In Vienna, you’ll find coffee houses for every mood and occasion. The Viennese tend to have one favorite place that they use as their salon, and another they might use as a sort of office for meetings.
They’ll typically have a third in mind as a back-up plan, which they rarely (if ever) visit!
If you think this sounds a bit like the joke about the Jew and his synagogues, it’s no coincidence. Coffee house culture was always influenced by the Jewish intelligentsia. In the overcrowded second district of the 1900s, some of these places were even used as synagogues during praying hours.
A real Viennese coffeehouse was spacious—a draw in and of itself for those living in close quarters—packed with free newspapers. After paying the “entry fee” of a cup of coffee, you could linger as long as you wanted.
Since 2011, UNESCO has considered Viennese coffeehouse culture an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Today, there are plenty of fantastic coffeehouses, cafés, and espresso bars around Vienna… many more than I can fit on this list. But here are some of the exceptional ones which, in my opinion, offer a more traditional Viennese coffeehouse experience.
Click here for a list of delicious pastry shops that also serve coffee.
(Cafés with air conditioning are marked AC:)
Café Sperl (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Sperl is maybe the most authentic turn-of-the-century Viennese coffee house; it lives up to all the clichés of this traditional Viennese institution.
With its wooden parquet floors, bentwood Thonet chairs, marble tables, chandeliers, carom billiards tables, and (naturally) newspapers, this is the quintessential Fin de scècle café.
You might even see Robert Menasse, the great Austrian writer and a regular at this place, sitting at one of the tables.
Coffee, sweets and other food are all solid, and the atmosphere is warm and comfortable.
Don’t pass up a visit to this unique and charming spot!
Café Central (Coffeehouse – Pastry Shop – Restaurant) AC
According to writer Frederic Morton, in January 1913, you may have run into Josip Broz Tito, Sigmund Freud—when he wasn’t at Café Landtmann—Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and/or Leon Trotsky at Café Central.
This place, with immense, castle-like vaulted ceilings, was the go-to coffeehouse for many a celebrity.
These days, it’s a tourist hot spot with a decent selection of classic Viennese food, warm sweets dishes (Warme Mehlspeisen), good coffee, and delicious pastries (though not the best Sachertorte in town). Thus this place is the only one to feature on my list of must-see coffeehouses as well as on my list of excellent pastry shops.
The days are long gone when the establishment offered 250 newspapers in 22 languages (see Wikipedia in German)! But newspapers are still available. The beautiful renovation of Café Central and the whole Palais Ferstel is credited to Karl Wlaschek, the owner of the supermarket chain “Billa,” who swore to himself that once rich enough he would restore the whole building including the Café to its 19th-century beauty.
Café Landtmann (Coffeehouse – Restaurant) partial AC
Café Landtmann famously was Sigmund Freud’s favorite coffee house. This is where—according to legend at least—he held psychoanalytical sessions.
Today, it’s fairly upscale, and a meeting spot for attendees of important press conferences. Food and drinks are good (I particularly like Freud’s favorites, the steak tartare, and the Sachertorte). The atmosphere is laid-back. On the right, in the back of the main classic room with beautiful wood paneling (and no air conditioning), you’ll find what, according to the café’s staff, was Sigmund Freud’s favorite table.
But, in typical Viennese manner, there’s absolutely nothing here to officially commemorate one of the most illustrious men who ever lived!
Café Bräunerhof (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Bräunerhof is definitely one of the most important cafés for the German-speaking post-war literary scene.
Author Thomas Bernhard used to come here regularly, one reason being that they do have an EXCELLENT international selection of newspapers, quite possibly the best in town, except in August when attendance is low.
Visit Café Bräunerhof during the week outside of lunchtime hours, and you’ll most likely find a seat. On Saturdays, there’s live music with a small orchestra playing classical music, and the place is consequently packed.
The food is okay, and the coffee, which used to be subpar, has definitely improved. The staff tends to consist of the classic “grumpy Viennese waiter” type, and in the summer it can get very hot without AC.
Still…well, how can I put it… I absolutely LOVE this place!
Café Hawelka (Coffeehouse)
Café Hawelka is the original, the one and only!
One of the most famous and beautiful cafés in Vienna, Hawelka was once a bohemian hangout. A popular song (Georg Danzer’s “Jö Schau”) says you could even spot a naked guy here!
Today it’s mostly packed with tourists and living of its past glory, but things are quieter early morning, later in the evening, and when you are lucky.
