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In a city as pretty as Vienna, it might sound like a shame to leave the architectural splendor and head indoors to a local café. Not so.
Vienna’s beauty comes from within too – inside the steamy coffee houses crammed with locals leisurely sipping rich coffee with milk and indulging in delicious Viennese pastries. The coffee house is where you’ll find the real Vienna, everyone from the posh set (dressed in head-to-toe fur, mind you), the artsy crowd, cozy couples and geek-chic intellectuals. It’s the spot to be all year long, especially during a frigidly cold day. Get ready to savour Vienna’s best cafés (and a few chocolatey treats, too) in this insider’s guide.
Demel Café (demel.at)
The vibe: Undeniably rich thanks to the shelves and shelves of dreamy confections to choose from. Most Vienna cafés are busy, but Demel is especially packed since it’s right off
Kohlmarkt, the main shopping strip—which makes it an ideal place for a cappuccino stop, post-Louis Vuitton purchase (Bonus: your credit card can cool off, while you warm up).
Head upstairs for a spot by the window overlooking the bustling shopping street. Order up a velvety hot chocolate (a Demel specialty) and ask for a little extra dollop of whipped cream. Then tuck into a crunchy apple torte packed with layers and layers of fine phyllo pastry and tart, cinnamon-drenched apples.
Bonus: You can watch your sweets being made through a glass window just before heading upstairs. You’ll find pastry chefs hand-painting seasonal cookies, swirling cakes with frosting and layering flaky tortes. Then comes the hard part: narrowing down your choice.
Café Central (palaisevents.at)
The vibe: A bustling art scene. One of Vienna’s most classic cafés is also centrally located at
Herrengasse 14 (hence the name), which makes it a perfect spot for tourists and local shoppers alike. The building once housed Vienna’s bank and stock market, and today is referred to as the
Palais Ferstel after its architect Heinrich von Ferstel. When you enter through the main doors, glance up at the high, arching ceilings and intricate artwork of carved wood and velum wallpaper (chances are you’ll be waiting in line to get a table, so you’ll have time to be transfixed by the fine details).
Make sure you get a spot in the main part of the coffee house. It might mean a longer wait, but the atmosphere of people reading, catching up and gossiping makes the space feel particularly exciting and vibrant. The back room is much more subdued and quiet—perfect for families, not so great for eavesdropping. Once you’ve landed your ideal table, walk up to the glass counters to select your treat—lemon tarts, chocolate cake and plum tortes are all delicious options. (Tip: Make sure to catch the treat’s number—you’ll need to pass it along to your waiter once you’ve arrived back at your table and placed your order.) This is the best place to order up a hot
Kapuziner—coffee with milk topped with whipped cream and cinnamon—to go along with your confection.
Bonus: If it wasn’t for the iPhones, modern day coats and the up-to-date newspapers available, you’d swear you had stepped back in time with the charming setting, atmosphere and classic music being played on the in-house piano.
Sip lattes where the in-crowd does in Vienna (plus learn how to order a coffee in Vienna) on the next page …
Café Phil (phil.info)
The vibe: Artsy hipster. You’ll need to make a trek on the transit system to get to Café Phil at
Gumpendorfer Straße 10-12 (but don’t worry: it’s incredibly easy, even for the taxi-loving kind. Just look for the
Museumsquartier stop.) A modern spin on the classic coffee house, this spot is filled with young artists, writers, songwriters and the like. Everything about Café Phil—which is set in a library with randomly spaced chairs and tables—is relaxed, from the fact that you can pick up a book and have a read with your latte to the simple menu. (
Tip: Stop by for brunch. It’s amazing.)
Bonus: The neighbourhood is just as artsy as the café. It may not have skyscraping views, but the people who come and go throughout an afternoon are just as eye-catching.
Motto am Fluss (motto.at/mottoamfluss)
The vibe: Totally chill. A nighttime hotspot for dinner and a chilled out location for brunch and a coffee during the day, Motto am Fluss is owned by Bernd Schlacher, who seems to have a golden restaurateur touch (he’s also the proprietor of the much-loved Motto Group restaurants MOTTO Bar.Restaurant and Die HALLE). Situated along the Danube Canal (at
Schwedenplatz 2) in a two-storey old boat terminal, the café affords an impressive evening view of
Vienna’s other side of the river. During the day, light streams through the windows offering a cozy retreat from the cold for brunchers (try the tomato, basil and feta omelet, or a traditional Viennese brekkie of meats, cheese and breads). By afternoon, Motto is packed with people sipping on foamy cappuccinos and eating sweet breads.
Bonus: The modern feel of the restaurant makes it perfect for catching up on emails while getting your java fix. As an added bonus, the staff members aren’t hard on the eyes.
How to order a coffee in Vienna
Brush up on your coffee ordering skills—Vienna has more than 30 ways to get your coffee just right (whipped cream, no whip; rum, no rum; foam, no foam). Before your head starts to spin, learn the most popular varieties:
Melange (or Wiener Melange): A very creamy half-milk, half-coffee combo
= a delish pick-me-up.
Konsul: Coffee with just a little bit of cream
= your usual cup of java, but better because you’re in Vienna.
Mokka: Black coffee, no milk
= when you just need the straight caffeine.
Verkehrt: Coffee infused with milk or cream and topped with foam
= a latte, but again better because you’re in Vienna.
Kapuziner: Regular coffee with a shot of milk or cream and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon
= why don’t we put cinnamon and whipped cream on our coffee in North America every day? We should start.