Soaking up the atmosphere of a city whilst enjoying a taste of its culture in a cafe, bar or restaurant is one of my favourite things to do on a city break. It’s very easy to pound the pavement every waking hour, packing in as many of the sights as possible but never truly feeling part of the city you’re visiting so I enjoy taking a little time to absorb the city. Perhaps it’s over a breakfast, and we plan our day ahead – pouring over maps and asking advice from locals, or perhaps it’s a leisurely dinner enjoying some local food and entertainment whilst reminiscing about our favourite moments from the trip so far. Vienna offers plenty of opportunity for all of this, and has a particularly strong Kaffeehaus coffee culture which we were more than happy to indulge in.
Coffee’s arrival in Vienna can be marked down to the year, 1683, when Turkish invaders were forced to flee the city and left behind bags of the brown beans. [Source: The Culture Trip] There are some very specific styles of coffee on offer in Vienna but my two favourites were Einspänner – espresso topped with whipped cream (Schlagobers) and of course the namesake Wiener Melange which is cofffee topped with foam, similar to a cappuccino but rather more Viennese I like to think.
The iconic first stop for most tourists, and top of all the lists in guidebooks and websites is Cafe Central, located at the corner of Herrengasse / Strauchgasse 1010 Wien, a beautiful and centrally situated cafe and restaurant which boasts a history most of us couldn’t even invent for our local Starbucks. Their website boasts they once hosted “a revolutionary (Trotsky), a psychoanalyst (Freud), several writers and poets (including Polgar, Zweig and Altenberg) and an architect (Loos)” which is something I can hardly comprehend happening. They really cash in on this history, with little biographies of their most famous patrons on the tables alongside the menus.
Speaking of the menu, there’s plenty on offer at Cafe Central. None of it is a bargain but you soon realise in Vienna that not much comes cheap! Our favourites were the Traditional Viennese Breakfast (a boiled egg, croissant and roll) alongside a Weiner Melange or a hot chocolate. Just as a note – most places will do decaf coffee if you ask, and in German this is “koffeinfreier Kaffee” in case you’d like to know! At dinner time we indulged in some more traditional Viennese treats and I particularly loved the pumpkin soup followed by the Kaiserschmarrn – shredded pancakes and plum sauce. I thoroughly recommend ordering these, they take a little time to come from the kitchen as they’re freshly made but oh my word they’re delicious. Definitely save plenty of room for them, and share with one or two other people as the portion is enormous!
Further down the road, you’ll find The Hofburg, and no stately home or palace is complete without its own cafe these days so I encourage you to partake in a little coffee culture here at Café Hofburg. My recommendation is a coffee and strudel (complete with Schlagobers, naturally). Again, this doesn’t come cheap but the portions are plentiful (you could definitely share with a companion) and you’re sat in the middle of The Hofburg, with centuries of Austrian history surrounding you. Horses and carriages trot past, you catch a snippet of information from a passing tour group and if you’re lucky catch a few rays of sun as they poke through the archways that surround you.
Step a little further in that direction and you’ll find Cafe Mozart at Albertinaplatz 2, 1010 Wien . Of course you can tell by the name it’s an absolute tourist trap but the nice thing about large parts of Vienna is that even the most touristy of locations are still steeped in history. Open since 1899, Cafe Mozart boasts a huge selection of cakes and coffees and it was here we tried the famous Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake with apricot jam and a chocolate fondant icing, and a slice of Mozarttorte, a much lighter and creamier dessert with pistachio mousse and chocolate cream. They also have a ‘taster plate’ with three smaller slices of cake which is great value to try all the traditional Viennese sweet treats on offer.