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Seven Famous Literary Cafés

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 4, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literary travel

The idea of the writer in a café is so prominent it has become almost cliché. Depicted in books and movies for decades, it's likely something you have even seen for yourself: young men and women working diligently on their laptops in the local coffee shop. Next time you find yourself irritated by the writer hogging the power outlet for hours while your cell phone dies, consider the fact that these writers are part of a time-honored literary tradition. Businesses all over the world offer up stories of their famous patrons as a means to draw in new customers. These places have become a part of literary history in their own right. If the idea of sitting in the same cafépotentially even in the same spotas your favorite writers did when they wrote the books taking pride of place on your shelves, then the following destinations need to be added to your list of essential locations to visit.

La Closerie des Lilas

La_Closerie_des_Lilas.jpgLocated in Montparnasse, Paris, La Closerie des Lilas is French for 'the lilac enclosure'. It offers a few different types of dining experiences. Late at night it transforms into a piano bar, but during the day, guests can eat inside or at a patio surrounded by the hedges. While eating in the inside, you can sit under a placard marking the exact spot where Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises and eat a dish named after him. The brasserie was also frequented by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Les Deux Magots

This French café has been frequented by so many writers over the years that in 1933 it began offering its own literary prize. Known for it's classy atmosphere and strong coffee, it was an often frequented spot by Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas as well as Hemingway and Albert Camus.

Pedrocchi Cafe

Caffè_Pedrocchi.jpgThis eclectically-decorated café in Padua, Italy is well-known for its mishmash of styles. Soon after opening its doors in the 18th century, the café became so popular that the owner had to hire an architect to expand the building. The architect accomplished this by amalgamating nearby buildings into the original structure while keeping their unique facades and design features. Over the years, the cafe has played host to many amazing writers, most notably the notorious and much-lauded Lord Byron.

The Elephant House

The Elephant House is known for its cheery red facade and beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle, but this Scottish spot has only recently become known as one of the world's famous literary cafés. Much of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was written with J.K. Rowling sitting on a stool facing the window.

Caffe Reggio

Known for being the first café in America to serve cappuccino, Caffe Reggio also has the distinction of being a popular hangout for Beat writers visiting and living in New York City during the 1950s and '60s. Beat darlings Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg both considered it a favorite spot. Movie-lovers might also want to pay the café a visit to see, oddly enough, its ceiling fan, which is a prop from the film Casablanca.

Antico Caffè Greco

copy-of-mary-shelley-on-a-person.jpgThis Italian café is a literary institution. Founded in 1760, it is the oldest café in Rome and has been attracting writers for almost as long as it has been in business. Mary Shelley and her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley visited the café, as did fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. Nikolai Gogol and Lord Byron also were known to have eaten at the café. Chances are, if one of your favorite writers has been to Rome, they have been to the Antico Caffè Greco.

La Biela

Located in beautiful Buenos Aires, this Argentinean café is known for being a favorite of Jorge Luis Borges, who is rumored to have penned more than a few pages here. Situated cozily in the shade of a two hundred year old gum tree, this café is much loved for its unique ambiance (the walls are decorated with a variety of old car parts), and it is also a favorite spot for politicians.

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Adrienne Rivera
Adrienne Rivera received her MFA in fiction from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She currently lives in southern Indiana.


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