Portuguese Historic Cafés Association | Historic Cafés in the Iberian Peninsula

Vitor de Sá Marques

President, Portuguese Historic Cafés Association

Fernando Franjo Franjo

Journalist, Historian

Portuguese Historic Cafés Association

Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism Award 2020 / Transnational Thematic Tourism Products, Including Cultural Routes, 1st Prize


The Historic Cafés in the Iberian Peninsula




The Historic Cafes should be referenced when we address the issue of cultural tourism. In fact, their history, traditions, memories, legacy, commercial longevity, and material and immaterial heritage, crossed several stages of the history of each country, contributing to European cultural enrichment.

Based on the definition of Cultural Heritage as a factor of identity, diversity and uniqueness, we can say that its role is to promote cultural, social and economic development, creating opportunities regionally, nationally and internationally.

First, it is essential to define a Historic Café. We should understand that these establishments don´t live off nostalgia and a registered trademark but are a combination of culture, history and business viability to lead to a sustainable tourism for all types of consumers.

The Historic Café can be defined as the place of reunion that unfolds as a forum for social development and cultural exchange. It has allowed it to consolidate itself in time and across history. In addition to its daily cafetaria activity, most of them host and promote events that valuably contribute to the diversity of the cultural offer. The importance of Cafés has always been mentioned by many authors, from different areas of literature, such as Eça de Queiroz, George Steiner, Antonio Bonet Correa, Stefan Zweig, Claudio Magris, Gérard-Georges Lemaire, and many others…

The tourist phenomenon has made some of these establishments become points of attraction and local experience. But their heritage value allows us to go further and transmit a future benefit to society, citizenship and to each one of the local entities to which it is oriented. They allow the reinforcement of identity ties, the emotions of sharing and belonging of people, to these monuments. Together with other items considered as cultural heritage, Historic Cafés contribute decisively to the competitiveness and sustainability of tourism in the Iberian Peninsula.

Due to the fact that the Historic Cafés are open to the public, it means they continue to tell their stories, their experiences, their legacy..., and are true ambassadors in promoting and enhancing the cultural heritage of their cities.

The absence of study and consideration of the Café as a cultural heritage led the world of Historic Cafés to remain as a hidden heritage and, on many occasions, misunderstood, both by their managers and the main cultural institutions.

This is a joint communication between Portugal and Spain to promote and disseminate this heritage: make known the Historic Cafés of the Iberian Peninsula, share experiences and promote networking between people and institutions from the two Iberian countries.

This presentation aims to give them visibility to promote a set of actions that value their history and their contribution to the national cultural heritage. It continues the legacy left by the European Year of Cultural Heritage (Our heritage: where the past meets the future), showing that the actions, which were carried out in 2018, are still current.


Through the mentors of this presentation, Portugal and Spain have laid the foundation for the definition of Historic Cafés. In April 2018 and included in the programs of the Cultural Week of the University of Coimbra and of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the Portuguese Historic Cafés Association organized, in Coimbra, the international meeting The Historic Cafés as Cultural Heritage. In May 2018, in Santiago de Compostela, through Fernando Franjo, the 1st Jornadas Café, Cultural Heritage Through Time took place, and was also included in the program of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

There are very similar characteristics between the Historic Cafés of Portugal and Spain. Their influence on commercial dynamics, culture, tourism and gastronomy are evident when we analyse the history of several Cafés, located in different regions of these two countries.
We have the expectation that it will be a network, with sharing of experiences and knowledge, among all these entities / institutions to promote and disseminate this initiative. Certainly, Historic Cafés will have greater visibility as cultural destinations in the Iberian Peninsula and will complement the tourist offer of these two countries.

Historic Cafés, by integrating regional tourist circuits, can contribute to the development and territorial cohesion, but also to economic, social, cultural, tourist and gastronomic sustainability. At a time when we value proximity tourism and cross-border tourism, this may be the opportunity to achieve such an ambitious goal.

The search for destinations located within these two countries, both in cities as in low-density territories, may be important to promote them and leverage local economies, especially in demographically disadvantaged areas and make known the rich heritage that exists there. In these circumstances, cultural tourism is fundamental for the growth and development of the most peripheral regions not only of Portugal and Spain but also of the European Union.

Coinciding with the celebration of Ano Xacobeo 2021, and considering the high cultural value of the Camino de Santiago, the first European Cultural route of the Council of Europe (1987), one of the objectives is to establish a transnational Route from Portugal to Spain, part of a cross-border itinerary that follows the Portuguese route that finishes in Santiago de Compostela. There may even be a Route of Historic Cafes in Portugal and Spain that travels through the Camino de Santiago, making the experience even more enriching not only from a religious point of view, but also from a cultural and touristic point of view.

Café Majestic, Porto, Portugal


The 1st edition, a demonstration project, of the Cafés no Camino: A Pilgrimage, will happen in November connecting the cities of Coimbra and Santiago de Compostela, passing through Braga, Porto, Vigo and Pontevedra. The program will include 2 conferences (Coimbra and Santiago de Compostela) and different events in the other cities.

For all of them, during this pandemic crisis, in the case of the Iberian Peninsula, one of the main objectives of this presentation is the construction and consolidation of a Route of Historic Cafés that allows the creation of added value and the knowledge, or reinforcement, of a new tourism attraction that, for the most of the people, is unknown at this moment.

In addition, the creation and development of this route can help to support many of these Cafés, which are deeply suffering the impact of the current crisis originating from Covid-19. This is crucial to safeguard their continuity and sustainability, to promote a set of actions that value their history and their contribution to the national cultural heritage.

This Route of Historic Cafés on the Iberian Peninsula, a transnational route, is an opportunity to travel, to discover and know the history, the cultural heritage and social diversity, which is made known by each of the Historic Cafes located in the different regions of Portugal and Spain.

Our mission is to add value (add stories / contents / traditions) to what we receive from generations before us. We have to care for, disseminate and give visibility to the Historic Cafés, this heritage (material and immaterial), not letting it forget, projecting it into the future, enriching its life, our life and our existence.

The Historic Cafés are themselves a heritage. They are still alive, dynamic, creative, leaving a historical heritage and cultural legacy for the next generations.


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