Coffee. The word conjures the smell of mornings as a child when my father made his first pot of many on any given day…the graceful swirl of milk and coffee in its iced form served in a transparent glass in Japan, where I first learned to appreciate the caffeinated beverage…a liquid boost with which I now greet each morning. Since my days at university in Evanston, Illinois, when the Unicorn Cafe opened on Sherman Avenue and started a much-needed café culture for students, I have sought interesting and quirky cafes in each city I have lived. New York City did not disappoint, nor did Chicago. Quito, Ecuador had a handful of surprisingly nice spots where I could get my fix and London, of course, provided a plethora of options. But these are all large cities where establishments cater to residents as well as tourists. So it was with surprise that I found a thriving café culture in the center of Aalborg, despite the city’s relatively small population. Danes appreciate their coffee and if the café is hyggelig, so much the better!
I’d like to make a disclaimer up front: it is not my intention to endorse any one café or rate the coffee it serves for three main reasons: first, I have not actually been to all of the cafés that appear below. Second, I do not wish to make any commercial endorsements on this blog. Third, taste is obviously subjective. While one person might love the taste of Starbucks coffee, another may detest it. So, in short, I see this is as a place to provide information that readers can use to make their own choices. With that out of the way….
Aalborg’s cafés include both chains and local establishments. There are three main chains: Baresso, Joe & the Juice, and Starbucks. Baresso has three locations in Aalborg – two in the center and one at Aalborg Storcenter in Skalborg, while Joe & the Juice has two locations in central Aalborg. Starbucks…well I guess it doesn’t need much of an introduction. It didn’t exist here when we arrived 16 months ago and I wondered how long it would take Aalborg to get its own. The answer was not long – Starbucks opened in Salling (a large department store) in October 2013 and at Bilka Storcenter in 2014. Baresso is like a Danish Starbucks in terms of atmosphere and the food and drink it offers. It’s comfortable and a nice place to meet a friend. Joe & the Juice, on the other hand, focuses on coffee as well as freshly-made juices and sandwiches; the atmosphere is hip and cool and my sense (not based on any scientific research) is that it attracts a younger crowd. Starbucks Aalborg has adapted a pleasing Scandinavian design to its Salling café. Given all the options that exist in central Aalborg, it surprises me how crowded Starbucks is each time I go by but I suppose being located in a huge store doesn’t hurt…
Local establishments include Behag din smag, Café Peace, Café Spiret, Kaffe Fair, Kochs Kaffebar, Penny Lane and Abbey Road (sister cafés), Good Life Society, Aurum 79, and Café Ministeriet. Behag din smag and Kochs Kaffebar are truly coffee specialists – the owners know their tea and coffee (and sell it in bean and ground, as well as prepared, form). Behag din smag is cozy yet hip, and warm; I like to go there to work because they do not have Wifi, which forces me to focus on the task at hand. The café has won several awards in national barrista competitions. The café’s Gabels Torv location also has comfortable outdoor seating during the warm months in Aalborg. Kochs Kaffebar is small but hyggelig and its hours are very convenient, especially for shoppers walking along the pedestrian zone. Both coffeeshops sell items such as coffee machines, teapots, and the like. Penny Lane and Abbey Road are stylish, home-like yet eclectic cafés that serve both coffee and good pastries. They also sell myriad specialty food items, including imports such as olives from Crete and organic cheeses from other parts of Denmark. Café Ministeriet, near the Aalborg Kommune administration center, is a café/bar/restaurant rolled into one. In the summer its patio is a lovely place to share a leisurely meal with a friend. Café Peace is well located on Boulevarden and its outdoor tables and chairs look like they belong in Paris. The establishment specialises in breakfasts during the morning and in tapas and wine during the evening. Good Life Society and Aurum 79 are newcomers to the city. Good Life Society is a nice choice if you want to sit for a while and read or chat with a friend. Their pastries are delicious. I have not yet been to Aurum 79, but it appears to be an Italian-inspired establishment and sells cheeses, olive oils and other goods in addition to operating as a cafe.
So whether you are looking for a place to meet friends, write a new blog post (!), enjoy a good cup of coffee, or get a bite to eat, Aalborg center has a place for you. If you know of any others I could include on the list, please contact me. I’ll be happy to add it to the list!