When I travel, wherever I travel, more than museums, monuments, temples, churches and, even restaurants, I seek out a café.
The reasons are many. Nowhere quite represents a place like its cafés. What would Vienna, Rome and Paris be without theirs? It’s not just the history or the opulence. It’s the window on the world. You see ordinary people – locals as well as visitors – coming and going, taking time out between work and home, meeting friends or colleagues, joining families. If they’re not right beside you in the café, you watch them on the street or from your shaded terrace.
Depending on the time of day, I might ask for a wake-me-up espresso, a post prandial cortado or a late-night carajillo – a black coffee with a dash of brandy. I sometimes dine, sometimes wine. If it’s balmy I’ll have an iced coffee, or an ice cream. I usually take a book, to read or to scribble in. We’re all familiar with the relationship between writers and philosophers and their favourite cafés.
On a holiday, the café is everyone’s favourite postcard-scribbling spot: a space to relax, gather thoughts, remember loved ones.
In Italy cafés seem to be all about energy and the urban hustle – a quick shot, a brief exchange of news and gossip, and off to work, or play, we go.
In Turkey, cafés are social, there to slow life down, with soft, wide seats and perhaps a hookah pipe to puff. In Paris – and those many cities that emulate it, from Buenos Aires to Tangier to Hanoi – the café is a way of life: it’s where to be alone, where to flirt, where to confess, confer, create.
My favourite cafés are almost as dear to me as the places where I’ve lived. When I go back to certain cities, especially in my favourite continent, South America, I head for those cafés – to toast my happy return and touch base.
The following selection contains 40 of my own choices, with 10 by The Telegraph’s local experts, who reside in or routinely revisit their favourite cities.