Cafes have always been closely linked with the creative arts. They provide a central location where people can spend their time and share their ideas over coffee.

Once you start delving into the history of cafes and the creative arts, you will see that there are many global works of literature and art that owe their existence to the creative atmosphere within a cafe or coffee shop.

Good food, good coffee, and good company. All of this is conducive to creating artwork that deeply impacts on people. There are whole art movements that have relied on certain venues such as glamorous cafes and coffee shops in New York, Paris, and beyond.

In this guide, we’re delving into some famous (or underground) cafes that have inspired literature movements and artistic culture for hundreds of years.

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Cafe de Flore, Paris

Cafe de Flore was actually named after a sculpture in the French Capital. In the early 1900s it became a place for poets and writers to meet up and work.

It was key to the surrealist movement and writers such as Sartre have even discussed what life was like for those who called it their “office”:

“We are completely settled there; from nine o’clock in the morning until midday, we work, we eat, and at two o’clock we come back and chat with friends until eight o’clock. After dinner, we see people who have an appointment. That may seem strange to you, but we are at home.”

The cafe would go on to provide a hugely important epicenter for French culture in the 1900s.

Vesuvio Cafe, San Francisco

Vesuvio is always synonymously linked with the Beat movement and writers and artists would gather at this incredible Los Angeles location. Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and Francis Ford Coppola would all frequent this cafe and meet for coffee (or something a little stronger).

In the 1960s, Jack Kerouac spent an evening at the Vesuvio Cafe and his love of a certain drink containing tequila, rum and orange saw the beverage named after him. It is still served today.

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San Remo Cafe, New York City

This cafe was a bohemian paradise, and there is a long list of patrons who would hang out at the San Remo cafe drinking their tea and coffee, and working on their particular brand of art.

Everyone from jazz superstar Miles Davis to writers Auden and William S. Burroughs would spend time here. Even the infamous Jackson Pollock, who became known as “Jack the Dripper” for his incredible revolutionary style of “paint splatter” paintings, spent time at the San Remo. Unfortunately it closed in the late 1960s but there is still a plaque where the cafe once was to commemorate the huge impact it had on American culture.

Harry’s Bar, Venice

This bar and cafe has been open since the early 1930s and continues to be successful today. It is known for its simple food and drink, great service and the fact that it has a bright interior design.

This became a haunt for many stars while they were on their travels and the likes of Capote, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Noel Coward have all been known to hang out there, among many others.

This is one of the cafes on the list that doubled up as a restaurant and bar, allowing creatives to share ideas all day and enjoy food and drink together.

The Eagle and Child, London

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Technically a pub, but this would host literary morning meetings which presumably saw breakfast, teas, and coffees served. The Rabbit Room of the pub dates back to the 1600s and this is where it the iconic authors would meet. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien often brought their group of writers and creatives here, calling themselves Inklings.

Nowadays, the pub is still standing. You may be able to get a coffee there, but it is far better known for its selection of ales and pub food.

The Elephant House, Edinburgh

Did you know that The Elephant House in Edinburgh is known as the birthplace of Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling would spend time here as an aspiring author, and she was also a single mother, so she would have her small child in tow.

The cafe basically now serves as a literary tribute to Rowling and Potter, but there are plenty of other authors who have used the venue, including Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith.


A lot of us love the feeling of sitting with our notebook or laptop in a coffee shop and diving into our hobby or even our work. Some great cultural movements have started in cafes, pubs, and clubs, and we owe a lot of our top literature to authors sat over a coffee building their own little world.