5 ridiculously good places to get coffee in Western Europe

Sharing with you my love for travel with the added bonus of where to find a topnotch coffee experience.

Elephant House, Edinburgh

Starting with my most recent trip, I’m delighted to add this charming coffee shop to my top 5. I discovered this place, as I’m sure most tourists have done, after reading list after list saying ‘visit the Elephant House, the birthplace of Harry Potter’.

Well as it turns out, this wasn’t the birthplace of Harry Potter. Portugal was technically actually the place J.K. Rowling started writing about Harry’s antics, however the Elephant House was still a frequent haunt of Rowling’s when she lived in Scotland.

Located on the George IV Bridge in Old Town, this cafe presents some decent coffee, herbal teas as well as a fantastic selection of food. It has a decent breakfast (their smoked salmon on scrambled eggs is to die for) and a good option of sandwiches and pies for lunch (the pies! Oh the pies! Topped with mash and gravy, so luscious). Sharing with you a photo of my pie:

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The decor inside isn’t really my kind of decor – it’s pretty dated with rustic orange wallpaper and very old tables and chairs. But it had an Indian vibe with elephants absolutely everywhere. It would have been nice if it had been a bit more Indian themed to be honest, with drapes and some comfy suede sofas. But then again they don’t serve Indian food so perhaps that would have been confusing. *furrows brow* One shocking element to this coffee shop – the toilets are actively ENCOURAGED to be strewn with graffiti! Seriously – go to the toilets and see how many Harry Potter quotes you can count written by cafe visitors.

Elephant promise their coffee is roasted locally in small batches ensuring unrivalled freshness. It definitely did taste good. Price wise, the coffee is I’d say an average price – about £2.55 for a small cappuccino, £3 for a large, and you’re looking at between £5 and £8 for sandwiches/pies. Totally worth it, especially if you manage to grab a seat at the back, with a gorgeous window view of the Castle up the hill.

Top tip: If you’re in a hurry, ask for some of their salted caramel brownies to take away. Seriously the best brownies I’ve ever tasted and a delight to munch on later when you’re peckish after climbing Arthur’s Seat or gone up and down the Royal Mile.

The Happy Pig, Amsterdam

Ok, so perhaps the reason this cafe lands on this list isn’t entirely down to the coffee. They have pancakes. I mean, seriously good, crepe-like, smothered-in-Nutella-and-filled-with-strawberries-and-whipped-cream pancakes. Their savoury options seemed incredibly popular too and I wish I’d have had longer to come back another day and try more. From our 20 minutes sitting in there, favourite options amongst visitors seemed to be the ham & onion and bacon & cheese.

The coffee was brilliant. It was handed to me in a tiny paper cup (I wouldn’t have minded a cup double the size, mind) and was delicious. Perfect in strength (not too strong, not too weak) with very frothy milk (but not the kind of froth that melts away after 10 seconds).

The pancakes aren’t cheap – you’re looking at spending €25 on two lots of pancakes and two drinks. For something that was essentially our breakfast, that’s a pretty hefty amount and we probably could have had a small fry up for half the price. However, for the tastiness of the crepes and coffee and the delightful atmosphere, I’d say it’s definitely worth it.

Top tip: Get here early in the day. It’s an incredibly petite shop with four cramped tables, and it always seems busy. If this sounds like your kind of hell then just stop by for a takeaway and walk further down the canal to a bench. But if you can, sit inside and soak up the busy atmosphere. The owner is super friendly and made us chuckle while we ate.

Vivaldi, Ypres

For anyone who hasn’t visited Ypres, I’d say now hike it up your to-do list. Now. Do it now. Ypres is a quaint little town in the West Flanders province of Belgium and filled with haunting World War I history. It is this town that the Germans invaded en route to France during the war, prompting a British, French and allied forces counter-attack. Three ensuing battles caused half a million casualties, and Ypres was demolished.

The town was rebuilt after the war, and one of the most important additions is the Menin Gate Memorial, an impressive arch housing the names of over 50,000 heroes who fell during the battles and have no known grave. What is incredibly spiritual about this arch is that every single evening at 8pm the local fire brigade play the Last Post and crowds gather around the gate to remember.

Prior to attending the Last Post service one chilly February evening, we stopped for coffee down Grote Markt and came across Vivaldi. It was almost empty, and felt far more like a restaurant than a coffee shop, but regardless they welcomed our group in, despite our casual dress. Brilliant service and I was thrilled to see it was a dog friendly place – never fails to put a smile on my face. We cosied on the comfy seats with coffees and hot chocolates, warming up before our final trip of the day. The coffee was good, not the best I’ve had, but the experience was brilliant. Ypres didn’t feel like a lively town, and there was almost a melancholy that descends upon it, especially as it gets darker. Understandably so, especially since so many visit this place as a ‘pilgrimage’ to remember the forgotten.

Micro Roastery, Canterbury

Totally off the beaten track, I only discovered this tiny little coffee shop because we ended up parking so far out of the city (although on hindsight it’s probably less than a 3 minute walk from all of the major shops – but it seemed totally off the beaten track!). As usual, a pretty little shopfront caught my eye. And when I say little, that’s probably an understatement. The entrance to the cafe probably would’ve struggled to fit more than four people in, but there is seating out the back.

The design of this cafe is epic. Hessian and woven coffee bags line the walls and an incredibly fancy and intimidating looking coffee machine sits right up front. A glass case of beautiful looking cake (display cake I like to call it – cake no one has yet had a slice of) juts out, daring someone to take the first piece.

A large cappuccino is £2,70. Not bad at all when compared to larger chains. The coffee is melt-in-the-mouth wonderful perfectly holding up a decent amount of creamy milk.

We didn’t sit in, instead opting to takeaway and keep wandering the streets of Canterbury, but I couldn’t resist walking past on the way back and grabbing another one. That’s when you know coffee is good.

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Cuillier, Abbesses, Paris 

We stumbled across this coffee shop en route to the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Having jumped off Abbesses Metro stop and panicking slightly about which direction to take (honestly, was the whole world getting off that tube stop at the same time?!), we abruptly crossed the straight to get away from the crowds and figured we’d wander around before whipping out Google Maps. This coffee shop almost shouted out to me – the decor was incredibly modern yet minimalistic and just shouted out ‘Instagram-photo’. And that’s an impressive feat to stand out because this area is littered with cafes.

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The queue was almost out the door when we entered, but fortunately went quickly. The cashier bar is simple and bland, with a prudent selection of brownies and cookies. What amazed me was the options of all the different types of coffee. I spied beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Guatemala, to serve even the most seasoned coffee connoisseur.

Though there’s a relatively quiet and calm ambience inside, there are always streams of tourists walking by on their way up to Sacré-Coeur. This cafe is absolutely perfect for people-watching, what with it’s huge glass windows. Even if it’s just while waiting in the line to be served.

 

There you have it! Five brilliant places that sell yummy coffee and cake, perfect for recharging so you can carry on with your day! Do you have any places you can recommend I try? :o) 

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