There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. But almost more important than the actual latte, cappuccino or drip is where you are when you’re drinking it. The charming Viennese coffeehouse culture places the city’s cafés on the must-see list while you’re on a weekend break in Vienna. For a different perspective on Austria’s capital — plus some much needed caffeine for those fighting jet lag — you should consider touring them.
Back in time
Though there were a couple coffeehouses scattered across Europe already, the first coffeehouse in Vienna opened its doors in the late 1600s. Battle of Vienna hero Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, or Georg Franz Kolschitzky as he’s often referred to in German, reportedly started the very first Viennese coffee house in 1683, with coffee beans left by the opposition.
Coffeehouses grew in popularity and became a place for friends to meet up, intellectuals to browse the papers and writers and poets to compose. The late 19th and early 20th centuries in particular saw a rise in prominent writers choosing to work within the quaint atmosphere of Viennese cafés, with their work now known as ‘coffee house literature.’
Viennese coffeehouses became a home away from home with some — including Austrian writer and poet Peter Altenberg — even having their mail delivered there.
Coffee culture, or cultural coffee?
The Viennese coffeehouse culture today sees many of the same traditions carried out. Marble tabletops and strong coffee greet you. You’re more than welcome to sit and read, write, or play cards and there’ll never be anyone rushing you out the door. Customers are often treated to live piano music in the evening hours, giving you all the more reason to sit and make yourself comfortable.
The servers are kind; they’ll refill your glass of water but otherwise leave you alone. Grab a few postcards or a journal to write in when you’re in town — who knows, you may be the next famous face to compose their work there!
The cafés to be
As far as where to go, there are more than a few charming, traditional Viennese cafés to choose from. Café Central, which opened its doors in 1876, is steeped in tradition. Located in Vienna’s Old Town, this café became an intellectual hub for people including Leon Trotsky, Sigmund Freud and Adolf Hitler.
Café Landtmann’s location, on the bottom floor of the neo-baroque Palais Lieben-Auspitz, makes it another coffeehouse worth seeing. Near the University, Town Hall and spectacular Burgtheater, this café is where it’s at!
Finally, Café Prückel shows off a slightly different vibe. Its 1950s design will allow you to travel back in time, to a place where a strong cup of coffee and slice of apple strudel is all that matters. An added bonus? Live piano music several nights a week.
Are you looking to see a different side of vibrant Vienna? Then why not grab a simple cup of coffee.
Image by indigotimbre, used under Creative Commons licence.
Shirley Beale is a foodie and traveller. She loves cultural experiences and tries to visit a many as she can of the world’s museums.