The best historical café is a delicate balance of many criteria that we have carefully taken into consideration through our recent top 10 catalogue. Here’s a summary of all cafés in the world that merit their titles based on historic value of the location, story-telling abilities of each place, historic and architectural preservation and instilling those traditions in the menu. During COVID-19 and the detrimental consequences of lock down measures on restaurants and small businesses, we’re dedicating this article to the places that deserve a fighting chance to remain open as a monumental preservation of history , culture and time itself.
Café ECAL’s top spot is awarded to Central Café and Restaurant 1887 in Budapest due its remarkable significance and the world’s best historical café. The café has gone above and beyond to fulfil criteria such as preservation, historical cultural and significance and hosting cultural events to maintain its essence as a place where new ideas are born.
Café Central 1887 embodies as coined by Mihály Babits , “a piece of the old Pest”. It is the quintessential landmark from the city’s golden era. The pristine crown mouldings, brass table tops and classically brewed coffee with a side of their delicious pastries is what “takes the cake”. Their siphoned coffee is a beautiful coffee apparatus for coffee snobs to truly appreciate.
Their menu is symbolic of Hungarian traditional deserts including a refined Esterházy tort, a layered buttercream cake flavoured with cognac, poppy seed infused Flodni and the scrumptious Sacher cake filled with jam and dark chocolate.
The café was founded in 1887 by a Mr. Seeman, a business owner with only daughters and no male heirs to inherit the business. He decided to convince the husbands of his daughters to run the café and became the founder of a rich historical legacy.
Intellectuals such as Endre Ady, Mihály Babits, Kafka, and author of Sinbad Gyula Krúdy, could be found sitting in the café as a new era of Hungarian intellect was born in 1907.
It survived two World Wars and re-opened with a new sense of revival in the 1990s. The most historical café in the world has stood the test of time and today leads the cultural scene in Budapest.
Today, it has responded to WHO guidelines by opening according to social distancing measures. The cafe has taken precautions to sanittize the restaurant as every table is carefully wiped down and cleaned for the next customer. This carries over to the staff and kitchen.
Best Historical Café #2
The El Fishawy Coffee House is run by 60 year-old Akram El-Fishawy , the seventh generation of his family in Cairo. It first opened in 1797 shortly before Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt. In this quaint corner, Al-Fishawy served coffee started by serving coffee to close friends in a small alleyway in Cario’s Al-Khalili district after returning from evening prayers.
Egypt’s intellectuals soon followed as the café gave way to 20th century novel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz and hosted King Farouk.
The El-Fishawy family has invested a lot to preserve the old charm of the café although it used to be four times its size. What it has lost in size it had gained in a special atmosphere with rusted chandeliers, and oriental tiling.
Today it remains a popular spot for locals and tourists in the middle of the popular Hussein neighbourhood. Luckily, Cairo has a lower concentration of COVID-19 cases and is still a safe spot to dine with social distancing in mind.
Best Historical Café #3
This Italian masterpiece takes the top 3 with its beautiful décor of bronze statues, beautifully draped windows, gilded upholstery and beautiful marble counter tops. On top of the gorgeous historic atmosphere is the coffee and chocolate combination which melts in your mouth.
It was founded in 1874 by Ferdinando Baratti and Edoardi Milano as the café went under a series of renovations and was designed by the esteemed architect Giulio Casanova. The founders soon become the primary chocolatiers for the royal family of Savoy.
Today it is the set of Italian cinema and even has amazing online chocolate store. While Italy struggles to regain control of the virus, support this business by purchasing from their online store.
Best Historical Café #4
Café Procope is said to be the first literary café in the world, placing it in our top 5. The Paris-based gem was opened by Italian chef Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli in 1686. Located near the famed Latin quarter, the detailed exterior is fitting with the a neighborhood rich in cultures and significance.
The main delicacy served was initially sorbet when it soon became a new brew recently discovered during European expeditions – coffee.
A favourite among locals, its popularity grew in 1689 when the Ancienne Comédie Française theatre opened nearby, attracted a crowd of forward-thinking guests gifted in the arts. It soon became a convergence points for artistic discussion and debate.
The café is certainly famous for the works that were writtenwithin its walls. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote his play “Narcisse”. Voltaire would frequent the café regularly and drank as many as 40 cups a day, a factor that may have influenced his prose.
It also became the central meeting point for the French Revolution for leaders to hatch the revolt.
Best Historical Café #5
This New Orleans beauty captures everything delicious and classically New Orleans. Located in the novel French Market buildings, it combines a number of European architectural influences.
Its very distinctive of green and yellow awnings became the trademark look of a chain that has 8 coffee kiosks and stalls as it was hundreds of years ago. The two menu highlights are of course the beignet and the chicory coffee. Essentially café au lait based on a daisy plant, its bitterness and unique taste was brought by the Choctaw Indians in the 18th century. As coffee was brought to the Mississippi River, shortages created a particular appeal for the herb in place of the roasted coffee beans.
