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
- Think of a café but add more flour, butter, 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:
What is a Konditorei?
(Sluka near the Rathaus)
The formal English translation (confectionery) doesn’t feel quite right, since a key element of the Viennese Konditorei is the option to sit down and enjoy the products on site. Think of it as a café where much of the food takes the form of cake and similar sweet delicacies.
Indeed, many bill themselves as a Café-Konditorei to emphasise the point, and many offer an expanded food menu too.
The Konditorei tradition
In most countries, cakes are simply nice things to eat. In Vienna, they belong to the very fabric of the city. In fact, UNESCO officially recognizes the work of the confectioner as part of Austria’s intangible cultural heritage.
You don’t make cakes, here; you create them.
(Oberlaa on Neuer Markt)
Cakes are art, history, tradition and staple food in one. If ancient Rome had its “Bread and Circuses” to placate the population, then modern Vienna has “Cake and Cake.”
So, as you can imagine, 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, a Konditorei may also follow coffee house traditions, sit in equally historical settings, and 8as mentioned) feature breakfast, snacks and other meals on the menu. Equally, coffee houses are also known for their cakes and pastries.
As such, various establishments might be considered hybrid Konditorei/coffee houses (not that it really matters, as long as the cakes are good).
(A slice of Malakofftorte)
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. Incidentally, a Konditorei makes a grand place to pick up little gifts to take back home with you: the 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
- The decor might be somewhat less austere, the ceilings lower, the tables a touch closer together
- It may be part of a group; the classic coffee houses are all standalone locations, while a Konditorei business may have several branches
- 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 possesses rather a lot of them. Some of the more well-known and traditional choices include:
(The Demel display window)
Possibly the most famous Konditorei in the city and close enough to the Hofburg palace that the cake would still be warm from the oven if you ordered one for the Emperor.
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 | My review
(The entrance to the Rathaus premises)
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 was a patron here, too.
(Sisi, as the Empress was known, clearly had a sweet tooth.)
Address: Rathausplatz 8, 1010 Vienna | My review
The branch on Kärntner Straße is a touch younger (established in 2017), but occupies an early 19th-century town palace for that all-important slice of historical ambience. It also has a remarkable interior. Be sure to go through to the back or use the Weihburggasse entrance.
I try not to have favourites, but I do find myself popping into here more often than is good for my diet.
Address: Kärntner Straße 13-15, 1010 Vienna | My review
(One of many Aida cafés in the city)
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 thanks to the cross-sectional diagrams.
To do true honour to the name, visit the one across the road from the State Opera House.
Address: Various locations | My review
(First opened in the mid-19th century)
Another court supplier and traditional Konditorei. L. Heiner also blessed the city and world with the gift of a new cake. The Kardinalschnitte appeared in 1933 and still features on menus across the city.
The L. Heiner location on the Wollzeile has been open for over 170 years. The cakes are fresh, though.
Address: Various locations | My review
(Another Konditorei with several branches)
Established in the 1970s, Konditorei Oberlaa counts as 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.
The Neuer Markt Oberlaa on a recently-refurbished historical square in the very centre of Vienna has a particularly nice conservatory-like section, not to mention lovely staff. I often pop in there to write up notes between visits to exhibitions.
Address: Various locations | My general review