Vienna is one of my favorite cities. I spent a happy year living here far too many years ago, and I’ve returned countless times as a tourist.
To truly enjoy the city, a visitor shouldn’t rush, but should instead slow down and enjoy age-old Viennese traditions. Few of these traditions are as enjoyable as taking time to relax, warm up, people watch, and read in the venerable institution of the Viennese café.
Outside these lovely cafés, the hectic and distracting pace of 21st century life may go on as usual, but inside, be sure to pack away your laptops and hide your iphones in order to fully enjoy the splendors of 20th century Vienna.
The cafés are all well stocked with international newspapers. The coffee is served Viennese-style, on a platter, accompanied by a glass of water with an overturned spoon. Desserts are, of course, sinfully rich. Be sure to incorporate one (or many) visits to some of these cafés into your next visit to Vienna.
The grande dame of Viennese café culture, Demel was established in 1786.
The “K.u.K” proudly displayed on its portal and on its confectionary boxes, indicate that it was the official imperial bakery (Kaiser und Kaiserin). Emperess Sissi was said to have been extremely fond of the sweets produced by Demel.
Firmly wedded to tradition, Demel refused to remove the “K.u.K” even after the collapse of the Empire rendered it irrelevant and unpopular. Almost one hundred years after the Empire’s collapse, it still remains proudly on the door – as you can see in this photo – and a visitor to this lovely café may indeed feel he’s been transported back to 19th century Vienna.
The beautiful window displays change frequently. Even if you don’t manage to go inside to sit down, be sure to see what’s on display in this most famous of Viennese cafés. Demel is located on Kohlmarkt, just a few steps away from the Hofburg.
Café Schwarzenberg is on the Ringstrasse, midway between the Opera house and the Stadtpark. It was established in 1861 when the Ringstrasse was first built by tearing down Vienna’s defensive walls. Café Schwarzenberg is famous for having been occupied by the Russian army after liberating the city in 1945.
Today, the café upholds Viennese traditions and is a pleasant place to stop on your walk around the Ringstrasse. On warm days, there is outdoor seating on the adjoining sidewalk.
This is my favourite Vienna café. Opened in 1861, the Café Central is housed in the Palais Ferstel on Herrengasse. Over its long history, the Café Central has seen many famous – and infamous – patrons sipping coffee within its lovely vaulted spaces. Adolf Loos, Tito, Sigmund Freud, Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler and Leon Trotsky have all spent time here.
At a time when many Viennese flats were unheated, many young intellectuals and revolutionaries spent hours nursing their coffees – and staying warm – at the Café Central.
This was the case with Leon Trotsky, who became such a fixture at the Viennese coffee house that when the Russian Revolution began, the Viennese laughed it off, assured that “Herr Trotsky of the Café Central” could never succeed in such an endeavour.
Join the ranks of history and culture with a visit to these beautiful Viennese cafés on your next visit to the Austrian capital.
For more tips on what to do during a Vienna trip, see some of my earlier posts on Wienerschnitzl at Figlmüller, the Palmenhaus, plague art and the Lipizzaner horses.