Tell me, when you think of Austria what comes to your mind? The Sound of Music? Vienna Schnitzel? Beethoven, Mozart or Strauss? After spending a week in one of the world’s most beautiful countries, one of the top things I remember is their love & respect for coffee and delicious food!
Austria has quite a deep appreciation for the caffeine beans so you won’t be rushed out of a Kaffeehaus here like you will be in other countries around the world… Here I’m going to take you through my guide to the best places to sip coffee and enjoy delicious Austrian cuisine in the two magnificent cities of Vienna and Salzburg.
Austria’s love affair with coffee
After France, Austria had been on the top of my travel wish list ever since I was a little girl. I’m so happy to say that it lived up to my childhood dreams when I was finally able to visit here as an adult! This country has long been considered the capital or hub of Central Europe. It’s bordered by Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia & Hungary and was once one of the most powerful European empires in the 1800’s.
The legend of the discovery of coffee in Austria dates way back to 1683, during the second Turkish siege. It’s believed that soldiers within the Polish-Habsburg army discovered sacks of coffee beans abandoned by the Turkish army. Some sugar, water & milk was added and the rest is history! Another legend is Johannes Diodato, an Armenian in the Viennese Imperial court, was the first person to open a coffeehouse in Vienna. The “Viennese” coffee house is so entrenched and influential within the nation’s culture, that it’s listed in the Austrian inventory of UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage”.
Vienna – the world’s most liveable city
Voted the most liveable city in the entire world in 2018, the Austrian capital is where you’ll find some of the grandest & opulent coffee houses on the planet. With hundreds of cafes & coffee houses in this city, you are spoilt for choice! One constant I experienced in each cafe, restaurant or coffee house which I visited was the excellent quality of food, coffee, mouth watering selection of sweets and a relaxed atmosphere. When you’re a tourist finding a haven to relax and refresh is mandatory, before you have to leave and explore some more!
By far one of the most revered and historic coffee houses in Vienna, Café Central has that old-world charm that draws you inside and leaves you feeling like you have stepped back in time to the 1800’s. The first grand coffee house I visited in Austria, it remains my favourite simply due to the charm it infuses into your time here. Café Central celebrated its opening way back in 1876 and was known as the “chess school” due to the abundance of chess players who frequented the establishment’s first floor. It was also the coffee playground of the Viennese literary & revolutionist crowd including regulars like Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky and Peter Altenburg.
When you walk inside you will immediately notice the architecture of grand columns, expansive seating area and the dulcet tones of a grand piano in the background. Polite & well attired staff decked out in suits wait to greet you and ensure you are promptly seated. Newspapers of different countries are attached to individual wooden holders (something I have never seen in Australia), which is a testament to the Austrian literary leanings & diplomatic history. Free WIFI is offered along with take away options too. In short, a visit to Café Central is unlike any café you have ever been to before – it is a whole experience.
Here is where I tasted authentic Austrian Apfelstrudel (Apple strudel) for the first time, served with ice cream and whipped crème on the side. The Apfelstrduel at Café Central was one of the tastiest dessert experiences I’ve ever had. This says a lot seeing as I’m a chocaholic and usually go for the chocolately based desserts!
Address: Corner Herrings’/Stracuhgasse, 1010, Vienna, Austria
Monday to Saturday – 7.30am – 10.00pm
Sunday & public holidays – 10.00am to 10.00pm
Piano Entertainment – daily from 5.00pm to 10.00pm
One of the best brekkies I’ve ever had in Europe, Café Mozart is just as elegant as the music of its Austrian namesake. Another very touristy spot to eat & drink in Vienna but oh so worth the visit! Situated across from the Albertina Museum, Café Mozart was founded in 1899. It’s had an interesting past, briefly closing during the air raids of World War I, and has been brought back to life by the current owners, the Querfeld-Winkler family.
I love seating outside to dine where possible as it’s a great way to people watch and feel the vibes of a city. However the interior is so gorgeously decorated that it’s well worth venturing inside to admire the chandeliers, mirrors and thonet chairs. You’ll also be able to view their exquisite pastry, classic & designer cakes selection and of course, plenty of newspapers.
Address: Albertina Platz, 2, A1010, Vienna, Austria
Opening Hours: daily from 8.00am to midnight
Café Imperial Wien
Not a coffee house per se, this is the café & restaurant located at the luxurious Hotel Imperial, in the ringstrausse (Central Ring area) of Vienna. I’m including Hotel Imperial on my list, not only because they serve up amazing Eiskaffe but also because their food, service and my overall dining experience was one of the best in Europe.
