Why You Should Always Visit a Local Coffee Shop When You Travel

Coffee and croissant French breakfast Paris

It's no surprise to my friends and family that I often take the lead when it comes to planning trips. (For the record, I was like this before I started working for a travel magazine). I've been known to save restaurants, bars, museums, and other attractions on Yelp, Instagram, and Google Maps, virtually mapping out everything my research has told me I can't leave a destination without visiting. And one spot I make sure to never miss, whether I'm visiting a European city for the first time or my younger brother in his college town, is a coffee shop. 

Whether you're a coffee drinker or not, there are plenty of ways visiting a local coffee shop can enhance your trip, help you discover your neighborhood upon moving to a new place, or even allow you get to know your hometown in an entirely new light. Keep reading for more on why a local coffee shop is a can't-miss destination on any trip.

It’s a great way to start a day of sightseeing.

Sure, you can buy coffee anywhere if you're in need of a caffeine fix while traveling, be it an airport Starbucks or a roadside McDonald's. There's a time and a place for those pit stops. But what I'm talking about is a deliberate trip to a neighborhood coffee shop where the locals like to get their morning brew. There's just no better way to get a sense of how a city or town starts its day, especially when you have a busy day of visiting museums and historical landmarks ahead of you. 

You’ll get a local feel for the destination (and you might just learn something).

Coffee and bread on plates and note held in the air

On a trip to Paris in the summer of 2019 with family, we stopped into Télescope Café in the 1st arrondissement, right outside the Jardin du Palais-Royal. I did my best with my three years of college French, and eventually got to talking with the café's owner. By that point, we'd switched to English, and he began naming restaurants and bars we should check out during our remaining time in Paris. I started to take notes on my phone, as any Millennial-Gen Z hybrid would do, but he stopped me, grabbed a pen and notepad, and wrote down four spots in Paris we needed to try. It was like we had our own personal city guide, from a Parisian himself. Unfortunately, it ended up getting lost in translation that our flight back to the States was departing early the next morning, but seeing as Paris is one of the first places I'd love to visit again post-pandemic, it's nice knowing that I have a local-approved itinerary waiting for me.

You might discover a neighborhood you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Interior of coffee shop and three coffees in ceramic mugs

On one of my last trips before the pandemic, I visited Portland, OR, with two college friends. In an attempt to feel like locals and imagine what it might be like to live in another city (as I assume all 20-somethings do from time to time), we ventured out to the Belmont and Sunnyside neighborhoods early one morning, across the Willamette River from our Airbnb, and found ourselves at Never Coffee. We watched locals come in for their daily dose of caffeine to go as we sat outside with our beautiful mugs, taking in the morning sun in a way that you just appreciate more when you're on vacation. And after enjoying our coffee, we had an exciting neighborhood to explore that wasn't part of our original itinerary.

A coffee shop is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs. 

White coffee mug and red/orange bag of coffee beans

When you're traveling, chances are, you have at least one person at home hoping you might bring them back a treat or token from your trip. For the coffee lover in your life, there's no better souvenir than beans from a local roaster. And if you'd like to treat yourself, a tote or mug from your favorite coffee shop will always remind you of your time in that destination.

Madeline Diamond is a Brooklyn-based e-commerce editor at Travel + Leisure, and she's constantly fighting the impulse to overpack for her next trip. You can follow her on Twitter @madgdiamond and Instagram @madelinediamond.

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