26 of the Best Traditional Cafes in Vienna

Apart from its museums, Vienna's coffeehouse culture is the most unique attraction for a visitor. Since the 19th century, locals have been socializing at these high-ceilinged establishments complete with suit-and-tie-wearing waiters, oversized windows, and neatly laid out newspapers. Journalists, artists, businesspeople – everyone has their go-tos. The coffee itself is usually pretty bad, but despite the recent advance of minimalist new-wave coffee shops, Viennese love for the coffeehouse hasn’t abated.

Cafés are open throughout the day and also serve breakfast, Austrian classics (schnitzel, goulash, etc.), and pastries. Wifi is rare, but lingering okay, even expected. Below, you’ll find a selection of my favorites, some with more tourists than others.

Even in a city known for its spacious cafés, Prückel wins the number one prize. Fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows and giant mirror panels, this enormous venue along the Ringstrasse owes its inviting midcentury interior to a 1955 refurbishment by architect Oswald Haerdtl. The back section has regained its original Art Nouveau details, but the front is where the action is.

Being in the well-off city center, District 1, means customers are upscale and elegant, but tourists also venture here, as do stylish students from the University of Applied Arts across the street (inside of which is one of the best museums of Vienna, the MAK). The food is solid and includes both breakfast dishes and savory Austrian classics; yes, schnitzels, too. The newspaper selections, laid out on a stick in typical Viennese fashion, include everything from local dailies to the New York Times. A true-to-Vienna cafe experience.

Opened in 1921, Café Bräunerhof hides in the heart of Vienna's downtown, flanked by antique dealers. Weekends can draw tourists, but otherwise the atmosphere is almost comically Viennese: well-dressed locals drop in for a melange and buttered kaiser roll (buttersemmel) while perusing the morning papers, which are neatly laid out and include German and French publications.

Bräunerhof is known to be a literary cafe and there's still a palpable intellectual air (it used to be a favorite of the polemical Austrian writer, Thomas Bernhard). Observing a long-held Viennese tradition, waiters, who are donning suits and bow ties, are not exactly friendly with newcomers.

Eiles is a perennially busy, old-school cafe in Vienna's elegant District 8, a short walk form the city center. Being near the City Hall (Rathaus) means politicians and journalists often congregate here, but so do all sorts of other people, both young and old. As a nod to the 21st century, the servers are casually dressed – no wrinkled smoking jackets here – and the owners tend to hire recent immigrants and refugees.

Despite the enormous size of the place, which opened in 1840, there are many snug booths coated in plush red upholstery and ringing small marble-topped tables. Pick one with a view, tuck yourself in, order a cake from the glass display upfront, and observe the scenery. Prices are on the higher end and the food is just average, but you're here for the atmosphere, which is truly Viennese. Open every day until midnight!

If you're unwilling to wait out the line outside Café Sacher, just around the corner from here, slip in to Tirolerhof instead. Sure, the interior is more austere, but this place is a lot truer to Vienna than Sacher. Here, you can still find elderly aristocrats munching on their apple strudels; fur-wearing ladies absorbed by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung; adorably old-school waiters. Also: Thonet chairs, Wiener Werkstätte upholstery, and excellent Viennese pastries that aren't overpriced.

High-flying businesspeople, local aristocrats, influential politicians, and selfie-stick-carrying tourists share this upscale Viennese coffeeshop across from the City Hall (Rathaus). The most striking feature of the inside is the dark wood paneling with inlaid motifs, but I prefer the winterized terrace and its panoramic views onto Gottfried Semper's striking Burgtheater.

Landtmann is a see-and-be-seen destination and among the priciest and most elegant cafes in the city (there’s coat service, so that we proles and plebs don’t hang our garbs on the chair). The current owner, the Querfeld family, is in charge of other historic cafes too, such as the Café Museum and Café Mozart.

Founded in 1786, Demel pastry shop is a legendary institution in Vienna, located near the Imperial Palace (Hofburg) to which it was an official purveyor during the glory days of the Empire. The Baroque Revival interior, the crystal chandeliers, the apron-wearing servers are as much a travel back in time as the experience of waiting out the line outside together with fellow tourists is not.

Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the Viennese upper crust here, but the pastries are still delicious – most famously the Kaiserschmarrn shredded pancake with fruit preserves. And of course expensive. (Those with an interest in Jewish-Austrian cultural history might want to try the Fächertorte, a delicious layered cake once popular by Viennese Jews.)

Korb is a lively cafe in Vienna's city center best known as the hub of underground Viennese artists in the 1960-70s. A midcentury remodeling left its mark on the interior complete with linoleum floors and plastic-topped tables (the futuristic but impractical bathroom merits a visit to the below-ground level).

Today, many tourists stumble in here, but the ambiance of the cluttered space still exudes a bit of irreverence. The Viennese breakfast dishes and savory classics are solid; keep an eye out for the below-ground music hall with live concerts. Note that prices reflect the downtown premium.

If an old-school and a modern Viennese coffeehouse had an offspring, it would look like Café Schopenhauer. High ceilings, oversized windows, marble-topped tables, creaking floors, yes, but also a sleek concrete counter, open kitchen, and fashionably dressed servers. The menu, too, reflects this fusion of old and new: avocado toast and soy milk matcha appear next to such Viennese classics as eggs in glass, frankfurters, and buttered kaiser roll.

The crowd leans fashionable Millennials, but upper-middle-class folks from the nearby neighborhood of Währing (District 18) also appear here. Reinforcing the intellectual ethos of the Viennese coffeehouse, there's an entire corner laid out with books for sale. The dishes are named after famous philosophers; my favorite is "Simone de Beauvoir" – espresso with a cigarette. Why Schopenhauer? The reason is disappointingly prosaic: the cafe is located by Schopenhauer Street.

Places near Vienna’s #1 attraction, the Stephansdom, must be taken with a grain of salt, but the Kleines Café is no tourist trap. During the warmer months, sit by the outdoor tables overlooking the charming Franziskanerplatz, but be sure to also glimpse the inside. The truly small – kleines – cafe was designed in 1970 by the prominent Austrian architect Hermann Czech, in the vein of Adolf Loos: he used inventive solutions to maximize space, such as the mirror panels behind the leather booths separated by vertical marble partitions. It's dim, cozy, and positively strange.

The Kleines Cafe is packed at all times, but try to score a seat from which you can observe the crowd, always with at least a few of the stylish, longtime regulars. In the evenings, when tourists have retired, it becomes a truly local spot. Price points reflect the central location.

Opened in 1924, Dommayer is a neighborhood institution in the upscale Hietzing, within walking distance of the enormous Habsburg summer palace (Schönbrunn). Don’t let the crystal chandeliers and suit-and-tie wearing waiters intimidate you; as with other Viennese cafés, this place is less pretentious than it looks.

The crowd consists of elderly locals who wind down here with the paper, an apple strudel, or a chocolate mousse, and well-informed visitors recharging their batteries after a Schönbrunn visit. Dommayer is owned by Oberlaa, an upscale pastry chain, which means that tortes and confections are on point. Try to sit by the oversized windows and take in the scenes both inside and out. Nearby attractions include Adolf Loos's pioneering residential houses Scheu and Steiner Haus and the Hietzing Cemetery, where lie Gustav Klimt and Otto Wagner.

This secluded downtown café doesn’t want to draw attention to itself but it’s a true-to-Vienna establishment. Journalists, actors, businesspeople, well-heeled elderly couples, and even teenage lovebirds come to Cafe Engländer, which is known for its above-average kitchen (schnitzel, fried chicken salad, Carinthian cheese dumplings) and kind, longtime servers. The interior is simple and elegant and there’s something distinctly civilized and bourgeoisie – in the best sense of the word – about this place. Evenings tend to be most lively.

If you’re near St. Stephen’s Cathedral and need a rest in grand Viennese fashion, walk a few steps over to Cafe Diglas, run by the Diglas family, one of the well-known Viennese restaurateurs with two additional locations. Crystal chandeliers, marble floors, snug booths with red upholstery, wall paneling hung with erotic black-and-white photos.

In the mornings, locals gather here before the cascade of tourists arrive. Diglas is best known for its in-house pastries, such as the ethereal cottage-cheese strudel (Topfenstrudel). In traditional Viennese fashion, service can be very unkind, and also note that price points are steep.

