Vienna is famous for its cafes and coffeehouse culture. Like many cities that developed rapidly in the late 1800s apartments in Vienna were small and people needed space. Cafes provided meals, places to meet, places to read newspapers and to be “at home”. Many cities lost this cafe culture over the years, but, as with many things in Vienna, cafes lived long enough to come back into fashion.
Traditional Viennese cafes are really more like small neighbourhood restaurants that serve (many types) coffee but also warm meals. Only recently modern cafes have been opening that focus especially on coffee quality (the actual coffee in some Viennese coffeehouses is terrible!) and a limited menu. These modern cafes resemble Starbucks, which, one must admit, brought coffeehouse culture back into fashion, at least the part about being a place to hang out.
The cafes I list below are ones I have visited and enjoyed. Everyone in Vienna has their own favourites. Cafes are listed in three groups: grand Ringstrasse cafes, historic neighbourhood cafes, and modern cafes. My key criteria are good people (although be warned, proper manners for a Viennese coffeehouse waiter borders on rudeness to customers), good food – often homemade, fair prices, history and being part of the neighbourhood.
Grand Ringstrasse Cafes
The Ringstrasse is a boulevard built on the site of Vienna’s former walls in the 1860s. It’s one of the pioneering projects in modern city planning and if you are interested in learning more about it see my Ringstrasse Walking Tour.
In the late 1800s the Ringstrasse became the place to go in Vienna. People walking, people in fine carriages, in short, people seeing and being seen. There were palaces and important businesses, cultural institutions like the State Opera and Theater, and government buildings like the national Parliament and Vienna city hall. And, of course cafes. These cafes – because they were stages for their guests – were large, elegant and bright. At their peak there were over 30 grand cafes on the Ringstrasse. Today there are only a handful but they are well worth visiting to experience this age.
All these cafes serve traditional Viennese food, have special lunch menus, make their own cakes and pastries, have long opening hours, and waiters in tuxedos. Don’t forget to make reservations – even for breakfast!
- Cafe Pruckel – Ringstrasse at Dr. Karl Lueger Platz. Bright, large rooms, modern, great cultural program. Arty crowd. U-3 Stubenring.
- Cafe Schwartzenburg – Ringstrasse at Schwartzenbergplatz. Traditional wood, several medium-sized rooms, nice outdoor seating. People on business lunches.
- Cafe Landmann – Ringstrasse at Burgtheater. Traditional wood, several medium-sized rooms, nice outdoor seating, Was Freud’s regular cafe. High society.
- Cafe Eiles – Josefstaederstrasse at Landesgerichtestrasse. OK, not actually on the Ringstrasse, but a grand cafe from the same age in the Ringstrasse redevelopment area. Large room with high ceilings, tastefully renovated in recent years. Mixed crowd including government workers. My regular cafe when we were moving here.
These are neighbourhood cafes many of which are from the golden age of cafes. Of course there are hundreds of cafes in Viennese neighbourhoods, that’s the idea after all – a cafe for everyone, so these are only a few I happen to know, but they are all great.
- Cafe Sperl – Gumpendorferstrasse. In all the guidebooks but still with local flair. Historic. Great cakes.
- Cafe Goldegg – Goldeggerstrasse – Argentinerstrasse; U-1 Hauptbahnhof; traditional, small, homemade food, good beer.
- Cafe Ritter – Mariahilfestrasse – Amerlingstrasse; U-3 Neubaugasse; airy, small, homemade food.
- Cafe Braunerhof – Stallburggasse (city centre); small, historic, very traditional.
Modern cafes are places that serve the same functions as the original Viennese cafes (an extended living room) but in a modern setting and/or with a more modern take on food and drink (e.g., high quality coffee). Of course the grand and traditional cafes are also serving modern food and drink today, but their history makes them special.
- Cafe Florianihof; Florianigasse 1080; Bright, clean, airy, Illy coffee, quality food.
- Cafe Hummel; Josefstaederstrasse; Nice mix of traditional and modern; nice people, light, good food, local hang-out.