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 outside it. If you follow their dictum, you'd altogether skip Café Central, which, along with Café Sacher and Café Hawelka, 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 gathered 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 building that used to be the Central Bank of Austria-Hungary.

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