This used to be a place that was open late at night, where the owners would hang out with regulars and other guests.
Notable patrons included André Heller, Elias Canetti, Arik Brauer, Hilde Spiel, H.C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer, Oswald Wiener, Friedrich Torberg, Heimito von Doderer, Hans Weigl and others.
Today the coffee and food are average but the atmosphere is still great. Once upon a time, the owner, Leopold Hawelka used to sit next to the entrance. Keep an eye out for the delicious jam-filled pastries (Buchteln) served in the evening.
Café Westend (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Westend has been beautifully renovated to its past glory as a classic Viennese coffeehouse: High ceilings, large windows, wooden parquetry, crystal chandeliers, bentwood Thonet chairs, velvet upholstery, and marble tables.
Nothing’s missing in this well preserved, historic, classically L-shaped Viennese coffee house. The atmosphere has improved greatly since the addition of new management, and staff is friendly (compared to normal Viennese standards).
The food is good, and with the wonderful interior, it’s definitely a place to linger as long as possible with your coffee, newspaper, and cake.
Kleines Café (Café)
Kleines Café, literally “small café,” is a modern Viennese classic and a must-see if you manage to get a seat!
It lives up to its name and is a very small place indeed. Opened in 1970, the cramped interior was designed by architect Hermann Czech. Outside, on the terrace on Franziskanerplatz, there’s a lovely Italiana piazza-style atmosphere. They offer nice snacks with that.
You might recognize the café from the movie Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater. (See my selection of books and movies about Vienna!)
Café Prückel (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Prückel is another classic spacious L-shaped Viennese coffeehouse, one of the last Ringstarssen cafés and a must-visit for any coffeehouse enthusiast. The food is likable classic Viennese and the atmosphere is easy going.
The furniture and interior design date from the 1950s (the design by Oswald Haerdtl is a must-see). A section in the back has been restored to its original Viennese art nouveau Jugenstil.
In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, this was a favorite hangout for students from the nearby MAK, the University of Applied Arts, and other arts and university institutions, so its atmosphere was rife with creative energy. It was a real living room.
But Café Prückel also has a typical and sad Jewish Viennese history. It was opened as Café Lurion by Maxim Lurion, the son of a Jewish businessman from Bagdad and famous cyclist, and as such admired by Theodor Herzl.
In 1931, actress Stella Kadmon opened up a cabaret in the basement of the café. The stage is still in use—for instance, in 2013, the Viennese Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies used the space to commemorate 80 years since the burning of books.
Café Korb (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Korb is a perfect little café with a simple 1960s style interior and a sweet terrace in summer. They offer good drinks and decent Viennese food. It’s a good place to enjoy a popular Viennese aperitif like Spritz con Aperol or a goulash with a beer or for example.
Artists, poets, and all kinds of celebrities did and do frequent the spot. The original Café Korb was the place where Sigmund Freud’s Wednesday Psychological Society met in the early 1900s.
A portrait of poet Elfriede Gerstl marks the spot near the entrance where she used to sit, and Nobel-prize winner Elfriede Jelinek used to meet her here. One wall features a Valy Export, one of the most important post-war Austrian artists.
Nowadays, this cozy little place can get crowded. I love it for its friendly service, but unfortunately, it only has local newspapers (I have to go elsewhere for that). The menu features good traditional Viennese food, cakes, and strudels.
Don’t miss the toilettes marked “,|,” and “()” to tell you which way to go!
Today, the owner is an Austrian actor and former model, Susanne Widl.
Café Jelinek (Coffeehouse)
Café Jelinek is maybe Vienna’s best authentic old-school shabby chic coffeehouse. Definitely an absolute must-see and worth any detour.
The Café was first opened in 1910 by a Jewish family that was into the coffee business. For all I know, they have nothing to do with Nobel prize author Elfriede Jelinek.
Come here for the fantastic atmosphere, linger over coffee, great food and people-watch!
Café Schwarzenberg (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Schwarzenberg is a very nice coffeehouse with an original 1900’s interior, including the furniture. Don’t miss the “Damensalon”‘s stunning tables (turn left upon entering).
This place is popular with locals and tourists alike. The café is the oldest café which still stands on the Ringstrasse. Josef Hoffmann, one of the founders of the Wiener Werkstätte manufacturing company, was a regular here.
This coffeehouse has never catered to an intellectual and artistic crowd, but rather to the business world. After World War II, Red Army officers used to gather here.
