Historical need not mean antique. Café Korb’s traditional decor is more Warhol than Wagner, giving it a special place in the pantheon of Viennese coffee houses.
- Combines 60s-style design with Viennese coffee house tradition
- Very central location close to Stephansdom
- Local clientele and bustling atmosphere
- The toilets are different (seriously)
- See also: Vienna coffee houses
A local review
Like most of the traditional coffee houses, Café Korb looks back on a rich history. It opened here in the early 1900s, where the guest list (possibly) included Emperor Franz Joseph. Which leads me to visions of the superbly-moustachioed monarch eating cake, and nobody willing to point out all the crumbs caught in the royal whiskers.
Anyone expecting a turn-of-the century atmosphere, though, is in for a shock. The current decor is a child of the swinging sixties, when the café underwent a complete transformation and refit.
Formica tabletops adjoin their more marbled cousins, and the walls burst with photos, film posters and similar paying tribute to some of the more illustrious guests and, particularly, Café Korb’s owner: Sudanne Widl is a celebrity in her own right…actress, artist, muse and fashion icon, to name but a few of her fields of activity.
That list of illustrious guests includes names famous beyond the confines of Vienna and Austria, such as Sigmund Freud, Elfriede Jelinek (winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature), Andy Warhol, and Arthur Miller.
In line with the owner’s personality, consider the Korb both a coffee house and cultural rendezvous.
The café hosts public philosopher meetings, regular lectures, readings, concerts, and similar. The location has even served as a venue for the Wien Modern festival of contemporary classical music. These events and performances take place in Café Korb’s basement Art Lounge.
As such, the café pays continuing homage to the Viennese coffee house tradition of discourse and debate. I once found a newspaper cutting from 1908, for example, giving notice of a meeting of the Kosmos scientific-literary association in Café Korb to discuss school reforms.
This is an authentic, no-fuss café in relatively small premises (with plenty of seating outside in warmer seasons). The place bustles with regulars and local characters; the waiters seemed to know many guests. Louder than its more austere cousins, the Korb feels better suited to excited chatter than long hours reading Proust.
Given the central location close to Stephansplatz, the prices were on the imperial side of the spectrum on our visit, but the coffee was excellent and the same could be said of the hefty portion of apple strudel we ordered with it.
In summary, not your classical coffee house with tall ceilings and hushed corners. But one where you can experience the more artistic Viennese in their traditional element.
Oh, and be sure to visit the toilet, which doubles as a piece of art in its own right.
How to get to Café Korb
The coffee house sits close to two of Vienna’s most historic religious buildings. Peterskirche in all its Baroque glory is practically the next-door neighbour. And the shadows cast by Stephansdom’s tall towers almost reach the café.
Subway: Take the U3 or U1 line to Stephansplatz station outside the cathedral. It’s a five minute walk down the scenic Graben pedestrianised street and across past the Peterskirche.
Bus: Take the 1A, 2A or 3A bus to the Brandstätte stop, which is actually outside Café Korb.
Address: Brandstätte 9, 1010 Vienna | Website