The Viennese coffee house, the Kaffeehaus, has played a crucial role in shaping Viennese culture, and so it is little wonder that it is considered to be an “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by the UNESCO. The description of a Viennese coffee house in the bill proclaims it a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill”. And we couldn’t agree more.
Just as is befitting for a traditional institution like the Kaffeehaus, its history is shrouded in myth. Legend has it, that a number of sacks filled with coffee beans were found by the Polish-Habsburg army as they liberated Vienna from the second Turkish siege in 1683. First thought to be camel feed, the sacks were considered worthless and -for some reason- granted to an officer by the Polish king himself.
Said officer either opened the first coffee house in Vienna and started the Viennese coffee culture by adding milk and sugar to his brew quite out of the blue, or had actually been imprisoned by the Ottoman forces and therefore recognised the value of the sacks and tricked the King into giving them to him before opening his café, depending on which legend you choose to believe in.
Another theory, one more grounded in actual research than legend, has the first coffee house not opened by by the polish officer, but rather by an Armenian businessman in 1685. Roughly 15 years later, for Greek-owned coffee houses appeared to have been providing the Viennese population with their (soon) most favourite brew.
No matter which story you chose to give credit to, fact is, that the Viennese took to coffee like ducks to water. The brews popularity rose steeply and new coffee houses sprang up throughout the city.
Where the many different types of coffee didn’t even have names and customers had to choose their preferred brew via a colour-chart at first, things changed rapidly and an elaborate system of different types of coffee, a wealth of possible ingredients, as well as elaborate methods of preparation became the norm. Coffee houses soon became the place to be, and saw their hayday at the turn of the 19th century when famous authors wrote their best known pieces of literature sitting at one of their tables, when famous artists, scientists, and politicians held court in their smoky grandeur, and when the big ideas and thoughts of those times were discussed over a cup of perfectly brewed Einspänner and a piece of freshly-baked cake.
To this day, the Kaffeehaus is a well-beloved Viennese institution, and a place where tourists and locals mix and mingle, brought together by their shared appreciation of the special atmosphere you can only find an a Viennese coffee house.
Viennese coffee houses are more than just a café, they are more than just a place to meet with friends for a cup of coffee or other treats. Kaffeehäuser are a way of living, are a home away from home, and are a place to sit in easy contemplation and let the day pass by. Lingering over a cup of coffee and a glass of tap water (a traditional addition served with every coffee ordered), reading the provided newspapers, working, or just watching people as you think is not just encouraged, it is expected. The Viennese coffee house isn’t a place of hurry, it’s a place where time slows down to nearly a stand-still, and where you come to sit and stay for a while – whether it’s in the company of friends or on your own.
Everyone, whether they are new to the city or just a passing guest, is well advised to go and spend at least some afternoons in the unique ambience of the Viennese coffee house – sitting there, soaking it all in, is the best way of learning a lot about what it means to be from Vienna. And about what makes the Viennese who and how they are.
A List of Vienna’s Most Notable Coffee Houses
The following section provides an overview of the most notable and famous of Vienna’s coffee houses (It is by no means comprehensive and there is a whole world of other, lesser known but in no way less notable Kaffeehäuser to be found within the city – don’t be afraid of trying others out as well!):
The café located in the erstwhile premises of the former Vienna Stock Exchange in the Palais Ferstel first opened its doors in 1876.
It has been home to some of Vienna’s most famous and most notable characters (think: Leo Trotzky, Sigmund Freud, Stefan Zweig and Arthur Schnitzler) and to this day tempts locals and visitors alike with a wide selection of classic Viennese dishes, traditional coffee specialities, and sweet treats from the in-house patisserie.
The Café Central has an impressive, historic interior and is well worth a visit, even if it gets a bit crowded and touristy at times.
Where: corner of Herrengasse and Strauchgasse, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 7:30 am – 10 pm; Sun & holidays: 10 am – 10 pm; Dec. 24: closed; Dec. 31: 7:30 am – midnight
Web: Café Central
Café de l’Europe
The Italian-style café was the first Espresso-bar in Vienna when it opened in 1951. It remains an important meeting-place and sought after Kaffeehaus to this day, but cannot be counted among the most traditional of Viennese coffee houses due to its rather modern look.
What is traditionally Viennese, however, is the extensive selection of pastries on offer, as well as the incredible house-made coffee mix that gives every cup served there a charismatic, unique aroma.
