Exploring Vienna’s Kaffehaus CultureAustria, Food & Wine — By Mary on October 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm
It is rather unusual to have the opportunity to stay with long-lost relatives when traveling abroad, but in my case, a trip to Vienna landed me in the picturesque apartment of some third cousin approximately twice removed. With my two closest friends by my side, I made Vienna a necessary stop on our pre-study abroad Europe tour, and arrived wide-eyed, eager, and full of questions at my family’s front doorstep. We wanted to know the true Vienna, feel the heartbeat of the city, and surely our native hosts would know the key. Everyone had a different advice, but eventually they all led back to one thing. We could meander the palace halls, soak in the historical significance of the library balcony that Hitler once stood upon, dodge the droppings of the impressive Viennese horses, but to truly know the culture, we would have to leisurely pass the hours in a kaffeehaus- a traditional Viennese coffee house. Each local has their coffee house, but we would have to try them all until we found one of our own–and that we did.
The kaffeehaus institution is rumored to have surfaced in the 17th century during the Ottoman Wars, and although some coffee houses are more modern than others, the respect to the tradition is uniform. Escaping the sporadic summer showers and gray skies that seemed to compliment the majestic city streets, we found sanctuary, with the rest of the city, in the grandiose halls of the coffee houses. Once inside, we understood the allure. Coffeehouses are filled with people from all walks of life; on one side of us, a business meeting was underway, while on the other a lone girl sat, lost in a book. There is no time limit, and coffeehouse visitors are welcome to linger in the halls, sipping fresh drinks and people watching all day. To find our favorite nook, we explored countless spots; here are a few of our favorites.
This famous kaffehaus can be a bit more of a tourist spot, but the impressive former stock exchange interior and high ceilings are worth the crowds. Known for its long list of famous literary and political patrons, Cafe Central allows you to sip your coffee with the contagious intellectual air that has existed inside the walls for centuries.
A haven for any sweet tooth, this kafeehaus doubles as a chocolatier. The perfect spot to try an ornate pastry with your cup of coffee, and pick up a coveted souvenir chocolate box for a lucky friend back home.
A quiet spot with a bit less foot traffic creates the ideal atmosphere for daydreamers. The moment we stepped in that Cafe Sperl, we knew it would be our place. Here, we learned the culture of the Viennese below the surface; and garnered a true appreciation for a leisurely afternoon with a cup of coffee in hand.
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