More than 300 years later the Kaffeehaus has become a unique institution. The Viennese have developed a whole culture around coffee drinking and elevated it to an all encompassing attitude of life.
You immediately feel at home in a Kaffeehaus: the setting is spacious yet intimate, there is plush seating around marble tables, the scrape of traditional Thonet wooden chairs on parquet floors and mirrors reflecting mildly steamy light. Some Kaffeehäuser are furnished with genuine showpieces - time-worn and darkened, they exude an indefinable atmosphere.
A cup of coffee is your entrance ticket
You take your seat in a place far from daily modern bustle - your entrance ticket is simply a cup of coffee. Once you have ordered, be it a kleiner schwarzer, kapuziner, einspänner or melange – and these are just some of the specialities – you can sit back, relax and do whatever you like: read from a selection of complimentary newspapers, surf the internet with free wi-fi, play cards or pool, discuss religion and world affairs, or talk business.
All life happens here, everyone plays their part. The Viennese Kaffeehaus is an extended living room. It is ideal for people who need company to be alone, it is both a stage and a private space. People sense that they are following in a great tradition of leisure and creativity and love it because it is always reinventing itself. Around 1900 a group of authors went down in history as coffee house literati: they not only socialised in the Kaffeehaus but also used it as their workplace. One of them, Peter Altenberg, even wrote the address of his local Kaffeehaus on his visiting card. Before writers claimed the Kaffeehaus as their own, composers had also discovered its charms: Johann Strauß, father and son, introduced new works here; even Mozart and Beethoven performed in a Kaffeehaus.
Indulgence on the menu
A particular joy of the Viennese Kaffeehaus lies in its service: the opening times alone, from early morning until midnight, are impressive. The serving staff, mostly waiters who are addressed as “Herr Ober“, reward a prompt order with some banter and Viennese charm. The comfortable seating and also the light snacks, sweet or savoury, make a prolonged stay in a Kaffeehaus so very pleasant and satisfying.
Cakes and pastries are of course a special attraction of every Kaffeehaus. They are almost always home-made, often to carefully guarded house recipes. The „Sperl-Schnitte“ at Café Sperl is just one such delicacy, as is the cake of the house at Café Alt-Wien. Café Korb, admired for its original 1950s fittings, serves the best Apfelstrudel in the city. Café Hawelka, on the other side, the best coveted Buchteln mit Powidl, a speciality bun with plum jam.
For whatever reason the Viennese go to a Kaffeehaus – to relax, chat, snack, read, play, do business, see and be seen, they always get something out of it: the Kaffeehaus is an elixir of life – the longer you stay, the better it works.
A SELECTION OF VIENNESE COFFEE HOUSE CLASSICS
Kärntner Ring 17
Café Central im Palais Ferstel
K.u.K. Hofzuckerbäcker Demel