A Vienna coffee house, much like an English pub, is an establishment unique to the city. Other cities may try to replicate it and do a passable job, but there is nothing like the original design and dedication. Coffee houses have been an institution in Vienna since 1683 when Turkish invaders brought bags of coffee with them into the city. Since then, it has become a staple in the city's social scene with everyone from world leaders to average Joe's heading to the coffee houses to get their daily brew.
First opened in 1876 in the former Vienna stock exchange building, the Cafe Central stands as one of the oldest coffee houses in the city. Even during its humble beginnings, it has served as a gathering place for philosophers, poets, leaders and other great minds to enjoy their slow roasted brew like Leo Trotzky, Peter Altenberg and Sigmund Freud. As one of the oldest and most popular cafes in Vienna, the interior is impressive in size with polished marble floors and tall columns dotting the high ceilinged interior. Unfortunately, Cafe Central has generated a lofty reputation in the city and is often packed with tourists.
For those more interested in the world famous pastries and other confections frequently found in Vienna's coffee houses, then Cafe Demel should be their first stop. This cafe is part of the famous K&K Hofzuckerbacker chocolatier company that serves up not just some quality coffee, but is also home to their best confections of pastry in town. If nothing else, the Cafe Demel is a unique experience. The wait staff address their guests in the third person and visitors can enjoy both a coffee and pastry tasting menu to really get a true taste of Vienna.
This coffee house in Vienna's 1st District serves as one of the best known meeting places for writers and artists in the city. Cafe Hawelka has been run by generations of the Hawelka family since 1939 and offers a unique atmosphere that serves as honey to the creative minds in the city. It also helps that this cafe is open long into the night serving both coffee and beer to pair with the drinker's favourite late night after-party snack of Buchteln (Austrian sweet yeast buns). Its simple building is easy to miss from the outside, but the inside is warm, welcoming and the walls are covered with a collection of artwork from local artists.
Situated on the Ringstrasse behind the Gothic Town Hall, Cafe Eiles is not the easiest cafe to find for those unfamiliar with Vienna, but it fits like an old boot. The interior is warm and cosy, serving up coffee and confections to worn out civil servants and actors from the local theatres. While the place fills up during lunch time, aside from the actors who seem to endlessly hang around, the Cafe Eiles can be an extensively private affair if visitors head there at the right time. This cafe also serves as an excellent place to get energized before exploring the nearby Josefstadt district that provides an eclectic look into old Vienna. However, during the Christmas season, this cafe also happens to be right by one of the biggest Christmas markets in the city off Burggasse so the view is absolutely unparalleled and Cafe Eiles suddenly becomes one of the most popular cafes in town as people seek to get out of the cold.
Located right in the middle of Vienna next to Hofburg and opposite St. Michael's Church is Cafe Griensteidl. Although locate in the middle of the city, it is one of the few popular cafes that not often frequented by tourists. Cafe Griensteidl is also one of the few cafes in Vienna that is handsome, but not snooty about it. They offer a relaxed atmosphere that provides a popular place for locals to sit and read with their coffee and watch the carriages trot on by. However, visitors will find it a nice place to take a break in one of the most scenic sections of the city.
Cafe Sperl is for those that are looking for something off the beaten path in Vienna. Sperl is located in Gumpendorferstrasse in between the Theatre an der Wien and the Museum Quarter which is quite a ways from the usual sights of the city, but well worth the trip. At first sight, Sperl may appear to lack the luxury or grandeur of cafes like Cafe Central, but during the time spent there that it takes to drain a cup of coffee or enjoy one of their signature pastries, visitors will see the appeal of Sperl. The chandelier lighting and warm wood interior evokes a feeling of enjoying the first cup of coffee in your home in the morning. It's peaceful and scenic, and never too terribly crowded which in itself makes it among the best cafes in Vienna.
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