25 of the Best Traditional Cafes in Vienna

Apart from its museums, Vienna's café 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 classical café hasn’t abated.

Cafés are open throughout the day and also serve breakfast, Austrian classics (schnitzel, goulash, etc.), and pastries. Wifi is rarely available, but lingering is okay, even expected. 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 the front is where the action is.

#2 Café Bräunerhof

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.

#3 Cafe Eiles

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.

#4 Cafe Tirolerhof

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.

#5 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 next to the Burgtheater. The most striking feature of the inside is the dark wood paneling with inlaid motifs, but I prefer the winterized terrace and its panoramic Ringstraße views.

#6 Cafe Korb

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).

#7 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 alongside fellow tourists is not.

#8 Café Schopenhauer

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.

#9 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 Franziskanerplatz, but be sure to also take a peek inside. The truly small – kleines – cafe was designed in 1970 by the prominent Austrian architect Hermann Czech, who 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.

#10 Café Dommayer

Opened in 1924, Dommayer is a neighborhood institution in 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, this place is less pretentious than it looks.

#11 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. Evenings tend to be most lively.

#12 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 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.

#13 Cafe Diglas (Wollzeile)

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.

#14 Café Sperl

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).

#15 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 can 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, Franz's commercially-savvy son, Eduard, opened the Hotel Sacher and cashed in on the name.

#16 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 (okay, 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.

#17 Café Jelinek

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.

#18 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.

#19 Cafe Savoy

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.

#20 Cafe Weidinger

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.

#21 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 in the upper-middle-class gallery district of Vienna's District 4. Historically, Anzengruber was the hangout of the city's Croatian community and it 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.

#22 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, the place is filled to capacity.

#23 Café Rüdigerhof

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, 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.

#24 Café Hawelka

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.

#25 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.

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.