It’s no secret that I love a good cup of coffee.
It’s also no secret that when it comes to cafes, Vienna has a special league of its own – the Viennese coffee house.
The Viennese coffee house culture is listed as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” as per UNESCO. It’s a concept I recently became familiar with my friend Melissa went to Marrakech and told me that the markets were listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage. While the more well-known concept of World Heritage sites refers to tangible – or touchable – buildings, monuments, places etc., this particular categories refers to song, music, drama… overall vibes that you can’t replicate elsewhere in the world.
And surely, I’ve never been to a coffee joint quite like the Viennese coffee house. I liked them right away, and went to several during my trip to Vienna. They all have different decors, moods, menus, but what remains the same is the hushed banter, the elegant service, melange on the menu and delicious cakes served with silverware.
The first coffee house we went to – literally within two hours of arriving in Vienna – was Cafe Hawelka. It was on the very top of my list for all the historical significance it boasts of – opened by Leopold Hawelka (who passed away in 2011 at the age of 100) in 1939, the interior of the establishment has been fully preserved, from its marble table tops to elegant lace curtains. I ordered my first Wiener Melange, literally translating to “Viennese blend.” It’s something I’d describe as a cross between a cappuccino and a latte. And I liked it!
Which is why I continued to get it at every coffee house we went to. At Cafe Landtmann – on the Ringstasse, Mum opted for an Assam tea with the cutest crystallised honey sticks for sweetness. If I was impressed with Hawelka’s historical legacy, I was floored to discover that brassy doors of Landtmann have been open since 1873 and it used to be Sigmund Freud’s favourite cafe. However, the interior has been touched up to reflect some modernity and evolution.
Cafe Sacher is also a bit of a Viennese legacy. Located in the five-star Hotel Sacher, it is known for its Sachertorte – a hearty chocolate cake with apricot jam in between the layers. Here’s an admission – I wasn’t in love with Sacher. It’s more pretentious than pleasant. The service or the quality of the cake and coffees was not worth the wait to get a spot. On the contrary, I’d say my absolutely favourite coffee house in Vienna was Cafe Central. You’re greeted by glittering chandeliers hanging from arched ceilings. The marble pillars are adorned in beautiful green-gold embellishments. No wonder Trotsky used to come here to play chess. I got myself yet another (!) melange and Mum and I shared some pancakes with apricot jam. Heavenly! The service was also the best and friendliest we’d received in all of the coffee houses yet.
To everyone who’s been to Vienna: which one is your favourite coffee house?