Back in 2012, I went interrailing with a friend and we spent 3 nights in Vienna. I instantly fell in love with the city, and immediately decided that I would move there someday (and although this hasn’t happened yet, I’m still hoping!) I love (almost) everything about Vienna – the architecture, the music, the cafés.
The hostel we stayed at described 5 of Vienna’s oldest cafés: Café Central, Café Landtmann, Café Mozart, Café Sacher, and Café Sperl. I always thought “the 5” was some well-known entity – but for some reason the internet doesn’t agree with me, and neither do any of the locals (or anyone I spoke to at all, actually). I tried to ask around while I was there, but these 5 cafes in particular didn’t seem to stand out as a set. All of them were frequented by famous artists in their time, and 4 of them have a Viennese cake named after them which is served around Vienna (cafe Sperl doesn’t).
In 2012, my friend and I managed to make it to 4 out of 5 of these. Not bad for 3 days – but I always felt unsatisfied that I hadn’t actually made it to all 5. I decided to take this trip to Vienna as an opportunity to go to all 5 cafes – and armed with a better quality camera than my iPod touch 7 years ago, I would end up with much more satisfying documentation of my trips. See below for all 5, including my recommendations for each one, and my order of preference.
Viennese waiters are known for being rude AF, so I’ve also thrown in some comments on the service for each of the 5.
In 5th place: Café Central
I had heard Central was very touristy and that there’s always a queue outside, so I went at 10:30am. There was still a queue, albeit a small one, and all in all I ended up waiting under 5 minutes. I definitely agree that it’s very touristy, but as a result the service was fast. The waiter was friendly enough until he found out I wasn’t going to tip (I was in and out in under 15 minutes, and I don’t usually tip unless the service is exceptional).
I got a wiener melange coffee and a trio of desserts – the desserts were good and the coffee was fine. The building is certainly impressive, but I wasn’t a fan of the touristy atmosphere and constant stream of people queuing and pouring in and out, so overall I wouldn’t recommend.
In 4th place: Café Sperl
This is for some reason the only café I actually remembered from 7 years ago, although it was definitely more low key and less “fancy” than I’d remembered it being. There’s a nice old vibe though, with lots of dark wood and billiard tables along the centre.
I got the ice coffee, complete with both cream and ice cream, which was absolutely delicious, along with salmon & cream cheese on bread (which was also great). However, the service was significantly less friendly than at any of the other places, which, together with the less impressive building, is why it has only ranked 4th. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the area, but there’s no need to go out of your way.
In 3rd place: Café Mozart
Café Mozart was much smaller than I had thought it would be, but equally grand. It was 37°C out, so I opted for an ice coffee – it was absolutely delicious, man the consistency of that cream! What you’re seeing in the photo is a freshly poured coffee – a few minutes later the copious amounts of cream had mixed in with the drink to produce basically a fancy Frappuccino. Amazing. The waiters weren’t exactly friendly, but they weren’t completely unfriendly either, yay Vienna!
In 2nd place: Café Landtmann
I learnt from an inside source (top secret) that Landtmann is known for being where politicians go when they want to be seen making deals. The waiters here were quite friendly, and were happy to let us switch seats so that I could get a better photo of my coffee (lol). I went with a Franziskaner (coffee topped with whipped cream), but to be honest everything on the menu looked lavish and delicious. I loved the relaxed yet elegant atmosphere as well, and could easily envision myself spending long hours working in the corner.
And in 1st place…
(it’s not really a surprise as I listed all 5 at the start so it should be obvious my method of elimination…)
I thought this was SO beautiful and elegant. They also seemed to have lots of different “branches” – a cafe, a restaurant, a garden bar, and so on (all next to the famous Hotel Sacher).
I combined this trip with a trip to cafe Mozart as they are right next to one another, so, reluctant to get two coffees in a row and wanting to stick with my “fancy hot drinks” theme, I opted for the original hot chocolate with Sacherliqueur – the cake experience, in a mug.
They served them separately, so I tried each one individually, then together. Being a chocolate and apricot liqueur, the Sacherliqueur was a very good substitute for the chocolate and apricot Sacher torte. The hot chocolate on its own wasn’t quite dark and rich enough for my taste – it just tasted like plain old hot chocolate. However, when mixed with the liqueur it all came together. They also served a little chocolate on the side, which wasn’t the best in the world.
The atmosphere here was what made it stand out for me. It was just so calm and elegant, and it felt like there was actually space as opposed to those cafes where everyone’s squashed together. The acoustic may have played a part in this as well – even though people were talking, it felt really quiet and secluded. I felt like I could just sit there forever.
Plus the waiters were actually friendly. Friendly! Not just polite, actively nice and engaging. They even asked if I wanted a newspaper. In fact, I left a tip, because this place is great.