One of Vienna’s oldest coffee houses offers a bit of respite from one of the busiest streets. Café Ritter sits halfway up the city’s main shopping precinct.
- Traditional coffee house first opened in the late 19th century
- Interwar-style decor in dark wood and burgundy
- Quite busy with customers from across the local spectrum
- See also:
A local review
(Another lovely coffee house font)
Shoppers throng Vienna’s Mariahilfer Straße, thrusting their way through the crowds to buy the latest fashions and gadgets from the clothes outlets and departments stores that line this pedestrianised thoroughfare.
When the retail rush ends, at least some of those shoppers fall into Café Ritter to recharge their batteries with coffee and cake (or even bread and butter with chives).
The coffee house sits halfway up and just to one side of the long shopping street and has occupied these premises since the late 1800s.
Inside feels like an Edwardian waiting room in a better class of railway station: the sort of place that lends itself to a black and white photo. An old-style clock at one end does nothing to dispel that impression.
“Edwardian” is not far from the truth, either, since the burgundy and hardwood decor harks back to the period between the world wars. A floral white and gold stucco ceiling adds a touch of neo rococo elegance.
Sit on the left side as you go in to enjoy views of the former Hotel Kummer, built in 1870 in the historical style. Redevelopment work ended in 2021, with the building reopening as a new hotel with a striking roof.
(The operator describes the Hotel Motto as “Paris meets 1920s Vienna”.)
(The famous painter, Rudolf von Alt (1812-1902), was apparently a regular. I like to think he paid his tab with a watercolour or two. Photo from around 1862 by Ferdinand Küss; Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 33483; excerpt reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
Unlike some of its ilk, Café Ritter is not a place of hushed reverence, but rather one of quiet bustle.
As my morning there progressed, mothers and daughters, groups of friends, and shoppers replaced business folk and elderly gentlemen at the tables. The service was fast, and what you might call grumpily friendly in the time-honoured Viennese tradition.
Otherwise, Café Ritter ticks all the usual boxes: marbled tabletops, worn wooden chairs, a selection of newspapers, cakes, pastries, coffee specialties, and a quite traditional coffee house food menu with light snacks and meals. Prices seemed very reasonable compared to some of the old town cafés, too.
Certainly one to consider if you like tradition combined with a bit of a local buzz about the place.
Incidentally, Café Ritter shares its name with another top coffee house; Café Ritter Ottakring is one of those rare traditional locations outside the centre so remains something of an insider tip.
How to get to Café Ritter
Mariahilfer Straße is well served by public transport, particularly the subway system.
Subway: Café Ritter is practically on top of the Neubaugasse subway station on the U3 line that passes through the old town (exit as if you were going away from the city centre)
Tram/bus: Mariahilfer Straße is largely pedestrianised. But the 14A bus stops outside the café (Neubaugasse) when travelling in the direction of Reumannplatz. As does, more or less, the 13A when travelling in the direction of Hauptbahnhof. You can also get off at Kirchengasse on the 13A when going in the reverse direction (toward Skodagasse)
(Although outside the immediate centre, you’re actually quite close to a few of the more honourable old coffee houses for which Vienna is famous for. For example, Café Jelinek and Café Sperl are both no more than a few minutes walk away.)
Address: Mariahilfer Straße 73, 1060 Vienna | Website