If you visit, enjoy some classic food and cakes, including one of Vienna’s best Sachertortes.
Kaffee Alt-Wien (Café – Pub)
Kaffee Alt Wien offers a great bohemian atmosphere, good food, and typical Viennese staff.
Schnitzel, goulash, and all the classics are listed on the menu, along with good beer. Walls are plastered with posters of local art shows, galleries, and concerts. Young students (and not-so-young ones) mingle here with tourists.
This is a great place to go and see some nightlife if you want to skip the bar, since it’s open until 2 am! In summer, there might be ac in the back… (My only grievance is the boring new annex and the terribly soulless outside seating area.)
Café Eiles (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Eiles has some specific hidden qualities: its patrons!
Writers, poets, intellectuals, and politicians flood here from the nearby university, city hall, parliament, and theaters. You’ll find local and international newspapers on any day.
The recent update finally did away with my only grievance: the upholstery (which was ugly beyond belief). My eyes no longer need to be buried in a book or fixed at the face of my interlocutor! Now I feel only delight as my eyes wander around, admiring the décor, the café guests, and the nice selection of cakes and pastries.
Café Schopenhauer (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Schopenhauer is an Old Vienna, historic L-shaped coffeehouse. Beautiful, spacious and quiet, this one is tucked away outside the city center. The interior has been well preserved. Coffee is excellent. Sweets and savory food are decent. The staff is very friendly.
The breakfast menu reads like a philosophy teacher’s bookshelf: from Anna and Sigmund Freud over Hegel and Simon de Beauvoir to a Rosa Luxemburg breakfast.
They even have the traditional Carom billiards tables and patrons playing card games. If you’re not in the neighborhood but looking for somewhere on the quiet side, Café Schopenhauer is well worth the detour!
Even if you just want to take a look at the authentic interior, it’s well worth a trip.
Café Tirolerhof (Coffeehouse – Restaurant) AC
Café Tirolerhof is a traditional coffeehouse, albeit with a bit of a different look and feel: the interior has been painstakingly restored to the original 1920s Art Deco design.
There are usually less tourists in this open, air-conditioned space, which is rather unusual for a Viennese coffeehouse, but what a relief in summer. Great coffee, good food and desserts.
Café Weidinger (Coffeehouse)
Café Weidinger too is a real Viennese institution. An absolute must-see, cozy, old-style, popular, shabby Viennese coffee house, with the obligatory misanthropic waiters. All in all, a real time machine!
The relaxed atmosphere lends itself to hours of conversation and reading. If you’re in the mood for games, they have Carom billiards tables and a Viennese-style bowling alley.
Literary readings are common here, and you may even recognize the interior from Jem Cohen’s movie Museum Hours. (See my selection of books and movies about Vienna!)
Café Weidinger is WORTH EVERY DETOUR!
Café Ritter Ottakring (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Ritter Ottakring is a nice and very friendly coffeehouse. The interior has somehow miraculously been preserved in its traditional turn-of-the-century beauty. I enjoy their good coffee and food (the club sandwich is excellent, the french fries not so much), especially the classic Viennese breakfast with two soft-boiled eggs in a glass, and breakfast is served all day.
Café Ritter (Coffeehouse)
Café Ritter is perfect to meet up with someone in a typical Viennese coffeehouse interior. Good for a stopover when shopping in the Mariahilferstrasse neighborhood.
Though the service isn’t overly-friendly, the beautiful traditional coffeehouse interior makes up for it.
Café Goldegg (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Goldegg is a beautiful old-Vienna Jugendstil (Vienna’s art nouveau style) café in the Belvedere neighborhood with a charming atmosphere. A very classic setup, so precious wood paneling on the walls and Carom billiard tables aren’t missing. Breakfast is good and served ALL DAY. Their Viennese cakes and savory cuisine are worth a try too.
Café Drechsler (Coffeehouse – Restaurant)
Café Drechsler on Wienzeile has been an institution since 1919. It was open 24/7 back in the day, mostly to host patrons from neighboring Naschmarkt, but those days are long gone. The whole space has been renovated and updated to a Conran design look and recently changed again. The atmosphere is relaxed and easy-going (if a bit cold), and quite enjoyable. Coffee is excellent.
Café Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum Café – Restaurant) AC
This setting is as magnificent as it gets! You must come here to sit under the monumental dome of the majestic ceiling built for the imperial art collection. Don’t let sloppy or pushy service get in your way of enjoying the place. I’ll often have just an espresso as my entry fee. But the food is good too!