If there was a Goddess of cakes, she’d be Viennese. And her temple would be a Konditorei in Vienna.
- Sellers of high-quality cakes and pastries with table service available, too: think of a café but add more class and sugar
- Often long-established premises with decades of tradition and history
- Notable names (see below) include Demel, Aida, Sluka, L. Heiner, and Oberlaa
- See also: Vienna coffee houses
What is a Konditorei?
Essentially, a Konditorei is a place to buy cakes and pastries to eat back home or to consume on the premises with coffee, tea or some other beverage.
The formal English translation (confectionery) doesn’t feel quite right, since a key element of the Viennese Konditorei is sitting down to enjoy the products on the premises. Think of it broadly as an upmarket café where 80% of the food takes the form of cake.
The Konditorei tradition
In most countries, cakes are simply nice things to eat. In Vienna, they belong to the very fabric of the city.
You don’t make cakes, here; you create them. Cakes are art, history, tradition and staple food in one. So the Konditorei occupies a special place in the hearts of the Viennese.
The presence of seating and table service can, however, make it difficult to distinguish the Konditorei from a normal coffee house. After all, they may follow coffee house traditions, many sit in equally historical settings, and many also feature breakfast, snacks and other meals on the menu.
As such, various establishments might be considered hybrid Konditorei/coffee houses (not that it really matters, as long as the cakes are good).
So how can you tell if you’re in an actual Konditorei, rather than a traditional coffee house? One or more of the following clues should help:
- The first thing you see on entering is a display counter full of cakes, pastries and similar, but often boxes of chocolates, too. The variety and creativity on show can be quite breathtaking (and fattening)
- You can buy items at the counter for later consumption. A Konditorei makes a grand place to pick up little gifts to take back home with you, as their packaging is often both stylish and unique to the location
- The ambience may be a little noisier than in a coffee house, with fewer tables occupied by just one individual. You come here for cake and company, rather than coffee and quiet
- The decor might be somewhat less austere, the ceilings lower, the tables a touch closer together
- It may be part of a group; the traditional coffee houses are all single locations, while a Konditorei business may have two or more locations
- It calls itself a Konditorei (that’s a pretty big hint, frankly) or Zuckerbäcker (literally: sugar baker)
Which Konditorei should you try?
Given the importance of the Konditorei, Vienna has rather a lot of them. Here are some of the more well-known and traditional alternatives…
Possibly the most famous Konditorei in the city, close enough to the Hofburg palace that the cake would still be warm from the oven if you ordered one for the Emperor. (And that happened a lot – Demel was an official supplier to the court.)
Established in 1786 (!), Demel moved into the current premises in the late 19th-century. The ambience impresses with its regency-like style and the astonishing creativity of the cakes and other products in the shop (not to mention the packaging).
Address: Kohlmarkt 14, 1010 Vienna | Review
Sluka’s traditional home just to one side of the venerable city hall opened back in 1891. The white and gold panelling inside echoes the interior of the Schönbrunn and Belvedere palaces. (Empress Elisabeth ate here.)
The new branch on Kärtner Straße is a touch younger (established in 2017), but occupies an early 19th-century town palace for that slice of historical ambience.
Address: Rathausplatz 8 and Kärntner Straße 13-15, 1010 Vienna | Website
The name may be familiar to US visitors, since Aida famously supplied American troops with doughnuts and ice cream during the post-WWII occupation by the Allies.
A large chain with locations across the city, Aida’s pink branding is now part of the Vienna cityscape. Has possibly the most helpful coffee menu for visitors.
To do true honour to the name, visit the one across the road from the State Opera House.
Address: Various locations | Review
Another court supplier and traditional Konditorei. L. Heiner also blessed the city and world with the gift of a new cake: the Kardinalschnitte, invented in 1933.
The L. Heiner location on the Wollzeile has been open for over 170 years.
Address: Various locations | Review
Established in the 1970s, Konditorei Oberlaa is a relative newcomer when compared to some of its older colleagues. But it has established a reputation for quality and creativity, and the stylish locations seem a tick more modern in their approach.
Address: Various locations | Website