Today, tourists line up to taste the beignets served in three’s and the delicious cold brews. They also have takeaway options that adhere to social distancing measures.
Best Historical Café #6
The Gran Caffè Gambrinus has become a historical landmark of the city of Naples. Named after a well-known art galery, Gambrinus is a literary salon of Naples and is like many cafés an important cultural focal point. It dates back to 1820 when a guest house opened up on the ground floor. The best patisseries, ice cream makers and baristas worked here and were coined the best “supplier of the royal house”.
Although the café went through a tumultuous past and almost closed, it was reintroduced to the world by Mariano Vacca , a patron to the arts. Architect Antoni Curri renovated the premise and soon it was buzzing again with artists and intellectuals.
During the 20th century, legends like Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway and Jean-Paul Sartre would visit the café. Today it remains an important part of the city and its allure.
Take away is also an option and we highly recommend to grab some pastries if you’re a local or living in Naples.
Best Historical Café #7
The beautiful stained-glass ceiling of the Confeitaria Colombo are resonant of Rio’s most historical coffee houses. Founded in 1894 by Portuguese immigrants Joaquim Borges de Meireles and Manuel José Lebrão, this masterpiece captures the city’s belle époque.
Like many cafés of this calibre, it was meant for entertaining the city’s elite with social gatherings, balls and many cultural events. Iberian cuisine, pastries and of course coffee were the pretence to gossip and discuss the latest in society.
The ceilings were actually more recently built in 1922 when additions were being done to the second floor. The tearoom was also part of this expansion which is now the Cristovao restaurant. The artwork, iron-rimmed mirrors and gold-trim ceilings are the essential part of what makes this place magical.
The Confeitaria serves around 50,000 pastries a month and is a very popular tourist destination in Rio.
If you’ve travelled to this landmark cafe and want to support it through the pandemic, give it a positive review on Tripadvisor.
Best Historical Café #8
This gorgeous café was opened in Buenos Aires by a French immigrant named Touan in 1958. Although it’s hard to trace back the origins of this Poteno café, it was known for gathering the brightest minds in Buenos Aires. The walls of the café were decorated with poetry as painters, writers and musicians formed the Arts and Letter Association (Agrupación de Gente de Artes y Letras) led by Benito Quiquela Martin.
The café played an important role in establishing the art and writing society in May 1926, when the famed La Peña was formed in the basement cellar of the café with Don Celestino’s permission.
Today it is the best historical café in Argentina as it has a uniquely preserved atmosphere rooted in the past with modern twists that make it attractive and busy at all times. The food is equally as impressive thanks to the delicious desserts and a tenderloin steak to die for.
Support this cafe through the pandemic by giving it a positive Tripadvisor review.
Best Historical Café #9
Queen’s Lane coffee house was opened even before the Great Plague, the naming of New York and the Fire of London. One of the oldest cafés in Europe, it was founded in 1654 by Cirques Jobson who started out by selling then-exotic drinks in Oxford.
As coffee started infiltrating Western culture, Queen’s lanes switched from beer as England’s Puritans considered cofee as “the great soberer” which grew steadily in popularity.
In the 17th century, it attracted a rather intellectual crowd of philosophers, politicians and poets who came to debate the relevant issues at the time. The most famous is perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien who is likely to have written his many masterpieces in the coffee house.
By the second half of the 18th century, it was renamed to Harpers. It transformed during this into a hub for students in Oxford, especially those that attended St. Edmund Hall and Queens.
Today, Queen’s Lane is a buzzing place for both locals and tourists who enjoy the easy going atmosphere and the rich historical setting. For locals they are currently offering takeaway. If you have purchased something to go, leave them a google review.
Best Historical Café #10
Drinking an espresso in Venice is an art form preserved by centuries of knowledge and tradition. At Café Florian , drinking espresso is almost like sacred ritual and this is why it made our top 10. One of the oldest cafés dating from 1720 by Francesconi as “Alla Venezia Trionfante” (Triumphant Venice). It was renamed Caffe Florian after the man who reopened this gem.
Its ideal location in Saint Mark’s Square means it’s a popular destination as it serves the best international coffees from Greece, Malaysia and Cyprus.
Its historic appeal is its survival through time as it stood during the Serenissima Republic of Venice in addition to resistance against French and Austrian rule. During the 1848 uprising it also served a treatment facility for the injured.
They have recently posted a menu that is good takeaways.
At Cafe ECAL, we support and appreciate the historical valour behind every cafe and restaurant. We encourage our readers to leave a google review or a TripAdvisor review to support these cultural landmarks through this pandemic.
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