Today’s coffeehouse business is booming as more and more people seek a place to rest, work, eat or socialize in busy cities. Looking at how cafés were an essential part of Viennese life raises interesting questions about how we live and socialize in the modern city today. The Viennese café was a monument to the fruitful wasting of time: an idea that has much to offer today’s time-starved city-dwellers.
In Vienna there were cafés for everyone: artists, intellectuals, the respectable bourgeoisie and the not-so-respectable. People gathered in cafés to chat, eat, read, work, play, gamble and discuss. The café provided a place where the rigid social hierarchies of the day could be relaxed a little. The fluid character of this social space stimulated the minds whose intellectual and creative achievements made such a dramatic contribution to the development of European modernity at this time. Complete your trip to Vienna with a visit to a coffeehouse, sample one of the dozens of different specialty coffees and enjoy Viennese pastries and cakes.
More than 300 years later the Kaffeehaus has become an institution, without comparison in the world. The Viennese have developed a whole culture around coffee drinking and elevated it to an all encompassing attitude of life.
You feel at home in a Kaffeehaus as you step inside: 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 examples of Kaffeehaus are furnished with genuine showpieces - time-worn and darkened, they exude an indefinable atmosphere.
A cup of coffee is your entrance ticket
Take your seat in an era far removed from daily modern bustle. Your entrance ticket is a cup of coffee, just as it has been for generations. Once you have ordered, be it a kleiner schwarzer, kapuziner, einspänner or melange – and these are just some of the specialities – sit back, relax and do just what you like: read from the selection of complimentary newspapers or browse the book you brought with you.
Life happens here and 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. Around 1900 a group of authors went down in history as coffee house literati: they not only socialized in the Kaffeehaus but used it as their workplace. One of them, Peter Altenberg, wrote the address of his local Kaffeehaus on this visiting card and in return the Café Central has a monument to him. Before writers claimed the Kaffeehaus as their own, composers had also discovered its charms for themselves: 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. And of course the serving staff, almost always waiters are addressed as “Herr Ober“ and reward a prompt order with some banter and Viennese charm. Not to be forgotten the comfortable seating and of course the light snacks, sweet or savory, which make a prolonged stay in a Kaffeehaus 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, or the cake of the house at Café Alt-Wien. Café Korb, admired for its original 1950s fittings, serves the best Apfelstrudel in the city. On the other hand Café Hawelka which boasts Jugendstil decor almost overlooked in a room full patina-darkened wood – serves the coveted Buchteln mit Powidl a specialty bun with plum jam, hot from the oven.
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Coffee and cake in the afternoon is part of Viennese life.Find a Coffeehouse in Vienna