Viennese Coffeehouses

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Viennese Coffeehouses

I will once again begin gearing up to take my students abroad this summer to Germany. Although we will only be in Germany this trip abroad, our previous travels have taken us to other German-speaking countries, including: Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

As I begin the countdown to departure, I always reminisce on our past adventures and experiences. I have many great memories of our trips and activities, but one of my favorite spots is Vienna. Vienna is a wonderful city and one of my favorite things to do there is to visit one of the many local coffeehouses.

When I first made it to Vienna, I stopped by a coffeehouse, because I wanted to take in the atmosphere – and, of course, try the coffee. (I love coffee.) It only took one time for me to be hooked. (Yes, both to the atmosphere and to a Viennese melange and a “Einspänner”.)

  • The “melange” is a Vienna’s signature coffee drink made with espresso, steamed milk and creamy foam on top.
  • The Einspänner has its origins in a carriage drawn by a single horse, known as an Einspänner or single-span. Carriage drivers wanted their coffee to stay warm for as long as possible. So, their mokka (double espresso) was covered with a large topping of whipped cream for insulation. Today, the Einspänner is also served in Vienna’s coffeehouses, in a stylish glass mug with a handle.

However, what I didn’t know when I first visited a coffeehouse was the rich history of the Viennese coffeehouse culture and that this culture permeated the city. (I soon find out how important this cultural piece is to the city.)

With that said, I would like to take minute and share some fun facts and traditions of this unique cultural aspect that now appears on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural assets!

Facts and Traditions of the Viennese Coffeehouse Culture

  • Viennese coffeehouse culture originated in the 17th century, with the introduction of coffee to Austria by the Ottoman Empire.
  • Coffeehouses quickly became integral to Viennese society, serving as hubs for socializing, intellectual discourse, and leisure activities. People gathered to chat, eat, read, work, play, gamble and discuss.
  • By the 19th century, Vienna boasted a bustling coffeehouse scene, with establishments catering to various social groups, including artists, writers, intellectuals, the bourgeoisie, and even the “not-so-respectable”.
  • Viennese coffeehouses played a significant role in shaping European modernity, fostering an environment where ideas flourished and cultural exchange thrived.
  • Many famous individuals have frequented the coffeehouses of Vienna, including: Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler, Johann Strauß, and even Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart.
  • Some coffeehouses in Vienna now host cultural events, such as readings, concerts, and art exhibitions.
  • Many Viennese still consider the “Kaffeehaus” an extension of their living room.
  • There are unwritten rules of etiquette in Viennese coffeehouses, such as not rushing patrons to finish their drinks and respecting the ambiance.
  • There is even a quintessential Viennese coffeehouse chair. It is the Thonet’s classic No. 14 design.
  • A small glass of water is generally served with your coffee. Originally it was served to give patrons somewhere to put their spoon once they had finished stirring their coffee. Later it became a way for coffeehouse owners to show off the quality of the water used to make their coffee.
  • And don’t forget the cakes and pastries! Along with the coffee, they are a special attraction of every Kaffeehaus. They are almost always home-made, often to secret house recipes. Plus, many coffeehouses enjoy their own, reknowned sweet delicacy. (For example, Cafe Korb is reknowned for serving the best Apfelstrudel in the city!)
    • For a classic Apfelstrudel recipe, see here.

There are many coffeehouses through out the city. There are traditional coffeehouses, along with modern and trendy ones. I do not claim to be an expert, but I will list a few below for you to explore further. (I tend to prefer a more traditional feel.)

A few (traditional) coffeehouses in Vienna

  • Café Central
  • Café Sperl
  • Café Hawelka
  • Café Korb
  • Café Schwarzenberg
  • Café Demel
  • Café Landtmann

For pretty much everthing you want to know about Viennese coffeehouses and their associcated culture, check out:

If you have a favorite Viennese coffeehouse or would like to share your experience, please comment below!

Mach’s gut!

2 Comments

  1. Keith Toda on April 4, 2024 at 9:13 pm

    Although I have had many a cup of coffee in Italy, I cannot say that I have ever had Viennese coffee. Does this count? https://youtu.be/rlCoGFYqXzw?feature=shared

  2. Eric Richards Instructional Consulting, LLC on April 4, 2024 at 9:28 pm

    I have to say that I also love the coffee in Italy. You’ll have to put Vienna on the bucket list.
    Although I can appreciate the 80’s and the commericials in that decade, I’d have to say that it doesn’t quite count – but it is close. 🙂

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