22 of the Best Traditional Cafes in Vienna

Cafés in Vienna aren't so much about coffee, which is generic, but about a lifestyle. Since the 19th century, locals have been socializing at these high-ceilinged spaces complete with suit-and-tie-wearing waiters, oversized windows, and newspapers neatly laid out on newspaper racks. Journalists, artists, businesspeople – everyone has their go-tos. Despite the recent advance of minimalist new-wave coffee shops, the city's love for the classical establishments hasn’t abated.

Most of Vienna’s cafes are open throughout the day and also serve breakfast, savory Austrian classics (schnitzel, goulash, etc.), pastries, and alcohol. While lingering over the paper is okay, laptops aren't welcome unless stated otherwise. Below, you’ll find a selection of my favorites, some with more tourists than others.

#1 Café Prückel

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 I prefer the front).

#2 Cafe Korb

A 1960s remodeling left its mark on Cafe Korb, a historical cafe in the city center complete with linoleum floors and plastic-topped tables (the futuristic but impractical bathroom merits a visit to the below-ground level). There’s something inviting about the cluttered space which draws many locals alongside tourists who stumble in here. The prices reflect the downtown premium, but the food is very tasty – order the rich goulash soup when in doubt. There’s a charming outdoor area for the summer months, and a below-ground hall with live music concerts.

#3 Café Sperl

Opened in 1880, Sperl is one of the nicest 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.

#4 Kleines Cafe

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 square (Franziskanerplatz), but be sure to also take a peek inside. The truly small – kleines – cafe was designed in 1970 by prominent Austrian architect Hermann Czech and consists of small leather booths separated by vertical marble partitions backed by mirror panels. It's dim, tiny, and positively strange. The Kleines Cafe is packed at all times, but try to score a seat from which you can observe the crowd, which always includes at least a few of the stylish, longtime regulars. Price points reflect the central location.

#5 Cafe Tirolerhof

If you are unwilling to wait out the line outside Café Sacher, located around the corner, slip in to Tirolerhof instead. Sure, the interior here is more austere, but today this is a more true-to-Vienna cafe 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 and unpretentious waiters. Also: Thonet chairs, Wiener Werkstätte upholstery, and excellent and not overpriced Viennese classics and pastries.

#6 Café Dommayer

Opened in 1924, Dommayer is a neighborhood institution in Hietzing, within walking distance of the Schönbrunn Palace. Don’t let the crystal chandeliers and suit-and-tie wearing waiters intimidate you, this place is less pretentious than it looks. The crowd consists of elderly citizens from the nearby residential neighborhood of District 13 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.

#7 Café Jelinek

Jelinek is an especially cozy neighborhood café off Mariahilfer Straße in 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.

#8 Cafe Engländer

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. The evenings tend to be most lively.

#9 Kaffee Alt-Wien

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.

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#10 Café Rüdigerhof

No matter whether you come here at midday or at 11 pm, Rüdigerhof delivers an authentic cafe experience. This historical Viennese cafe, about a half-hour walk from the city center, inhabits the ground floor of a beautiful Art Nouveau building, Rüdigerhof, designed in 1904 by Oskar Marmorek, a pupil of Otto Wagner. 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 which overlooks the slender Vienna River.

#11 Cafe Landtmann

High-flying businesspeople, local aristocrats, influential politicians, and selfie-stick-carrying tourists share this upscale Viennese coffeeshop across from the City Hall (Rathaus) and beside the Burgtheater. The most striking feature of the inside is the dark wood paneling with inlaid motifs, but I prefer the winterized terrace which provides panoramic views of its Ringstrasse surroundings. Landtmann is a see-and-be-seen destination and among the priciest and most elegant cafes in the city (there’s coat service, so people don’t hang their garbs on the chair). The current owner, the Querfeld family, is in charge of other historic cafes too, such as the Museum and the Mozart.

#12 Cafe Hummel

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. 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. Cafe Hummel is open every day of the year.

#13 Café Schopenhauer

If a classic Viennese coffeehouse and a contemporary cafe 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, casually dressed waiters, a menu of updated classics, and tables laid out with trending books for sale. A fashionable crowd, mainly Millennials, flocks here from the neighborhood, which is near Währing in the well-heeled District 18. Why Schopenhauer? The reason is disappointingly prosaic: the cafe is located right by Schopenhauerstraße.

#14 Cafe Weidinger

Weidinger is a very special cafe in Vienna, but – warning! – it may not be for everyone. It’s 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. Also: card, pool, and bowling players in the evenings (the bowling alley is below-ground). Low price points and an all-inviting atmosphere is what brings together this eclectic group. Apart from alcohol and surprisingly good coffe, there are a few basic dishes – goulash soup, scrambled eggs, pastries. No wifi, of course.

#15 Cafe Anzengruber

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 off Naschmarkt in the gallery district of District 4. Historically, this was the hangout of Vienna’s Croatian community, and Anzengruber still draws Slavic speakers, especially when soccer plays on the big screen. 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.

#16 Demel

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 with fellow tourists is not. Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the Viennese upper crust here, but the pastries are still delicious (Kaiserschmarrn! Sacher torte! Apple strudel!). And of course expensive.

#17 Cafe Kafka

“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, alternative bar draws many art students who would seamlessly blend into Budapest’s bohemian scene (ironically, Kafka is just steps away from Mariahilfer Straße, the main shopping street). No matter whether you come here at 11 am or 11 pm, it’s filled to capacity.

#18 Cafe Museum

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 1930s-inspired crescent-shaped plush red banquettes. You’ll sit alongside local Viennese who camp out here under the silver globe lighting fixtures and do their reading or socializing with a cup of coffee or a glass of Zweigelt. Note: prices are steep, and the weekends overrun by tourists.

#19 Café Hawelka

Owners Leopold and Josefine Hawelka turned this dim and cozy downtown cafe off the Graben into a legendary bohemian hangout whose golden period was from the 1950s to the 1970s. 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 primarily a 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 of them quickly). Prices, as you can expect, are inflated.

#20 Cafe Sacher

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 will lay out the facts. The story is well-known: pastry maker Franz Sacher invented the recipe for Austria's all-powerful Chancellor Prince Metternich in 1832. Later, his commercially-savvy son, Eduard opened the Hotel Sacher and cashed in on the name.

#21 Cafe Ritter

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, wood paneling, grumpy waiters in bow ties, bland dark-roasted coffee (the neon sign and the pastry counter are additions from the 1950s). Patrons are a mix of neighborhood residents and shoppers.

#22 Cafe Eiles

Drawing politicians from the nearby City Hall (Rathaus) and journalists who cover them, Eiles is a historic cafe in District 8. Despite the 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, the food is just average, but you're here for the vibes.

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 also never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider making a one-time payment (PayPal) or becoming an Offbeat Patron.