Why Are Viennese Coffeehouses So Special?
Since they started in 1685, Viennese coffeehouses were more than a place where to have coffee: Two years after the Turks finally gave up on besieging the capital they left some coffee beans. Following this, a mysterious man called Deodato opened the first coffeehouse in Vienna. The Armenian spy used to brew coffee for the Habsburgs’ Imperial Court.
In fact, the main reason coffee became so popular in Vienna was because it was mixed with milk and sugar. Until the mid 19th century, only men had the right to attend a coffeehouse.
A UNESCO Immaterial Cultural Heritage
Since 2011, the Viennese coffeehouses joined the UNESCO’s Immaterial Cultural Heritage. What makes them special are their marble tables, Thonet bentwood chairs, cosy boxes, newspaper holders and some historistic interiors. But most of all because going to Wiener Kaffeehaus is a widely spread social practice.
Some 100 years ago, many resident artists, writers, architects and other intellectuals worked in coffee houses, read news papers extensively, took private telephone calls or had their private mail sent there. All that often for the price of an Einspänner or a Melange which they sipped for hours. This photo of neighbourhood café Jelinek gives you a good idea.
Among the most famous coffeehouse regulars were Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, Adolf Loos, Arthur Schnitzler, and Stefan Zweig. For example, Austro-Jewish writer Friedrich Torberg describes the coffeehouse microcosm of early 20th century Vienna brilliantly and very funnily in his classic Tante Jolesch or the Decline of the West in Anecdotes.
After the Second World War the local café scene nearly collapsed. Not least because their main regular customers, Jewish intellectuals and artists, had gone. In the 1950s, long before Starbucks, the arrival of trendy espresso bars seriously threatened the traditional coffeehouses. The Sixties and Seventies saw a revival of local coffee houses. Once again, Austrian writers and artists spearheaded the movement. And as before, they were not after glamour but comfy quiet space for discussion. Just visit Café HawelkaorCafé Altwienand you will understand.
Best Vienna Coffeehouses By Atmosphere
Because they are social places, the best cafés in Vienna have their individual personality. Why not find a coffeehouse that matches your preference? In this Kaffeehaus guide you won’t just find descriptions, offers and addresses but each coffee house’s original atmosphere and which personalities it attracts best. Having said that, take the profiles as a guideline, and see how you feel on the day.
Best Vienna Coffeehouses. Clearly the Landtmann represents Vienna’s picture book Ringstrassencafé. No other café in Vienna boasts that mix of plush upholstery, starched white table cloths, fine wood panels and exquisite coffee and cake specialities. Dating back to 1873, Café Landtmann has a long history. Over the years, it has hosted notable figures such as Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, and other intellectuals, making it a significant part of Vienna’s cultural and intellectual heritage.
While today the Landtmann is popular with top local officials, business people and for press conferences it does attract a fair amount of travellers, too. In the summer the outdoor seating with views of Ringstrasse and Burgtheater are priceless. By all means, try one of their cakes, and Eiskaffee during the warmer months.
Location:Universitätsstrasse 4, A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:daily, 10am to to midnight
2. Café Frauenhuber – Best For Daydreaming
Best Vienna Coffeehouses. Different from well-groomed Landtmann, Vienna’s oldest coffeehouse exudes a charming and nostalgic atmosphere. Specifically, Frauenhuber’s red velvet benches and lace curtains together with Persian carpets and that Biedermeier display cabinet beam me back to my late Viennese grandparents. Since it opened its doors in 1824 the café has been a prominent cultural and intellectual hub, attracting artists, musicians, and thinkers over the years.
Although Mozart and Beethoven don’t entertain here any more Frauenhuber manages to compensate, if only with great atmosphere, Frankfurter sausage and Semmerl, or simply a Melange with cream. On top, the café’s central location make it an easy stopover during your Vienna sightseeing.
