Alternative study paradises

Cramming with coffee

It’s the exam period, and the UB is immediately slammed in the morning. Even the neighbouring Public Library is chock full of cramming students. Unable to find a spot? No worries: here, in no particular order, are several UK-tested alternative study locations (that have good coffee).
By Anne Floor Lanting / Photos by Traci White / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

1. Toshka

Toshka is within walking distance from the UB and the PB. Upon entering the quiet café, we are greeted by the friendly staff. This immediately allows us to ask for the Wi-Fi password. The password is not written on the wall as is the case in most coffee shops nowadays, but they certainly have Wi-Fi. They also have cappuccinos, albeit slightly pricey (2.90 euros). It remains quiet all afternoon: only one other table is occupied. They do play music, however: generic R&B. During our three-and-a-half hour stay, we hear the same nondescript album three times. Luckily, the volume is not too bad, so it is not very distracting. The only distraction is the staff asking every once in a while if we want another drink.

Opening hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 12 to 10 p.m.

2. Spaak: koffie & koers

Another café just a stone’s throw away from the libraries, Spaak  is located on the Oude Boteringestraat. The business (which also sells bicycle accessories) is aimed at coffee lovers and bicycle fans, but it is a great place to study or work as well. The chalkboard menu on the wall displays the Wi-Fi password, but you can also ask owner Henrieke Wijnsma. She will also gladly serve you a cappuccino (2.75) or tea or a soda (2.50). Spaak, too, is relatively quiet: only a few regulars coming in to chat with Wijnsma (often about cycling or skating) disturb the peace every once in a while. If you sit in the back of the large store, this might bother you less. The cycling café plays quiet folk music (think Birdy or Ben Howard): proper background music that is not distracting. But it is difficult to ignore the comfortable looking couches in the store, which invite you to take a break from all that studying.

Opening hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Thursday, Spaak is open until 9 p.m.

3. MasMas

On the Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat is MasMas, a small coffee shop with a homey atmosphere. Inside, a young man is working on his laptop, so there must be Wi-Fi. Owner Lourens de Groot confirms this and hands us a napkin with the network and password written on it. He brings us a cappuccino not much later. It tastes great and is reasonably prices (2.50). The business has one long table that is great for working and studying. MasMas is quiet until approximately 1 p.m., after which a few other people come in and sit at the long table with their laptops. The music in the small space (Paolo Nutini, The Kooks, and Kings of Leon, among others) is played quite loudly. This does not create the ideal atmosphere in which to concentrate, and yet this is the only coffee shop we tested where several different people spent some time working or studying. Perhaps because this is the only spot where we can easily spend three hours with just one drink without anyone bothering us.

Opening hours: Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturday and Sundas, MasMas is open from 12 to 9 p.m.

4. Brownies en Downies

Unfortunately, Brownies en Downies on the Oosterstraat does not have Wi-Fi, but it is a quiet and spacious spot. This makes it a good place to study, as long as you do not need any Wi-Fi. If you do want to use your laptop, make sure the battery is full, because there are no outlets near the tables. Food and drinks are sold at a decent price, though: a cappuccino costs only 2.20 and a brownie or piece of apple pie is 2.75. The café does play music, but it is not too loud and therefore not distracting. The staff, mainly young people with a mental handicap or who are not easily employable, leave us alone to work after ordering.

Opening hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

5. Minute Bar

The Minute Bar is a bit further away from the libraries and the other places we tested, in the Steentilstraat. There is another thing that separates this business from the others: rather than charging for refreshments, the bar charges by the minute. Each minute costs 5 cents. There is no need to ask for the Wi-Fi password, because all the tables have a sign with the network and password. The Minute Bar aims for a very homey atmosphere. We can help ourselves to the cookies, cake, and fruit displayed under glass covers. The same goes for tea and lemonade. The coffee is made for us by the owner. Regulars are treated to a barista lesson, after which they are allowed to make their own cappuccino. Being charged per minutes makes us a bit nervous, but in the end, the bill is not too bad. After 70 minutes spent working in the café, having had tea, cappuccino, a slice of cake, a cookie, and some fruit, we have to pay 3.85. Spending an entire afternoon at the Minute Bar is less enticing for students: that costs 24 euros. It will probably take some time before the concept catches on: during our visit, there were no other customers.

Opening hours: Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Thursday, the Minute Bar is open until 9 p.m.



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