Writing a list of top coffee houses for Vienna is a bit like deciding on the best French wines. There are rather a lot of good ones, so it’s often a matter of taste and personal preference.
But I canvassed opinion among friends and relatives to come up with this list of cafés, which will grow as more suggestions come in.
Sadly, it falls to me to work my way through all the below one-by-one, bravely consuming coffee and mountains of cake to bring you a local review of each establishment.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. But, in no particular order:
Easily spotted because of the queues that always seem to snake out from the entrance. Possibly the most famous of the Vienna coffee houses and much loved by tourists (hence the queues).
Trotsky and Freud both supped at their coffees in this 1860-built palatial building. (In fact, in 1913, they both lived in Vienna at the same time as Tito, Hitler and Stalin, which must have led to some awkward conversations in the queue at the supermarket.)
I went into Café Central a skeptic and came out a believer. It’s wonderful.
Herrengasse / Strauchgasse, 1010 Vienna | Review
Famously the subject of one of Vienna’s best-loved songs, “Jö Schau” by the late Austrian songwriter Georg Danzer. The chorus includes the line, “What’s a naked man doing in Hawelka?”. A fair question.
Austropop legend, Falco, celebrated his 30th birthday here, and other prominent guests have included Andy Warhol, Klaus Maria Brandauer, and Peter Ustinov. As I wrote in my review, the place is “as comforting as a pair of well-worn slippers”.
Dorotheergasse 6, 1010 Vienna | Review
Another famous one easily spotted from the queue that commonly forms outside. The elegant decor carries echoes of palatial interiors and the view out the front windows looks fittingly 19th century (it’s opposite the Staatsoper, opened in 1869).
This café is the natural home of the original Sachertorte cake and it kind of feels wrong to go inside without having a slice (or three). Or at least that was my excuse.
Philharmoniker Str. 4, 1010 Vienna | Review
Opened in 1880 and traditional home to archdukes, generals, artists and actors (the café is close to the Theater an der Wien opera house). Also known for its billiard tables and beautifully patterned upholstery.
There’s a feeling of Edwardian refinement about the place – definitely one of my favourites.
Gumpendorfer Straße 11, 1060 Vienna | Review
Newly refurbished in 2010 but originally designed by Adolf Loos in 1899. He was a regular guest, too, along with other giants of art and architecture, such as Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
As with many cafés in Vienna, it upholds the traditional association between coffee house culture and literature with monthly public readings by authors.
Operngasse 7, 1010 Vienna | Review
First opened in 1903. There’s even a theatre in the basement, reflecting the long association between coffee houses and the arts. Inside is a mix of Art Nouveau and 1950s “Mrs Maisel” design, and the café is a favoured haunt of students from the nearby University of Applied Arts.
Stubenring 24, 1010 Vienna | Review
Quite a lot has changed since Café Schwarzenberg opened its doors in 1861. Though I think one of the original waiters is still there (and I mean that positively – a fine old gentlemen with the aura of a million served coffees).
The darker decor imbues the location with a certain attractiveness for dull and wet days, and the views of old town architecture are worth a window seat.
Kärntner Ring 17, 1010 Vienna | Review
Another literary coffee house that traces its roots back to the 19th century. Known particularly for its inter-war interior design and neo-rococo ceilings. Its most famous guest was probably Austrian author, Peter Rosegger, who came very close to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Mariahilfer Straße 73, 1060 Vienna | Review
A coffee house like a worn sofa; comfortable, relaxing and leaders of the counter-revolution against the pristine approach of more museal cafés.
Seemingly oblivious to trends and the passing of time, Café Jelinek is a little off the beaten track, so less likely to be full of tourists (just full of Viennese). Oh, and expect piles of homemade cakes.
Otto-Bauer-Gasse 5, 1060 Vienna | Review
Where high society goes to see and be seen. Opened in 1873 and located next to the Burgtheater and opposite city hall. So
Now the elegant flagship coffee house of a group of cafés, the Landtmann is notable for the large sheltered outdoor section and a jolly big and nice Christmas tree outside during the holiday season.
Universitätsring 4, 1010 Vienna | Review
A classic, but not in the “turn of the century” sense, thanks to the 1960s decor. A bustling little coffee house and a popular haunt for locals and those of an artistic disposition. Also famous for its toilets (seriously). Within walking distance of the Stephansdom cathedral.
Brandstätte 9, 1010 Vienna | Review
This one dates back to 1895 but was (fortunately) completely refurbished in 2018. Another café with glorious ceilings, upholstered wall seating and broad windows for plenty of natural light. So not one of the dusky haunts of yore.
Mariahilfer Straße 128, 1070 Vienna | Review
A relative newcomer, but furnished in the classic coffeehouse style with an imperial touch (helped by its location in the Schönbrunn Palace outbuildings). Ideal for taking a break from 19th-century Habsburg opulence.
Kavalierstrakt 52, Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Review
Originally a patisserie and the first to introduce the espresso machine to Vienna. A local chain known, particularly, for its cakes, pink branding, and all the gossip to be gleaned within from friends. Popular with US tourists, which might date back to Aida’s role in supplying US soldiers post-WWII with ice cream and doughnuts.
To do true honour to the name, visit the one across the road from the State Opera House.
Found all over the place | Review
And for something a little different…
- If you like the art and philosophy of Hundertwasser, then grab a coffee at the Café Kunst Haus Wien, located next to the Hundertwasser Museum
- If you find yourself in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, pop into Landtmann’s Jausen Station