Coffee houses and cafés have historically had a very rich tradition of serving as not only social hubs but as important gathering places for intellectuals of all kinds. Here are some famous cafés that have played a role in both the history of coffee as well as politics, literature, art, and science.
Antico Caffe Greco (Rome)
Opened in 1760, as the oldest bar in Rome and second oldest in all of Italy, Antico Caffè Greco began as a haven and meeting place for intellectuals of all sorts and remains one today. Historical figures that frequented the cultural hub include Stendhal, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Hans Christian Anderson. Located near the Spanish Steps, it still has that an atmosphere heavy with history, like much of the beautiful city that surrounds it.
Café Riche (Cairo)
Café Riche, founded in 1904, has been a coffee house and planning center for revolution since its beginnings. Egyptian intellectuals gathered there to prepare for the 1919 revolution against the British. In 1952, Nasser sat there to plan the dethroning of King Farouk, and, in much more recent times, it has played a role in the Egyptian “Arab Spring.” Today it combines the old and the new, from relics like an old printing press in a secret wine cellar, to serving as a safe haven for modern day protesters in Tahrir Square.
The House Under the Blue Bottle (Vienna)
In 1683, Jerzy Kulczicki, a hero that defended Vienna from the Turks by acting as a spy, was given all of the coffee left behind by the defeated troops as a reward. Though this was a drink unfamiliar to the people of Vienna, he decided to open up a coffee shop. He was slow to win the Viennese over to the new beverage, but the addition of some milk and honey made for a popular new meeting place and social scene.
Le Procope (Paris)
Paris’ first café, opened in 1686, was established just as coffee drinking began to grow in popularity amongst the upper social circles. Like most of the first coffee houses, it attracted a very intellectual crowd, with regulars like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot. It also laid down the foundation in the city for what would become a very rich culture of coffee houses and cafés that is still going strong.
Jonathan’s Coffee House (London)
In 1680, Jonathan Miles established a coffee house in Exchange Alley, London. At the time of its inception, it actually doubled as one of the first public stock exchanges. Government restrictions were strict about where stock exchange could take place, and this coffee house become a popular stop to handle such business. Its convenient location by the docks was perfect for collecting news and information on economic trends. Today, however, they are back to selling coffee, under the new name, “The Stock Exchange.”