Location:Himmelpfortgasse 6, A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:Mon to Sat 8.00 am to midnight; Sun and public holidays: 10.00 am to 10.00 pm
Best Vienna Coffeehouses. Even if Sperl has moved on from being a well kept secret, the popular neighbourhood cafe in Mariahilf is hard to beat on atmosphere: From cosy window niches, wood panels and velvet benches to an old piano and a billard table it ticks all the boxes.
Every Sunday afternoon between 3.30 pm and 5.30 pm, Herr Kriener entertains guests with operetta tunes, in honour of late operetta composer and coffeehouse regular Emmerich Kalman. This is also a good place for diving into international newspapers. While staff is generally friendly ask for the bill right when you get served, if you are short on time.
Location:Gumpendorferstrasse 11, A-1060 Vienna
Opening hours:Mon to Sat 7am to 11pm;
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Best Vienna Coffeehouses. Since Café Museum re-installed its original 1930’s design its popularity has rocketed: I love the semi-circled boxes, red velvet upholstery and large retro-style mirrored globes hanging from the ceiling. However, even its original minimalist interieur by Adolf Loos attracted an audience in Fin-de-Siecle Vienna: especially artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner, and Elias Canetti.
Altogether the area is quite spacious and the Museum has a quiet separate room in the back for business and other talks. First thing to watch out for as you enter: the enormous vitrine populated with the most amazing cake and sweet selection. Located on Karlsplatz, the Museum is a good starting point for myArt Nouveau walk.
Location:Operngasse 7 / Karlsplatz
Opening hours:daily, 8am to midnight
5. Café Ansari – Best For New Generation
Best Vienna Coffeehouses. Because of its contemporary style this café is not an obvious one when you visit Vienna.Having directly evolved from traditional coffeehouses, it’s definitely interesting for nostalgic fans, too. I love those large globe lamps in the windows, the dark wooden coffeehouse chairs and the tiled floor in the back rooms. In line with many modern cafés, the tables have become larger in size.
In the warm months sit under the shady trees and inhale that laid back Leopoldstadt flair. As inspired as the café is Ansari’s food and drink.
Location:Praterstrasse 25, 1020 Vienna
Opening hours:Monday to Saturday 8.00 am to 11.00 pm; Sunday 9.00 am to 3.00 pm
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.Probably the most legendary bohemian spot in Wien, Hawelka is a Viennese institution. While literature fans recall Friedrich Torberg’s hang for Hawelka, middle aged Viennese rave about late Mrs. Hawelka’s Buchteln(yeast buns filled with plum jam) and hum the ‘Hawelka’ song of the 1970s.
Despite a fair share of travelers among the guests Hawelka has managed to guard its authentic charm. Expect original woodenThonetchairs, vintage posters and a creaking parquet. Rather unusually for Vienna coffeehouses, I have only experienced extremely friendly waiters and great service there. In addition, Hawelka is just five minutes from Vienna attraction Stephansdomand a great place to rest during yourOld Vienna walk.
Location:Dorotheergasse 6, A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:Mon to Sat 8am to 2am; Sun and public holidays 10am to 2am; (you are more likely to get a table during the week before lunch or in the evenings)
Best Vienna Coffeehouses. Its marble columns, vaulted and painted ceilings, and large paintings of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Sisi make Café Central one of the most elegant Vienna coffeehouses. In the early 20th century, this Wiener Kaffeehaus had been a legendary meeting point for Austrian artists and writers such as Oskar Kokoschka, Adolf Loos and Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Yes, there are usually loads of tourists. Having said that, I regularly used this most sumptuous café in Vienna for jours fixes in my student days! Although the home made cakes and Austrian savoury meals are excellent, the waiters are not always the friendliest. Each day from 5.00 pm you can listen to live piano music. Another good place to rest towards the end of your Old Vienna walk.
Location:corner Herrengasse/Strauchgasse , A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:Monday to Saturday 7.30am to 10 pm; Sunday and public holidays: 10am to 10pm
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.A bohemian institution, Drechsler gained a reputation among the demimonde of Vienna’sNaschmarkt. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Drechsler used to cross the street with a big tray of coffee mugs at 4.00 am, to serve his booth owners setting up shop. Now the café has turned into a trendy spot for urbanists. Do peak into its former infamous ‘private room’ (photo) in the back, which hasn’t changed since the 1950s.
