV 24-25

 

Paris: Café de Flore

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Photography by B&M Noskowski/iStock

There’s no doubt that you’ll find better (and cheaper) coffee in Paris than at this Left Bank legend. But when it comes to coffee culture, this is the crème de la crème (with added foam). The haunt of the post-Great War Lost Generation intelligentsia, Café de Flore today boasts play readings on Mondays and philosophy debates (in English) on the first Wednesday evening of each month. The long-aproned waiters exude a very Parisian ennui, but don’t take their lugubrious nature too personally — it’s all part of the experience, which, on no account, should be sampled without a cup of café crème, ideally served with an aperitif of Ricard or Pastis 51. 172 Saint-Germain Blvd., cafedeflore.fr

 

Vienna: Café Landtmann

Photography © Jan Lackner

For many years, a besuited gentleman known for his obsessive habits and routines would appear each day at this café and order a slice of “gugelhupf,” a sponge cake with a hole in the middle. That man was Sigmund Freud and, were he to walk into Café Landtmann today, he’d find little has changed. This elegant café is still a favorite of academics and journalists, and the coffee is outstanding too. Do as the locals do and let the waiters hang up your coat before ordering a “verlängerter,” a large, steamed, rather than filtered, espresso served with just a little milk. 4 Universitätsring, landtmann.at

 

Budapest: Café Gerbeaud

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Photography © Fridmar Damm/Huber Images/eStock Photo

Significantly easier to taste than pronounce, the sweet star attraction at this grande dame of Eastern European cafes is the “konyakos meggy,” where dark chocolate is poured over a cake made with sour cherries and a generous amount of cognac. Dating back to 1858, the lavish stucco ceilings, voluminous chandeliers, dark woods and velvet drapes give a theatrical air to a coffee experience that would please the Hapsburgs themselves. Try to avoid the weekend afternoon rush, when queues can snake out of the café; early morning is the best time to experience the strudel and coffee amid the astonishing opulence. Vörösmarty tér 7-8, gerbeaud.hu

 

Rome: Tazza d’Oro

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Photography by Boaz Rottem/Alamy

The aroma of this legendary coffee shop — cozy, warm and stuck in a 1940s time warp, and within a throw of an artisanal bean of the Pantheon — is courtesy of the in-house roaster that produces some typically dark and intense Roman coffee. A ristretto shot is the perfect start to a long day exploring the Eternal City. But, before you order, it’s important to know the essential etiquette of Italian coffee hubs. Pay for your drink at the counter immediately as you order and then take a receipt to give to the barman or server, who will exchange it for your coffee. It’s inefficient and archaic but do it right and your local status will be assured. 84 Via degli orfani, tazzadorocoffeeshop.com

 

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