Anyone that knows me will know I have the world’s biggest sweet tooth. Give me a pretty patisserie and I’m all over it. So naturally I spent a fair bit of my time in Vienna doing just that – fulfilling my sweet tooth!
The coffee culture in Vienna is completely different from here in North America; they are worlds apart. In the U.S. you’ll often see celebrities walking along with their favourite venti from Starbucks – almost a fashion accessory in itself.
In Vienna, coffee houses are somewhere to linger and enjoy your surroundings. It is a part of the cities cultural heritage. In fact I don’t recall seeing anyone in Vienna walking around with a paper coffee cup – except me!
I’m happy to say that even though Vienna does have a few Starbucks stores, I never went into any. Unless you really are in need of a coffee on the go (which isn’t entirely non-existent in Vienna) it’s best to try things the Viennese way – to take your time.
It Was All Started With A Magic Bean
Coffee was first introduced to Vienna purely by accident. In 1683 during the siege of Vienna, when Turkish invaders fled the city leaving behind mysterious bags of beans that were first mistaken for camel feed.
Coffee houses have since become an integral part of Viennese culture, so much so, that UNESCO has named Viennese Coffee Culture on their list of the ‘National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage’.
It’s easy to assume that because they are coffee houses, you can only go in the morning. Nope! Viennese coffee houses are open until late into the evening. One night around 10pm we wandered the streets of Vienna to walk off the dinner we’d just ate. We stumbled into the Cafe Museum, and even at this time of night the cafe was still bustling with locals.
When your coffee arrives it will be served on a silver tray with sugar, a spoon, sometimes a chocolate and a small glass of water. The glass if water is to cleanse the palate, and the spoon will often come placed upside down on the glass, this is to indicate that the water has been freshly poured.
In my three days in Vienna, I managed to hit up five of the cities coffee houses.
1. Café Sacher
Cafe Sacher is located inside the Hotel Sacher. This cafe is famous for being the original home of the viennese dessert Sacher-Torte, a dense chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling and covered in a chocolate icing.
The Cafe Sacher was somewhere I’d read about for years. I’d tried a version of Sacher-torte in London a few years ago and when I first arrived in Vienna I was keen to try the original. I must admit, the sachertorte was a little disappointing. After hearing so much about this famous cake, it was really hyped up to me. And I’m sure many people love it, but as a huge lover of chocolate cake it didn’t meet my expectations. I personally found it too dry.
The pancakes my friend had, on the other hand, were phenomenal! There are other things on the menu as well if the Sacher Torte doesn’t take your fancy. You won’t know if you like something until you try it, so if you are curious definitely give this place a chance.
2. Café Central
The grandest and most popular cafe in Vienna, Cafe Central was founded in 1876 and is located at Herrengasse 14. There are often long lines for the cafe but the line moved steadily and the wait was more than worth it.
I ordered a pastry called “Nuss Kuss” and was very proud of myself when I ordered with the correct pronunciation “Noos Koos”. The Nuss Kuss is a hazelnut dream. Silky smooth in the mouth, and one you’ll want to savour.
We sat down at our table around 6pm, prime time as we came to realise, as after 5pm there is a piano player.
3. Café Museum
Cafe Museum is located on Operngasse and was first opened in 1899. Architect Adolf Loos designed the original interior of the cafe and many artists including Gustav Klimt frequented the Cafe Museum.
I chose not to have a coffee at the Cafe Museum, even though the coffee menu looked divine. It was around 10pm at night when we wandered in, and I’d just ate a heavy meal so I opted for the raspberry lemonade which was just as good.
4. Aida – Café Konditorei
Named after the founder’s wife, the Aida Cafe was first opened in 1913. The first stores were destroyed in WWII and there are now 32 Aida stores across Vienna. It’s pink interior and shelves of beautifully assembled cakes are enough to draw anyone into this cafe. There is an abundance of choice here and they also offer breakfast, snacks, and hot food options.
My choice of cake was the Esterhazy and Melange coffee with whipped cream.
5. Gerstner K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäcker
This picture perfect cafe is located at Kärntner Strasse, just opposite the Vienna Opera House. Anton and Barbara Gerstner started the Gerstner brand in 1847. On the ground floor is a confectionary where you can purchase an array of chocolates and finely crafted patisseries. The shelves are adorned with elegantly boxed sweets and treats.
On the first floor you’ll find the cafe and sparkling bar. The bar offers a variety of sparkling wines From the Austrian wine maker Schlumberger. Schlumberger was founded in 1842 and was the first of it’s kind to produce sparkling wine in Austria.
If visiting Vienna, make sure to take time out to enjoy it’s famous coffee houses. Pop your bum down on one of the slightly worn red velvet seats and watch the world pass you by – coffee and cake in hand!
Do you have a sweet tooth like mine? Have you ever wanted to experience the Vienna coffee house culture?
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