In many countries across Europe, the café culture is an important part of peoples’ everyday lives, and you can learn a lot about the locals and their traditions by simply exploring the cafés as you visit each country.
You’ll be amazed by just how much they differ from each other, and how much their traditions tells you about the people themselves…
In Sweden, café culture is a big deal, and a very important part of Swedish culture.
The coffee breaks are called “fika”, and the coffee is always served with “fikabröd” (coffee bread) which can be anything from Swedish cinnamon buns, sweet bread and biscuits – often all of them at once.
Swedes have “fika” up to 4 times per day, and always at least once – they are among the world’s heaviest coffee drinkers (behind Finland), but they don’t drink espresso, rather large mugs of coffee.
During fika, everyone in the family or all the colleagues at work gather and sit down together and take a long time to drink their coffee.
Going for a fika is also one of the most common ways for friends to meet up, so if you’re ever in Sweden and want to meet up with a friend or ask someone out on a more laid-back date, ask them out for a “fika”.
Italy’s Quick Coffee
Unlike in Sweden where people take their time and can sit for hours with one coffee, Italians drink their coffee fast – and they do it standing up by a bar, sometimes (depending on what coffee they ordered) they even throw it back as a shot!
Coffee is a huge part of Italian culture, but be aware that when you order a coffee, to them it means an espresso.
I was so surprised to see that all the Italians often have for breakfast is a coffee and a biscuit or croissant, but that’s they way they do it.
They also only drink certain coffee at specific times of the day – they would drink a milk based coffee like Caffé Latte or Cappuccino in the morning, but never after a meal or in the evening – try ordering one and see the look the waiter will give you..!
English Afternoon Tea
The tea drinking culture dates back many centuries in England, and while in the 18th century women were forbidden in the Coffee houses, they would instead have tea gardens where they would drink the tea outside, which was one of the few places women and men could meet freely.
The afternoon tea became popular later on, and is today a big part of English culture, together with “Elevensies” and “High Tea”.
A typical afternoon tea usually include warm scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches, and of course a pot of tea – in London there has been an “explosion” of afternoon tea houses, so there are loads of great places to check out.
Most tea houses are in the city center, so if you really want to splurge and indulge in afternoon teas, stay close, and visit Grange Hotels for central london hotels.
If you prefer saving money on accommodation, I suggest you stay at a hotel in Earls Court London, as it’s cheaper there.
Vienna’s Coffee Houses
I should start by mentioning that while the rest of Austria is more about the beer, their capital city Vienna has one of the oldest café cultures in Europe.
Visiting a Viennese Coffee House is a unique experience, and they are often referred to as the city’s “public living rooms”.
Sitting down with a Großer Schwarzer and an appel strudel (or the famous Sacher Torte), at a Viennese Coffee houses is one of the best places for people watching and to embrace their cultural heritage, so much so that even Unesco included them on their Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
There are many more countries in Europe and around the world that have a unique café culture, which is your favorite?