Writing a list of top coffee houses for Vienna feels a bit like deciding on the best French wines. With rather a lot of good ones around, 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 drinks in this ground floor location in Palais Ferstel. (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 supermarket queue.)
I went into Café Central a skeptic and came out a believer; the interior architecture is truly wonderful.
Herrengasse / Strauchgasse, 1010 Vienna | My full review
A more homely alternative and 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?”
Pop 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”.
Perhaps the most central of all the locations featured here: around halfway between Stephansdom cathedral and the Hofburg palace.
Dorotheergasse 6, 1010 Vienna | My full 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 | My full 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 – not least because it also features in the Vienna Blood period detective series.
Gumpendorfer Straße 11, 1060 Vienna | My full review
Café Ritter Ottakring
A hidden gem a little away from the centre. The Jugendstil décor inside makes you feel like the last hundred years never happened.
Very popular with locals for card games and chess. And the menu is almost entirely locally sourced, too.
Ottakringer Straße 117, 1160 Vienna | My full review
Newly refurbished in 2010 but originally designed by Adolf Loos in 1899. He was a regular guest along with other giants of art and architecture, such as Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt, Franz Lehár, and Egon Schiele.
Convenient for the Staatsoper and easily reached, since it practically has its own exit from the central Karlsplatz subway station.
Operngasse 7, 1010 Vienna | My full review
First opened in 1903. It even has 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.
The café is a favoured haunt of students from the nearby University of Applied Arts. In summer, outdoor seating lines the side of the Prückel so you can enjoy fresh air along with your fresh coffee.
Stubenring 24, 1010 Vienna | My full review
Quite a lot has changed since Café Schwarzenberg opened its doors in 1861. Though I think one of the original waiters might still be 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 justify finding a window seat.
Kärntner Ring 17, 1010 Vienna | My full review
This one has quite a location – sandwiched between the Albertina Museum, State Opera House and Hotel Sacher. So you might describe it as rather central. Which is why queues are also not uncommon here.
Inside exudes a cosy, traditional ambience, despite the comings and goings of tourists dropping by to take a deserved breather from all the art and architecture.
Albertinaplatz 2, 1010 Vienna | My full 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.
The 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 | My full 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 | My full 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.
Be warned if you’re a weak-willed cake lover: the café draws on the wider group’s rather excellent in-house patisserie.
Universitätsring 4, 1010 Vienna | My full 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) and a mere hop and a jump from Stephansdom cathedral.
Brandstätte 9, 1010 Vienna | My full review
This one dates back to the late 1800s 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.
The Westend is handy for rail and subway travellers, since Westbahnhof station lies just over the road.
Mariahilfer Straße 128, 1070 Vienna | My full review
If you’re looking for something with a very long tradition indeed, then Café Frauenhuber ticks all the boxes.
Opened in 1824 in a building where Beethoven and Mozart used to perform. The street outside dates back at least to the 1300s. So, yes, quite a historical pedigree. Bonus points for hand-labelled jam jars.
Himmelpfortgasse 6, 1010 Vienna | My full review
The oldest site of the Diglas group on Wollzeile has the advantage of a particularly central location. The coffee house mixes tradition with a subtle dose of contemporary flair.
For example, Franz Lehár apparently used to drop in regularly, but the clock on the wall is now a digital projection. And that lovely glass chandelier has kitchen utensils hanging from it.
Wollzeile 10, 1010 Vienna | My full review
A relative newcomer, but furnished in the classic coffee house style with an imperial touch (helped by its location in the Schönbrunn Palace outbuildings). Ideal for taking a break from 19th-century Habsburg opulence, but don’t expect to see too many locals here.
Kavalierstrakt 52, Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | My full review
And for something a little different…
- If you’re all about the cakes with cappuccino an afterthought, consider a Konditorei instead of a coffee house. As you can imagine, Vienna has quite a few
- If you like the art and philosophy of Hundertwasser, then grab a coffee at the Café Kunst Haus Wien, located on the same premises that house the Hundertwasser Museum
- If you find yourself in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, pop into Landtmann’s Jausen Station for a more al fresco, modern experience
- If it’s impressive ambience you want, then the cafés in the Naturhistorisches and Kunsthistorisches museums both come with magnificent interior architecture
- If you’d like a rooftop view across the old town, then try the works canteen of the Supreme Court: open to the public in the Justizpalast
- And…how about afternoon tea instead of coffee? The Haas&Haas tea rooms bring English and international tea culture to the very centre of Vienna