Locals will tell you that no self-respecting Viennese would enter a coffeehouse with a “please wait to be seated" sign, not to mention a long line of tourists waiting outside it. If you follow their dictum, you'd altogether skip Café Central, which, together with Café Sacher, is the most touristy coffeehouse in town. (Coffeehouse culture is alive in Vienna, why not try something closer to the fabric of the city?)

In the first decades of the 20th century, the Central was a literary cafe, where writers and poets philosophized amid the thick haze of cigarette smoke. Most famously Peter Altenberg, whose plastic figure today greets visitors at the entrance (he's the same Altenberg whose portrait hangs in the Loosbar). The cafe's dramatic vaulted interior inhabits the ground floor of the 1868 historicist building erected for the National Bank of Austria-Hungary.

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