“Vienna is boring,” is something I often hear from Budapest friends. All the prosperity leaves little room for a bit of irreverence, they say. Too much melange, too little espresso, if you will. I like to point them to Cafe Kafka to prove this isn’t so. Opened in 2001, this edgy bar draws many art students who would seamlessly blend into Budapest’s alternative scene (ironically, Kafka is just steps away from Mariahilfer Straße, the main shopping street). No matter whether you come here at 11 a.m. or 11 p.m., the place is filled to capacity.

Vintage film posters decorate the worn walls and vintage too is the wood-burning stove that provides heating in the cool months. Laptops are permitted and there’s wifi and electric outlets for lingerers. A few of the servers have serious attitude problems, but don't let them spoil the fun.

I can’t decide for you whether you should visit Cafe Sacher, Vienna’s main tourist destination known for its namesake chocolate sponge cake layered with apricot jam, but I can lay out the facts. The story is well-known: pastry maker Franz Sacher invented the recipe for Austria's all-powerful minister, Prince Metternich, in 1832. Later, Franz's commercially-savvy son, Eduard, opened the Hotel Sacher and cashed in on the name.

Most days, you’ll need to wait in line between half-hour to an hour to enter the premises: Two small but elaborate Baroque-Revival rooms on the ground floor of the five-star Hotel Sacher, located behind the Opera House. The Sacher torte is indeed delicious – rich but feather-light. The customers are strictly tourists; local people don’t go near here since similarly good Sacher torte can be had elsewhere for lower prices (for example at Cafe Tirolerhor around the corner).

This isn’t to say that Cafe Sacher is your typical tourist trap; it's simply a soulless commercial operation. A cash cow. More so than Demel, its historical archrival a few blocks away.

If you think only rich people live in Vienna’s District 8 (Josefstadt), spend a couple of hours at Cafe Hummel sitting at the bar counter. The unobstructed views will reveal a motley group: far from furs and glitz, opinionated pensioners, college students, and regular middle-classers fill the enormous space of this neighborhood institution anchoring Josefstädter Straße (fine: the price points are a bit unfriendly).

Since 1937, the Hummel family has been in charge; the current owner, Christina Hummel, is half-Hungarian, perhaps the reason that the goulash soup is the specialty of the house. Notably, Hummel is open every day of the year.

Dating to 1896, Savoy is a classic cafe and the best-known and oldest gay bar of Vienna. Even in good weather, be sure to glimpse the inside: the over-the-top Baroque Revival furnishings are a refreshing contrast to the pervasive minimalism of the current day. The most prized objects are two enormous mirror panels – the biggest in Vienna – and the golden chandeliers designed by Theophil Hansen, the architect of the Austrian House of Parliament. During the day, foreigners stumble in here from the tourist-heavy Naschmarkt market across the street, but there's more of a gay scene in the evenings.

Opened in 1880, Sperl is one of the nicest – and priciest – cafes in Vienna, one that regained its original look after a thorough restoration a few decades ago. Sperl was known as the hangout of the Viennese Secession artists, whose home base, that strange white building with a golden dome, is just a few blocks away (paper and painting supplies were always within arm’s reach to ensure that Sperl’s marble tables remained free of creative inspirations).

The right-hand side of the space is anchored by pool tables, the left is for coffee and socializing. Today, Sperl is a bit of a tourist spot, but not distractingly so. Across the street from here is phil, a new-wave cafe and bookstore, so you can sample both sides of Vienna.

Weidinger is a very special cafe in Vienna, but – warning! – it may not be for everyone. This unpretentious establishment is located along the Gürtel in District 16, well away from downtown and its tourist and bourgeois-heavy crowds. Some decades ago, the brown walls had to have been yellow, the gray upholstery blue, the formica tables unblemished. Here, you’ll be with regular Viennese: mid-level office workers, community organizers, foreign workers, daydreamers, students.

The low price points and all-inviting atmosphere bring together this eclectic group. Apart from alcohol and surprisingly good coffe, they also serve some basic dishes – goulash soup, scrambled eggs, toasted sandwiches. The evenings draw many Viennese hipsters, as well as card, pool, and bowling players (the bowling alley is below-ground).

