When you're looking for things to do in Venice, there's nothing quite like connecting to the great history that the city has to offer. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of The Floating City to pop into Caffè Florian, one of the world's oldest cafes. In continuous operation since 1720, it holds the honor of being the oldest cafe in Italy and the second oldest in the world.
You'll find this Venice cafe in a location you're sure to visit — the Procuratie Nuove in St. Mark’s Square. Caffè Florian has a progressive history. It was one of the first cafes in the city to allow women in 1720. The cafe became favorite hotspot of many historical figures; you may recognize Goethe, Casanova, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, and Lord Byron on Caffè Florian’s list of famous guests.
Not only does Caffè Florian serve some of the best coffee in Venice, it also has many sumptuous rooms where you can enjoy your meal. Sit in the well-appointed Senate Room, with its red velvet sofas, marble tabletops, and elaborate series of paintings representing the arts and sciences. This room is where the world-famous Venice Biennale was conceived. Sipping coffee here is to immerse yourself in history.
Caffè Florian's prices are on the higher side. But remember: you're not just sipping coffee, you're immersing yourself in an experience. Their afternoon tea service is just one example of the pleasures that await you. Suited waiters bring you a stunning array of foods on heavy silver trays. You'll be sipping coffee, tucking into a sweet macaron, biting into a buttery croissant, and indulging in a stunning selection of pastries. Even a simple espresso will arrive on a silver tray accompanied by a glass of water and a cookie.
If you happen to visit in the evening, sit outside in the dark to enjoy the night sky and St. Mark's Basilica beautifully illuminated in front of you. In the evenings a live orchestra and singers will play, allowing you to lounge, relax, and enjoy the full beauty of the square. It can make for a magical evening, especially at night when daytime crowds have dissipated.
The experience of this cafe is so remarkable it was chosen as an example in the book The Experience Economy. You're not only paying for the product but the entire experience: the view, the service, the location, and a moment that will always be with you.
Now that you've had the opportunity to indulge at Caffè Florian, what are some of the other lovely Venice cafes worth your visit?
Gran Caffè Quadri
Another famous resident of St. Mark's Square, Gran Caffè Quadri dates back to May 28, 1775. Epic in the same tradition of grand Italian cafes, it also features the only restaurant available in the square. This cafe has also had its share of famous patrons. Lounge where Alexandre Dumas sat when visiting for a performance of The Lady of the Camellias, or sit where Marcel Proust rested in the sun to feel better in the presence of chronic illness. The cafe is also a favorite stop for celebrities in town to attend the Venice Film Festival. You just may see Robert De Niro or Angelina Jolie enjoying a quiet drink.
What else can you do in Venice once you've had your coffee? If it's evening, you may consider a drink at the city’s most famous watering holes.
Declared a national monument in 2001, Harry's Bar is built in an old warehouse near St. Mark’s Square. The bar opened in 1931. It is named after an American student who repaid a loan in very generous terms; there was enough additional money to open a bar. Harry’s has been a haven to writers and artists since day one. Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway and Peggy Guggenheim are just a handful of the great names that made Harry’s their home. The bar is the home of the Bellini and Carpaccio, but is also well-known for its dry martini.
A demitasse of history, in the Venetian style
In a country steeped in legend, it’s always an adventure to dive into the cultural and culinary history of a great city like Venice. To sit where some of the world’s great thinkers have lounged is a truly remarkable experience, well worth the cost of pricier-than-usual cup of espresso.