Vienna’s kaffeehäuser, or coffee houses, have graced its
alleyways and grand avenues for centuries. Coffee is most definitely an excuse
to linger, over a paper and a slice of cake picked from Austria’s long list of
Best for food
Dark, bohemian and characterful, Kaffe Alt Wien, attracts a
young, art-school crowd with meaty Austrian staples (its legendary goulash is
best eaten with dark bread and beer). It also provides the lowdown on events in
the city: wall spaces are plastered with posters for upcoming shows,
exhibitions and concerts. (00 43 1 512 52 22; Bäckerstrasse 9; goulash from
Everybody wants to visit Café Sacher – the reason being its
celebrated Sacher-Torte, a rich chocolate cake with apricot jam, although its
other sweet offerings are worth trying too. It doesn’t quite have the
authenticity of a small, neighbourhood coffee house, but nonetheless it does
much to please with its opulent furnishings, battalion of waiters and an air of
nobility (Philharmonikerstrasse 4; slices of Sacher-Torte £3.80).
An elegant and regal café within sight of the Hofburg
Palace, Demel wins marks for
the sheer creativity of its sweets: its window displays are an ever-changing
array of edible art pieces, including ballerinas and even manicured bonsai.
Demel’s speciality is the Demeltorte, a chocolate and nougat concoction to
compare to Café Sacher’s torte. Demel is also well known for its own rival
‘Sachertorte’. (Kohlmarkt 14; slice of Demeltorte £3.30).
While not as venerable as the Stephansdom cathedral behind
it, Aida is still a timewarp: its
pink-and-brown colour scheme – waiters’ socks included – matches the
streamlined ’50s décor. Order a mélange (coffee with a head of whipped cream)
and a slice of cake, and head upstairs to spy on the shopping crowds on
Kärntner Strasse. (Singerstrasse 1; coffee from £1.60).
Café Rüdigerhof’s exterior is a glorious example of
Jugendstil (German for ‘youth style’) or Art Nouveau architecture with its name
in golden letters, while the furniture and fittings inside look little changed
since the Vienna of The Third Man. The atmosphere is homely, and the shaded
terrace huge. On Saturday mornings it fills up quickly with shoppers from the
Naschmarkt. (00 43 1 586 31 38; Hamburgerstrasse 20; coffee from £1.80).
With its gorgeous Jugendstil fittings, low-lit pool tables,
cosy booths and unhurried air, the vast, hall-like Café Sperl – founded in 1880 – looks as
much like a speakeasy from Prohibition-era America as a fine kaffeehaus. Grab a
strong coffee, a slice of Sperl torte and a newspaper, and join the rest of the
patrons in some people-watching and daydreaming. (Gumpendorferstrasse 11;
closed Sun in Jul & Aug; coffee from £2).
Best for music
Café Braunerhof is
an authentic coffee house of some standing among coffeehouse aficionados. It
remains little changed since the days when author Thomas Bernhard frequented
the premises, with its smoke-stained walls and tight tables. Classical music
features at the Bräunerhof from 3–6pm on weekends and holidays. (00 43 1 512 38
93; Stallburggasse 2; snacks from £2.40).
Café Diglas comes
straight from the classic coffee-house mould, with red-velvet booths, sharp-tongued
waiters, an extensive coffee range and old dames dressed to the nines. Meals
are light, but they extend beyond the normal specialities to include a variety
of Hungarian dishes. You can hear live piano music on Tuesdays, Wednesdays,
Fridays and Saturdays from 8–11pm. (Wollzeile 10; meals from £4).
Café Landtmann has
attracted politicians, theatregoers and a celebrity clientele since 1873, with
its elegant interior and close proximity to the Burgtheater, Rathaus (city
hall) and parliament. Plus, its list of coffee specialities is formidable, and
live piano music can be heard here on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays between
8–11pm. (Universitätsring 4; lunch menus £8.50).
Where to stay
Design reigns at the exceptional Belvedere Appartements, a fully
renovated altbau (traditional Viennese building) close to the gardens and
palaces of the Belvedere. High ceilings and huge windows make all the spaces
feel wide and expansive. (Fasangasse 18; from £50 excl breakfast).
The studio rooms at Appartements
Riemergasse are small, simple and come with kitchenettes, but the suites
are sizeable and equipped with full cooking facilities. (Riemergasse 8; from
Walking into Hotel Sacher
Wien is like turning back the clock 100 years. The reception is reminiscent
of an expensive fin-de-siècle bordello, and even the smallest rooms in the
hotel are surprisingly large. (Philharmonikerstrasse 4; from £400).
Vienna International airport, 11 miles southeast of the
city, is served by Austrian Airlines, British Airways
and easyJet from Heathrow and Gatwick
(Gatwick from £95; easyjet.com). Trains
from the airport to Wien Mitte station take 16 minutes (single tickets from
£8.70; cityairporttrain.com). The
city has one of Europe’s best-integrated public transport networks, and
flat-fare tickets are available on buses, trams, U-Bahn (underground) and
trains (24-hour tickets £5.30; wienerlinien.at).
The article 'Mini guide to Vienna’s coffee houses' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.