Both the café on the ground floor, as well as the superb restaurant upstairs invite guests to stay, relax and enjoy, and offer great views of the Graben.
Where: Am Graben 31, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 7 am – midnight; Sun & holidays: 8 am – midnight
Web: Café de l’Europe
First established as a chocolate and sweets shop right across the Royal & Imperial Hofburgtheater in 1786, the establishment became an instant success story. When, in 1856, it became the famous Demel, the confectionery Viennese and guests know and love today, the café had already become a hotspot among Vienna’s aristocrats and the bourgeoisie.
Emperor Franz-Joseph I. penned letter praising the quality and variety of goods on offer, his Sisi could not get enough of the famous violet-sorbet and the remaining court indulged in all the pastries and delicacies they could get their hands on. And even after the monarchy fell, the Demel remained a beloved place of pilgrimage for everyone with a sweet tooth.
Today, the Demel is particularly famous for its intricate, incredibly artistic window displays and the fact that every guest is addressed in the 3rd person by the waiters of one of Vienna’s most traditional and most beautiful cafés.
Where: Kohlmarkt 14, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: daily 8 am – 7 pm
Web: Café Demel
This coffee house in the very heart of the city is the best-known and most popularised of them all. Run by the Hawelka familiy since 1939, this coffee house is steeped in tradition and nostalgia, and has been cited time and time again in movies, pop songs, and books. And no wonder – it has been treated as a second living room by poets, intellectuals, artists and politicians from almost the beginning, and continues to draw this particular set of people like moths to a flame.
Since it reopened after WWII in 1945, very little has changed in the old, cramped coffee house. To this day, the only nod to modernity is the single Espresso machine Leopold Hawelka, the original owner, allowed onto the premise. To this day, the café is a family affair, and regular guests are treated just like relatives. And to this day, the heavenly smell of fresh Buchteln (a traditional Austrian speciality; oven-baked yeast dumplings served with custard) baked by Leopold’s wife Josefine fill the room each and every evening.
Both the Café Hawelka as well as the family that runs it have become a true Viennese institution and are loved and cherished by everyone who knows them.
Where: Dorotheergasse 6, 1010 Vienna
When: Mon – Thu: 8 am – midnight; Fri & Sat: 8 am – 1 am; Sun & holidays: 10 am – midnight
Web: Café Hawelka
Known as Vienna’s most sophisticated coffee house, the Café Landtmann sits right next to the Burgtheater and across the Rathaus (city hall) and the university. This prime location actually tells you everything you need to know about the guests frequenting the place – there’s artists and politician, business men and actors, professors and students, locals and tourists who create the unique melange of voices that make up the Landtmann’s charme.
The menu offers a comprehensive introduction to Viennese cuisine. Here you can order everything from coffee specialities to fresh pastries to the most famous of all Viennese and Austrian dishes.
Dating back to 1873, the Landtmann has managed to preserve the best of coffee house traditions while always keeping pace with the changing times. It’s a place to go, even if it is often a tourist-hotspot and prices are a bit steeper than elsewhere.
Where: Universitätsring 4, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: daily 7:30 am – 12 am
Web: Café Landtmann
If you feel like you have heard the name before, you are most likely right. With the famous question “Can’t we meet at Café Mozart?” a secret meeting has been arranged in the iconic movie “The Third Man”.
And, unsurprisingly, the Café Mozart still is a popular and highly recommended place for all sorts of meetings – business partners sharing a coffee, lovers indulging in a late breakfast, students putting the last polishing touches to their big presentation over a slice of Altwiener Marmorkuchen, a traditional ring cake, or -indeed- clandestine meetings under the innocent cover of a steaming pot of perfectly brewed Earl Grey.
All beverages, pastries and Austrian dishes on the menu are excellent (no wonder, they are made by Café Landtmann’s very own team of chefs and confectionists) and the variety of drinks and food on offer is truly astonishing.
First opened in 1899, the coffee house located behind the famous State Opera has welcomed guests and locals in the noble charm of a traditional Kaffeehaus, replete with elegantly upholstered benches, Thonet chairs, chandeliers, mirrors, small tables and niches for intimacy and privacy.
Where: Albertinaplatz 2, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: daily 8 am – 12 am
Web: Café Mozart
The most artsy and inspiring among Vienna’s traditional coffee houses is the Café Museum. Ever since it first opened its doors to the public in 1899, the café has been frequented by the big names of Vienna’s art scene: geniuses such as Gustav Klimt, Peter Altenberg and Adolf Loos were frequent patrons. The latter also designed the café, which can still be seen beautifully in the simplistic, modern interior.
