Coffee has been around for centuries, and ancient world citizens seemed as fascinated by the brown bean as we are today. The first coffee house in the world is said to have opened in Constantinople, Turkey, now Istanbul, in 1475.
The world’s first coffee houses were meeting places for famous thinkers of the time, who preached religious doctrines, exchanged ideologies and engaged in heated political discussions over coffee. While the workings of these coffeehouses are less revolutionary today, some of the world’s oldest coffeehouses are still brewing a mean cup of coffee centuries later. Here are some of the oldest cafes in the world still serving hot coffee, just with a bit of history.
10 Tahmis Kahvesi, Istanbul (1635)
If the world’s first coffee house was said to have opened in Turkey, it’s only a given that one of the oldest functioning coffee houses happens to be in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Housed in a historic building with high ceilings and stained-glass windows, Tahmis Kahvesi has been serving coffee since 1635. While the cafe’s Turkish coffee has rave reviews, Tahmis Kahvesi is also a coveted spot for a particular pistachio-rich coffee known as Menengeç kahve. Sugar-soaked baklava and a seat at an outdoor table complement Tahmi’s kahvesis menengeç kahve and Turkish coffee.
9 Le Procope, Paris (1686)
If it isn’t one of the oldest coffee houses in the world, Le Procope is certainly the oldest cafe in Paris. Since the café opened its doors in 1686, Le Procope has seen intellectuals such as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paul-Marie Verlaine and Denis Diderot pen great historical works within its walls. In fact, visitors to the café can still catch a glimpse of Voltaire’s regulars’ table, which today serves as a kind of memorial to the French writer. After renovations in the 1980s, Le Procope now serves coq au vin and tête de veau alongside tiramisu, mille-feuille and cappuccino.
8th Cafe Florian, Venice (1720)
Caffè Florian, the oldest coffeehouse in Italy, has been at the center of Italy’s rich social life for over 300 years. The Venetian café retains much of its 18th-century old charm, with plush red velvet seats, marble tables, and gold walls adorned with works by renowned Italian artists Giuseppe Ponga, Antonio Pascutti, and Cesare Rota. In its heyday, Caffè Florian was also a hotspot for the nobility and famous figures such as Claude Monet, Charles Dickens, Andy Warhol and Charlie Chaplin. Above all, Florian was one of the few Venetian cafés of its time that allowed women! Today, visitors can sip espresso and hot chocolate (or a cheeky spritz of Aperol), browse delicate pastries, and sit back in the comfort of knowing the table they’re sitting at once saw Ernest Hemingway writing his stories has written down.
7 Antico Caffe Greco, Rome (1760)
Antico Caffè Greco is the second oldest coffee house in Italy after Caffè Florian and the oldest in Rome. Known simply as Caffè Greco to locals, the café has served as a haven for writers, artists and intellectuals for more than two centuries, and its red walls are still adorned with hundreds of paintings. The café has served the likes of James Joyce, Mark Twain, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and even Princess Diana throughout its history. Despite wars, revolutions and rent disputes, Caffè Greco continues to keep its doors open to visitors for a cappuccino e cornetto.
6 Cafe Tortoni, Buenos Aires (1858)
Ranked among the most beautiful cafés in the world, Café Tortoni was founded by a French immigrant and named after a Parisian café on France’s famous Boulevard des Italiens. Visitors can discover several plaques on the tables of Café Tortoni, dedicated to all the famous artists, writers and musicians who frequented the café at the time. Café Tortoni continues to honor its history as a meeting place for artists with a basement salon that regularly hosts live jazz evenings, poetry readings and tango shows.
5 Cafe De La Pix, Paris (1862)
The legendary Café de la Pix has long been a tourist attraction due to its prime location in Paris’ theater district and its cultural significance. The 1862 under the reign of Napoleon III. The Café de la Pix that was built here retains much of its original charm with its golden columns and magnificent frescoes. Over the years, Café de la Pix has seen the who’s who of Paris sipping at its café au lait, but the recent takeover of the café’s kitchen by Michelin-star chef Laurent André, its ever-changing seasonal menus and terrace with views on the Opéra Garnier ensures that the Café de la Pix remains the best place for the modern nobility.
4 Cafe Central, Vienna (1876)
Café Central is a coffee house important not only for the coffees it has served throughout history, but also for the institution that served 19th-century intellectuals, artists, politicians and chess players. Affectionately known as the Centralist, Café Central saw the likes of Stalin, Leon Trotsky, and Alfred Polgar smoking cigars, drinking Viennese coffee, and munching apple and cheese strudel within its walls. Housed in a magnificent 19th-century building that once housed the Vienna Stock Exchange and National Bank, Café Central has exquisite interiors and an enviable cake counter that often draws long lines of patrons outside the doors.
3 Cafe Commercial, Madrid (1887)
Founded in 1887, the Café Comercial in central Madrid is important for a number of reasons. Not only is it the city’s oldest café, which in its heyday served as a meeting place for literary readings and political debates, the Café Comercial was also one of the first coffee houses in Madrid to employ women as employees. Despite extensive renovations to give the café a more contemporary feel, the original mirrors, floors and most importantly the bar remain. The Café Comercial has also revamped its kitchen, making it one of the rarer coffeehouses that allow its patrons to venture beyond the occasional pastry and coffee. The 19th-century café is now a stunning spot for full-blown lunches and dinners – the after-meal café con leche is just a bonus.
2 New York Cafe, Budapest (1894)
Budapest’s New York Café has been named the most beautiful café in the world, and once you take a look at the coffee house, you’ll quickly understand why. Built in Italian Renaissance style, the New York Cafe is a spectacular sight with its soaring frescoed ceilings, shimmering chandeliers, marble columns and pastel gold walls. While the café could pass for a gilded palace, the building was originally intended to house an insurance company. The New York Café now has hour-long lines of visitors waiting to enjoy Hungarian pastries and gold-leaf cappuccino while marveling at the grandeur of the old coffeehouse.
1 Confeitaria Colombo, Rio de Janeiro (1894)
When Confeitaria Colombo was founded by two Portuguese immigrants in 1894, the interiors of the coffeehouse were representative of Rio’s Belle Époque period. Later, Confeitaria Colombo was renovated between 1912 and 1918, and its crystal mirrors, high ceilings and carved wooden furniture were inspired by Art Nouveau – a style it maintains to this day. Over the years, the Confeitaria Colombo has not only been visited by artists and writers, but also by several heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II. When diners are not looking at the stained glass skylight on the café’s ceiling, they can pastel in the lavish surroundings de Nata from Confeitaria Colombo with Brazilian coffee.