One of the best ways to experience the Viennese culture is by going to a traditional coffee house (Kaffeehaus in German). Drinking coffee in Vienna is the antithesis of the grab-and-go, paper-cup culture of the US. It’s elegant and slow. It may take a while to order and the waiter might be stereotypically grumpy, but there is absolutely no pressure to leave. The whole point is to savor your coffee and surroundings and linger. You can read a book, pick up your favorite newspaper and magazine (which are generally displayed on a large table), or chat with friends. You won’t see people working on laptops, talking on their cell phones, or listening to music. You will see people eating cake, lots of cake. And, you’ll wonder if anyone in this city works full time.
Use this guide below to find out what coffee to order and which traditional coffee houses to visit.
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Viennese Coffee Menu
– Typical Coffee Drinks You Can Order in Vienna –
When you receive a Heißgetränkekarte (hot beverage menu), you’ll be astonished by the length of the coffee menu, and likely your unfamiliarity with the coffee names. Here are the most popular Viennese coffees.
Wiener Melange – This is similar to a cappuccino (small espresso with milk foam), served in a ceramic cup.
Verlängerter – This is espresso with hot water (Americano), in a ceramic cup. Milk is generally served on the side. And, it translates as “extended one.”
Kleiner Brauner / Großer Brauner – This translates as “little brown one” or “large brown one.” Depending on which Kaffeehaus you’re visiting, this is typically a single, or double espresso served with a small jug of cream/milk.
Kleiner Schwarzer / Großer Schwarzer – A Kleiner Schwarzer is a single shot of espresso, while a Großer Schwarzer is a double shot of espresso.
Mokka – A Mokka is what the Viennese call an espresso. It’s also synonymous with Schwarzer (espresso). It’s not a Mocha, espresso with chocolate and steamed milk.
Eiskaffee – This is a dessert “drink,” typically served only in the summer. It’s cold coffee with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.
Einspänner – A double espresso topped with whipped cream served in a glass. This was the preferred coffee drink of Fiaker drivers (horse-drawn carriage drivers). The glass kept the hands of the Fiaker drivers warm, while the whipped cream acted as an insulator for the coffee.
Kaffee verkehrt – This is synonymous with Latte Macchiato. “Verkehrt” means in this case “inverted”, because here you get more milk than coffee.
Franziskaner – Similar to the Melange, but with cream instead of milk foam.
Best Traditional Coffee Houses in Vienna
– Traditional Kaffeehäuser –
The first coffee house in Vienna was opened in 1683. Today, most of the traditional coffee houses date back to the 19th century, the oldest being Café Frauenhuber (1824). Historically, these coffee houses were gathering places for artists, writers, and thinkers. They were and still are considered extended living rooms, where people eat, drink, read, and discuss ideas with friends and colleagues.
In a traditional coffee house, all the waiters are typically male and must dress in tailcoats. The interior of a typical Viennese coffee house features chandeliers, finely upholstered sofas, and marble tables. You’ll find a table full of stacked newspapers for your amusement.
Here are the absolute best coffee houses in Vienna:
Café Central is undoubtedly the grandest coffee house in Vienna. The interior is enhanced by vaulted ceilings, columns, ruby-red upholstered chairs, white tablecloths, and portraits of Franz Joseph and Elizabeth I (Sissi). An extensive cake selection is displayed in the front of the café, enticing you to enter. The service is notoriously slow and the savory food is only okay. We recommend only coming here for cake and coffee. There’s usually a line out the door, but it moves quite quickly.
Address: Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien
Café Sacher is the one and only place to go to taste the original Sacher-Torte, the most famous chocolate cake in the world. Believe me, we’ve tried eating Sacher Torte in other cafés and we were never satisfied. The café is located in the historic Hotel Sacher, facing the Staatsoper. The Hotel was opened by Eduard Sacher, the son of Franz Sacher, who was the original Sacher-Torte creator. In 1832, Franz Sacher, at the age of 16, was tasked to create a new dessert for Prince Metternich, when the Prince’s chief cook was too ill to work.
Café Sacher is resplendently elegant. Upon entering, you feel like you’re stepping into the early 1900s. Every time, we walk by the café, there’s an egregiously long line. If you hate lines, head to the store (next to the Sacher’s Eck café), and buy a whole cake. That’s what we do.
Note: Hotel Sacher has two cafés: Café Sacher and Eck Café (meaning corner café).
Address: Philharmonikerstrasse 4,1010 Wien, next to the Opera house
Less touristy than the cafés listed above, Café Sperl is our absolute favorite coffee house in Vienna. Unlike many of the other traditional coffee houses, women work here and the atmosphere is less stiff, though still elegant. Sperl’s spacious interior is decorated with large rounded windows, fine upholstery, dark wood accents, and marble tables.
Address: Gumpendorfer Str. 11, 1060 Wien
This coffee house is famous for their Gulasch. Located in the 8th district, Café Hummel is sufficiently off the tourist track. You will see locals here enjoying their free time with a newspaper, or just chatting with friends. On weekdays, Café Hummel has a reasonable and tasty lunch menu (Mittagsmenu).
Address: Josefstädter Str. 66, 1080 Wien
Café Landtmann is located on the Ring, next to the Burg Theater and opposite City Hall (Rathaus). This café tends to be frequented by an older demographic and by a mix of tourists and locals. They pride themselves on their history and upholding the Viennese coffee tradition. Upon entering, you’ll be asked to check your coat (free service). If you’re seeking the ultimate “traditional coffee house” experience without the crowds, come here. In addition to traditional Viennese coffee, you can order French (french press) and Turkish-style coffees. You’ll be greeted by 30 + cakes.
Address: Universitätsring 4, 1010 Wien
The windows alone will make you want to run into this café/chocolatier. You can witness the art of making chocolate and cake via a glass interior wall, during your visit. This is a delightful Viennese coffee house, though is frequented by tourists more so than locals. Your experience might feel like a caricature of the “real thing.”
Address: Kohlmarkt 14, 1010 Wien
Where to Stay in Vienna
Budget | wombat’s CITY Hostels Vienna – Naschmarkt is a clean and friendly hostel located at Naschmarkt, Vienna’s famous outdoor marketplace. This budget-friendly accommodation offers private and dormitory-style rooms.
Mid-Range | Motel One Wien Westbahnhof is a top-rated and comfortable hotel located at Westbanhof Train Station and a few minutes from Mariahilferstrasse, Vienna’s famous shopping street. When my (Sabrina) family comes to visit, they stay here. This is a perfect city break hotel, as it’s closely located to several transit options: airport bus, train lines and underground transit (U-Bahn).
Luxury | 25 Hours Hotel is an imaginative and modern hotel located in the 7th district, located near MuseumsQuartier. Each room features a unique design, filled with vintage and modern furniture. One of our favorite haunts in Vienna is the rooftop bar located at 25 Hours Hotel.
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