Culture, in every sense of the word, is deeply rooted in the Café Museum’s tradition. Its proximity to the opera house, the Secession Building, the Musikverein (concert hall), the Vienna Museum, the Kunsthalle Wien (contemporary art exhibition hall) and the culinary hotspot Naschmarkt made -and still make- sure that guests of all vocations and interests mingle here, sharing perfectly good coffee and the unique sense of belonging that only a place like this can give.
Patrons, regulars and first-timers alike, love this Kaffeehaus for its extensive choice of coffee specialities, the superb breakfasts that invite you to stay and spend the day, the hearty dishes as well as the incredibly selection of cakes and patisserie that satisfies every sweet tooth, and then some.
But it’s not only your body that is expertly fed at the Café Museum. This coffee house also we also caters to the spiritual needs and offers you food for thought in form of it’s famous “Literature in the Museum” readings.
Where: Operngasse 7, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: daily 8 am – 11 pm
Web: Café Museum
This traditional café opposite the MAK, the Museum of Fine Arts, and in close proximity to the University of Fine Arts, very much lives up to its illustrious surroundings and long history.
The Prückel, then known as the Lurion, first opened at the turn of the 20th century, and was adorned with the most luxurious materials, arabesques, ornaments and some famous curiosities like a speaking clock.
After WWII, when the name-giving Prückel family took over, they had the front part of the café renovated by the well-known architect and designer Oswald Haerdtl. His thumbprint, and therefore the then prevailing 50s style, can still be seen in every loving detail.
Later, the beautiful art nouveau ceiling in the back part of the Café Prückel has undergone extensive renovations at the hand of Johannes Spalt, a professor teaching at the University of Fine Arts, who also planned the interior of this part.
It should come as no surprise that the Prückel is also known for its culturally events. There’s regular live piano music, there’s an are exhibition, there’s readings and even a small theatre attached to the café!
Where: Stubenring 24, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: daily 8:30 am – 10 pm
Web: Café Prückel
Part of the famous Hotel Sacher, this coffee house is the home of the quintessential Viennese treat: the Sachertorte (which is probably the world’s most famous chocolate cake). You would be remiss to visit Vienna without having at least a look at the birthplace of a cake that has become a legend.
The Sacher (both the hotel as well as the café) are located next to the State Opera, which makes it a perfect spot to have an afternoon treat before enjoying Vienna’s cultural offerings by seeing a ballet or opera next doors.
The Café Sacher is a quintessential Viennese Kaffeehaus and serves a broad selection of coffee specialities in traditional atmosphere. Reading newspapers, jotting down notes and ideas, or just getting lost in ones thoughts is treated as an art-form here.
This coffee house is a busy place, and a place to see and be seen, and yet, it somehow still manages to create the luxurious impression of stepping out of time while there’s a perfectly brewed cup of coffee and a slice of culinary delight in front of you.
Where: Philharmonikerstraße 4, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: daily 8 am – midnight
Web: Café Sacher
The Café Schwarzenberg always has been and very probably always will be the prime example of Viennese coffee house culture and everything it entails.
This Kaffeehaus is the perfect place to relax, reflect, and to be idle. It is the perfect embodiment of a centuries old tradition that is entirely devoted to indulgence and the legendary Viennese hospitality.
At the Café Schwarzenberg politicians meet journalists, actors meet directors, authors write books, while others play chess or keep up to date via the wide selection of international newspapers.
But no matter how they pass the time, all guests enjoy the superb quality coffee, the incredible pastries, scrumptious breakfasts, and a choice, diverse selection of Viennese dishes.
Where: Kärntner Ring 17, 1010 Vienna
Opening hours: Mon – Fri: 7:30 am – midnight; Sat & Sun: 8:30 am – midnight
Web: Café Schwarzenberg
Map of Coffeehouses in Vienna
To help you easily make your way to all of the superb Viennese coffee houses mentioned above, we have created a handy arial view map of the relevant places for you. To make it even easier, most of the Kaffeehäuser are actually located at or very near to the city centre and therefore very easy to reach on foot:
(1) Café Central
(2) Café Demel
(3) Café de l´Europe
(4) Café Griensteindl (sadly closed)
(5) Café Hawelka
(6) Café Landtmann
(7) Café Mozart
(8) Café Museum
(9) Café Prückel
(10) Café Sacher
(11) Café Schwarzenberg