In Vienna, the cafe is an institution. Some have even claimed that it is the origin of ‘cafe culture’ but this is obviously debatable. There is certainly no denying that it is the place for the Viennese to meet and relax with friends. It is the local equivalent of the British pub. Many of the cafes in Vienna possess an impressive history and equally impressive clientele of writers, thinkers, and intellectuals. The ‘traditional’ cafe is large, usually with high ceilings and smartly dressed (and often brusque) waiters. Whilst in Vienna, they are an essential place to visit. Here are a few suggestions.
A very nice, if fairly upmarket, place to have a coffee or strudel. There is a pleasant outdoor seating area that faces the beautiful Burgtheatre / National theatre. Great for people watching and if it gets a bit chilly, the waiter will bring you a fleece blanket. Inside is very plush with a long lavishly lit dining and coffee area. Apparently it used to be frequented by Sigmund Freud, who rarely made bad decisions. Worth a look, especially in warm weather, owing to the view outside
- Bezirk, Mariahilferstraße 73 (at the corner of Amerlingstraße)
A very relaxed and traditional cafe with high ceilings and cosy padded booths. The cafe is split in two, with a smoking section on the right through some glass doors. It also has free wireless and fantastic coffee, so is well worth a visit if you need some fortification after shopping on busy Mariahilfer strasse. It tends to be full of people spending their day drinking coffee and reading newspapers. While better food can be found elsewhere, it is passable and is certainly an option for a lunchtime shopping break.
High vaulted ceilings and constant reminders of the antiquity abound. Cafe Central has been around for 150 years, although it has gone through various incarnations and has been shut for long periods. Although architecturally impressive, it somehow maintains a fairly relaxed atmosphere. While it is definitely one of the main stops on the tourist trail, the vast majority of the clientele appear to be locals enjoying an expresso and a cake. It frequently fills up so if you are planning to visit in the evening or at the weekend, it is highly advisable to book ahead. It used to be popular with writers and judging by several laptops in appearance, coupled with free wireless Internet, this looks set to continue.
Gumpendorfer Straße 11-13
1060 Wien, Austria
Like the Cafe Ritter, the Cafe Sperl feels more welcoming and down to earth than the others. While it is quite well known, it really feels like a place for locals. In addition to coffees and beers, there is a wide selection of cakes and foods at fairly reasonable prices when compared to some of the more centrally located options. There are also a couple of pool tables, but these would only be of interest if you know the rules of billiards. This is a nice place to stop after a day munching your way down the Naschmarkt.
There are many traditional cafes dotted all over Vienna. The above four are fairly typical examples that are in areas you are likely to visit as a tourist. Try the local coffee called a melange – a strong milky coffee usually served with a glass of water. Add a delicious cake or pastry and you will be ready to take in more sights in no time. Just don’t be put off if the service is a bit slow – taking cafe life at a slow pace is also part of the experience!