Essentially, Drechsler is a great stop if you visit theNaschmarktor do theArt Nouveau walk. Lunch is a great mix of Viennese and Berlin food: Go for the baked Styrian corn-fed chicken and Kaiserschmarren (fluffy shredded pancakes) with plum compote.
Location:Linke Wienzeile 22, A-1060 Vienna
Opening hours:Sunday to Thursday 8am to midnight; Friday and Saturday: 8.00 am to 2.00 am;
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.If you visit Diglas you will also cover one of Vienna’s best patisseries. Frankly I’m dreading the time I arrive and Diglas has run out of its fabulous red currant cake topped with crispy baked egg white. Equally noteworthy is Diglas’ fully fledged Austrian lunch and dinner menu. Coupled with live piano music on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, dining at Diglas turns into an amazing experience of Viennese coffeehouse culture beyond coffee.
Different from its traditional look and feel, Diglas has made headlines with its transparent toilet doors. In fact, they turn opaque as soon as you lock yourself in.
Location:Wollzeile 10, A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:daily, 8am to 10.30pm
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.As a matter of fact, Kleines Café thrives on its biggest disadvantage. Like its names suggests, it is small though that is literally a tiny reason for you to sit outside. This Wiener Kaffeehaus is blessed to be located in Vienna’s most picturesque city center square Franziskanerplatz, just five minutes walk from Stephansdom.
Expect an almost Mediterranean atmosphere made up by a cobble-stoned square, an ancient church, an old fountain and a few traditional shops and restaurants. Quiet observers will love the setting as the indoor space is even smaller, and the outdoor space is ideal for people-watching.
On top, this charming café in Vienna is also a good place to trial Austrian sourdough bread with different bread spreads and toppings. I use to have a simple slice of dark bread with butter and chopped chives when hanging out there.
Location:Franziskanerplatz 3, A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:daily, 10am to 2am
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.Despite its clean look you feel the years of this early 20th-century Wiener Kaffeehaus legend alongRingstrasse, but in a nice way. Especially the scuffed armrests of the 1950’s wooden chairs, faded upholstery, and the well treaded linoleum floor create the atmosphere of a long-loved social meeting point.
While the 1950’s area of Café Prückel with its signature Oswald Haerdtl chandelier is for smokers, the Art Nouveau-style part with gold plated stucco ceilings and comfortable rattan chairs is non-smoking.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 7.00 pm and 10.00 pm you can enjoy live piano music. On top, you can buy our famous Kaffeehaus newspaper holders there.
Location:Stubenring 24/Lueger Platz (opposite theMuseum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art) A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:daiily from 8.30 am to 10pm, except 24th, 25th and 26th December
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.Unlike most cafes in the area the Heuer stands for Vienna’s new generation of coffeehouses. Consequently, the contemporary interiors mix traditional Thonet coffeehouse chairs with elegant leather and a clean look. As a result the Heuer is mostly frequented by young to mid-aged urban professionals, and students.
In the summer, its vast outdoor terrace turns into a delightful oasis of bliss in the midst of busy Karlsplatz square. If you love home made products, including lemonade and ice tea there is nothing to stop you from exploring this place at the cross roads of so many local attractions.
Location:Treitlstrasse 2, A-1010 Vienna
Opening hours:daily, 10.00 am to 2.00 am (kitchen open 10.00 am to midnight)
Runners Up To ‘Best Vienna Coffeehouses’
Best Vienna Coffeehouses.Given such a vast pool of local coffeehouses, there are more amazing places that I still discover in Vienna. As of recently, my best finds include Vienna cafés Eiles and Florianihof in Josefstadt.
Not up for coffee before dinner? Visit some of the Best Bars in Vienna
How to connect coffeehouses with sightseeing, attractions and restaurants – find out more in Vienna Travel Planning
Should you tip in a coffeehouse? Find out in Tipping in Austria
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