There remains a vibrant café and coffee shop culture in the UK at present, with independent outlets providing exceptional value and rivaling the efforts of commercial brands such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee.
Café culture remains at its most prominent in the heartland of Europe, however, with nations such as France and Italy continuing to set the trends for others to follow. There is also a rising trend for quirky, independent cafés around the world, which are conceptually unique and offer an outstanding experience to visitors.
So let’s take a look at eight of the most unusual and unique cafes from around the world:
1. L’OisiveThé, Paris
It is only right that we start in Paris, spiritual home of café culture. The beguiling region of Butte au Cailles is also home to some particularly quaint resorts, with the L’OisiveThé providing a relevant case in point. Essentially a traditional tea house that also serves coffee and an array of delicious pastries, its charming interior offers an insight into a bygone age. Perhaps the single most fascinating aspect of this café is the fact that it also doubles as a yarn shop, which immediately infuses the building with color and a sense of vibrancy. There are even weekly knitting evenings for enthusiasts.
2. The Vintage Emporium, London
The city of London is a veritable celebration of unusual sights and structures, so it stands to reason that it should be home to a fascinating café culture. The Vintage Emporium in Brick Lane is one that truly stands out, however, as its architecture and interior design elements have been borrowed straight from the Victorian era. Littered with historical relics and record players from the late 1800s, it is a peaceful and beautifully presented café that truly reflects traditional English values. The location also serves as an antique boutique, so there is even an opportunity to invest in some one-of-a-kind pieces for your home.
3. Snickarbacken 7, Stockholm
If you are a fan of conceptual structures and cafés, you should find time to visit Snickerbacken 7 in Stockholm. Although it boasts a traditional coffee bar set-up, it is located at the front of an art gallery and concept store, hidden discreetly in a narrow alleyway. Stark and mysterious in equal measure, it provides a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and is ideal for those in search of solitude. It also has the benefit of serving some of the best coffee on the market, so there is additional appeal for connoisseurs throughout Sweden. Its design is borrowed from the classic back-street café, and its contrast with a vibrant city location makes for an interesting visitor experience.
4. The Grounds, Alexandria
A few structures around the world have a diverse and unusual history, and the Grounds Café in Alexandria, Australia is one of them. Since serving as a warehouse and pie factory during the early 1900s, it has evolved into a beautifully designed, eclectic and picturesque café that serves extremely high-quality coffee. The café terrace opens onto a lush garden of heirloom vegetables and aromatic herbs, so guests can see fresh and organic ingredients being grown in their presence. The Grounds even boasts a coffee “research and testing center” next door, to ensure that internationally sourced beans are filtered into the most delicious beverages imaginable.
5. Balzac’s Roasters, Toronto
Everything about Balzac’s Roasters is tinged with nostalgia, from its quaint Victorian-age architecture to the grand, Paris-inspired interior. From its origins as the Pump House in 1895, its interior has been completely redesigned to replicate the classic Parisian café aesthetic and create an intimate space for diners. With a giant Vaudeville chandelier casting its soft light from the center of the room, it is a grand and unique location that remains exceptionally popular among Toronto residents and international visitors alike. It is certainly inspired by its French-Canadian roots, and has a strong connection within the local community.
6. Mahika Mano, Tokyo
It seems that the trend for location-inspired cafés is becoming increasingly prominent, with Tokyo’s unique Mahika Mano providing a case in point. It is essentially an island-theme café, and has drawn its inspiration from the relaxing havens that exist throughout the Pacific Ocean. It has become a major curiosity for visitors, primarily thanks to its unique decor, hammock showroom and the kind of laid-back environment that would not be out of place in a sleep clinic. If you like to relax while savoring your coffee, there is no finer café in the world.
7. Café / Day, Shizuoka
Also renowned for taking the concept café to an entirely new level, is Japan’s hugely popular Café / Day. This location offers a brilliant and unusual twist on a classic open-air design, as the owners have chosen to interface its interior aesthetic with street traffic. Confusing and terrifying in equal measure, it may not be the most relaxing location but its spectacularly innovative design has distinguished it as a must-see location for all international travelers. Inspired by the contemporary open-air design of central European cafés, Café / Day raises the bar in conceptual architecture.
8. The Urban Station, Buenos Aires
The majority of mainstream coffee shops are now equipped with wireless broadband and accessible wall outlets, which is extremely convenient when you consider the rise of freelancing. The Urban Station in Buenos Aires has taken this concept to the next level by designing a café-office hybrid that enables customers to operate in a professionally laid-out work space. Including staple features such as Wi-Fi and electrical outlets, it also boasts large table spaces and comfortable chairs and a contemporary office design to boost productivity.