When you enter this historic café near Vienna’s Opera House, you’ll be accosted by a mouthwatering display of pastries and tortes behind the glass display. Apple and cottage cheese strudels, Esterhazy torte, Cardinal slice, whipped-cream-filled rolls (Schaumroll). If you’re like me, they’ll lure into one of the crescent-shaped plush red banquettes (sadly, Adolf Loos's legendary interior from 1899 is no more).

You’ll sit alongside elegant local Viennese who camp out here under the silver globe lighting fixtures and do their reading or socializing with a cup of very pricey coffee or a glass of Zweigelt. Note: weekends are overrun by tourists.

Rüdigerhof, a historical Viennese cafe a half-hour walk from the city center, inhabits the ground floor of a beautiful Art Nouveau building designed in 1904 by Oskar Marmorek (an excellent example of Viennese Secession architecture). There’s a lively and blithe energy here, as evidenced by T-shirted waiters and alternative-leaning regulars, some in their twenties, some in their sixties, some in-between (many cabaret artists and actors). In the warm months, the action shifts to the spacious outdoor terrace overlooking the slender Vienna River.

Kaffee Alt-Wien is different from your typical elegant Viennese coffeehouse: here film and museum posters blanket the seasoned walls and a distinctly bohemian vibe fills the dim interior. The place was best known as the hangout of painters and poets in the 1980s, many of whom still appear in the evenings when most of the action is, alongside beer-loving members of the Croatian and Hungarian communities. Being smack in the middle of the city center means that Alt-Wien gets its share of tourists during the day, but its native bohemian spirit is very much alive.

Jelinek is a cozy neighborhood café off Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna's District 6. The high-ceilinged establishment opened in 1910 and the deeply weathered interior is proof that little has changed here in the past century. In fact, there’s an ornate fireplace at the center of the space into which customers occasionally toss a few logs to keep the flames alive in the cold months.

Jelinek serves breakfast food all day, but you’re here for the homemade Gugelhupf cakes. And for the ambiance – try to score a table in one of the snug corners with plush chairs. The customers are a mix of local hipsters, neighborhood residents, and an increasing number of tourists. Prices are higher than what you’d expect, but the vibes make up for it.

Owners Leopold and Josefine Hawelka turned this dim downtown cafe off the Graben into a legendary bohemian hangout whose golden period lasted from the 1950s to the 1970s. Back then, Viennese painters, architects, and writers sat around the marble-topped tables amid a thick haze of cigarette smoke.

Today, the inside is still unquestionably cool: creaking wooden floors; museum posters and playful drawings on the walls; a well-earned patina anywhere you look. But Hawelka is a major tourist destination with little of its native spirit still palpable. If you decide to come, show up shortly after 4 p.m. when the freshly made yeast buns – Buchteln – filled with plum jam are served (they run out quickly). Prices, as you can expect, are inflated.

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.

If you need to give your feet or your wallet a break from Mariahilfer Straẞe, Vienna’s main shopping street, your savior is Café Ritter. It’s the last remaining coffeehouse on this very long stretch of commerce and far better than your number two option: a generic Starbucks.

Ritter delivers a true Viennese cafe experience, almost to the point of being a caricature of itself: stuccoed ceilings, hanging chandeliers, grumpy waiters in bow ties, bland dark-roasted coffee (the neon sign and the pastry counter are 1950s additions). Patrons are a mix of neighborhood residents and shoppers.

Scan the bespectacled and stylishly dressed middle-aged crowd at Anzengruber, and you’ll not be surprised that established creatives and artists like to wind down at this historical cafe in the upper-middle-class gallery district of Vienna's District 4. Today, Anzengruber is more of a restaurant and a bar than a cafe (opens at 4 p.m.) and shows its best self in the evenings. Food, coffee, and service are all above-average. (Historically, Anzengruber was the hangout of the city's Croatian community and it still draws Slavic speakers when soccer plays on the big screen.)

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I never accept money in exchange for coverage. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider supporting me by making a one-time payment (PayPal, Venmo).