Lately, I've been searching for the best work and study environment. While in college, I was far more productive working in a Starbucks than my dorm room.
Peopleware cites studies showing that quiet environments significantly boost productivity for knowledge work. Starbucks worked for me because it isolated me from friends and the internet (before ubiquitous wifi). But I could have probably done even better by working and thinking in the university library — quiet, open late, wonderful decore, with rows and rows of desks and outlets. Bliss.
But after college the university library is gone. Where else can you find a quiet environment, outside your home?
Public libraries work during the day, but rarely after 9pm.
Parks make wonderful places to read and think, but are less so for laptops (and even less so in wet climates).
And so cafes can still be the best option, with perks — coffee late hours, and the chance conversation with a stranger. Large cafes with space to get away from chatter are fantastic, but too rare.
Just remember to buy that large latte, offer free chairs to strangers, and take the hint when the staff asks if they can get you anything else — but something and don't overstay your welcome.