I love going out for coffee! To discover new cosy tea rooms and coffee shops with picturesque outdoor seating areas and home-baked cakes of various types is one of my favourite pastimes. So where do you find the perfect coffee shop? In the county of Västergötland is a town that actually markets itself as the Café Town. If there is such a thing as the perfect coffee shop, it ought to be found here – don’t you think?! I head for Alingsås to find out.
I arrive by train on a sunny afternoon in June. The outdoor seating areas are filled with happy people of all ages – families with children mix with youths, pensioners and tourists, snapping frenetically with their cameras. If there is one thing all Swedes love, it’s visiting a cafe.
I could simply wander around aimlessly in my search for the perfect café, but I decide to visit the Tourist Office first. If anyone knows where I should look, it must be the staff here.
– Oh, that’s great, you’re writing a blog entry about the Café Town! Well, in this place you have an almost endless choice of great places; there are 20-25 to choose from in the town centre alone. Wait a minute – I’ll give you a map and some brochures to take away.
Oh, 20-25 coffee shops to choose from, that’s quite a few… I stop a woman in the street and ask whether she has a favourite place that she can recommend.
– Absolutely, if you turn right up there, you’ll find Café Ringen, then there is Ekstedts, and Nygrens Café…
The woman comes up with suggestion after suggestion and I soon realise that this town has a wonderful café on every street corner. I walk along the street and turn right. As promised, I see a nice old sign with the words Café Ringen. I enter and am greeted by the old-fashioned sound of a bell. The interior is gorgeous and the cakes on offer make my mouth water. I ask whether there is an outdoor seating area and am told that, unfortunately there isn’t, but on days like this we really wish there was one. I say thank you and carry on.
I continue along the same street and peek into a courtyard. Inside is a lovely-looking outdoor seating area that I simply have to explore. Let me see, wasn’t Ekstedts one of the ones the woman recommended? This café also serves lots of delicious bakery items, but I still decide to continue on to Nygrens Café, which I have heard is included in the White Guide 2014.
Along the way, I pass picturesque little shops and lovely old wooden houses. I could walk around this lovely little place for hours. Fairly soon I spot an attractive sign telling me I have arrived at Nygrens Café. I decide that my coffee shop tour is completed. I simply have to have my coffee here!
Daim bar gateau, almond cakes, biscuits… I dither for a long time before finally asking whether they have a speciality at all. Not really, says the girl behind the counter. Unless you count the fact that we bake everything from scratch. But the prawn sandwiches are popular, then again, so are the cakes and…. The queue behind me is getting long, so I settle for a mint chocolate cake with pears and cream, accompanied by a cup of coffee. I find a table in the outdoor seating area, from where I enjoy the pleasant surroundings and my delicious snack. I decide to take a closer look at the brochures I was given at the Tourist Office, and find out that the café culture in Alingsås dates as far back as to the mid-18th century. This was when a local man, Jonas Alströmer, started his textile factory. He employed the town’s women, which meant that they no longer had time to bake their own bread. This was the starting point for Alingsås unique café culture. Today, there are around 25 coffee shops.
Interesting, I think, wishing that cakes and sandwiches were less filling. Otherwise I would have visited them all. A bit like a pub crawl – one small cake in each, before you move on to the next. That would have suited me down to a tee. Perhaps I should ask the Tourist Office if this is something they would be prepared to introduce!
Alingsås has around 30 coffee shops. Old-fashioned breakfast cafés and modern espresso bars side by side. Three of Alingsås’ cafés are included in the White guide.
Most of the coffee shops are open all year round, but if you want to enjoy the lovely courtyards with their pleasant outdoor seating areas, I recommend a visit in the spring or summer.
For further information, please contact Alingsås Tourist Office:
Tel: +46 (0)322-61 62 00
Text Jennie Lund from the West Sweden Tourist Board