Dining here for lunch, it was at Hotel Imperial where I had my first experience of a Viennese schnitzel (or Wiener Schnitzel in Austrian), in Vienna. And I haven’t had a comparable schnitty to that once since! The schnitzel was lightly crumbed and accompanied with a salad and potatoes. The lemon-half was delicately wrapped up in fabric, allowing you to squeeze the juice without the lemon seeds spilling over the meal. It’s these delicate touches, combined with the fancy gold embellishment on the dinnerware, which enhanced the whole experience. Again, I had the iced coffee which I’m so obsessed with – complete with wafers and shaved chocolate.
The opulent residence was once home to Prince Philipp of Wuerttemberg in 1863 and subsequently began operating as a five-star hotel to the public for the Vienna World Fair in 1873. You don’t have to stay at Hotel Imperial to visit the Café but after walking around the reception area of the Hotel you may just change your mind and decide to book a room here!
Now part of the Marriot group of hotels, here the interior is decadently adorned with chandeliers, hand carved marble and luxurious decorations. I stayed in an Air-bnb in Vienna last year so Hotel Imperial is on my accommodation wish list for my next visit to this amazing city! Plus I will absolutely need to return to their cafe for another amazing lunch!
Address: Kaertner Ring 16, Vienna, 1015, Austria
Café & Restaurant Opening hours: daily from 7.00am to 11.00pm
Dress Code: casual
Salzburg – a medieval & picturesque city
Whilst Vienna showcases the absolute luxurious best of Austria’s city life, Salzburg is another must-see city which will leave you feeling so relaxed and inspired by the country’s impeccable landscape. Salzburg literally means “Salt Castle” and is referenced to the salt (once considered to be more valuable than gold) which was transported down the Salzach river. It’s a small city in Austria very close to the German border and also located near the Eastern part of the Alps. It’s history dates back even earlier than 1077, when the city’s fortress was first built.
This regional & historic area is best known via the legendary film and true story of the von Trapp Family singers, as depicted in The Sound of Music. In fact, the majority of tourists who arrive in Salzburg, are visiting because of this legendary tale which dates back to pre-World War II. In between a Sound of Music Tour, exploring gardens, picturesque city squares & castles, you’re going to need to find somewhere to relax and recharge… These are my top two choices in gorgeous Salzburg:
Café Sacher at Hotel Sacher Salzburg
A visit to Austria just isn’t complete without trying the nation’s signature cake, the Sacher Torte. Cafe Sacher in Salzburg is well renowned for its version of what is possibly the most famous cake in the world! The Café is part of the Hotel Sacher chain, with locations in Vienna & Salzburg.
For the uninitiated, a Sacher Torte is a version of chocolate cake with apricot jam coating, decadent chocolate icing and whipped crème served on the side. If you’re a chocoholic like me then you simply must try one of these confections if you are visiting Austria – and Cafe Sacher in Salzburg is the place to try one, alongside your coffee.
Address: Schwarzstrasse 5-7, A-5020, Salzburg, Austria
Opening Hours: daily from 7.30am to 10.30pm
The oldest coffee house in all of Austria – Café Tomaselli was founded in 1700. This means that this Café is older than the British settlement of my home country of Australia! Festooned with green & white striped umbrellas on the outer patio and red flowers, you won’t be able to miss this historic Café located within the “old marketplace” of Salzburg.
Café Tomaselli offers up the complete brekkie, lunch & dinner experience along with coffee, cakes, desserts, delicious gateaux and strudels. This establishment is very popular with tourists and the Salzburg locals alike. I was lucky as I was able to dine on the ground floor outside but there is plenty of seating upstairs and inside as well.
I must have dined here at least 3 times and even felt brave enough to practice my long-forgotten high school basic German here with the friendly waiters, who were very patient and good humoured with my language efforts! That is actually my big tip whilst in Austria. Although a lot of Austrians know how to speak English, they have their own language here. Making the effort with some key phrases will ensure your waiter is willing to go above & beyond to help your dining experience be a great one!
Address: Alter Markt 9, 5020, Salzburg, Austria
Monday to Saturday – 7.00am to 7.00pm
Sunday – from 8.00am – 7.00pm
An appreciation for the finer things in life…
Coffee isn’t just a drink – the process of making a delicious brew of this liquid is an art all in itself and one which the Austrians have perfected. Much like their ability to produce some of the most accomplished musical composers the world has ever seen… Austria has cultivated a deeply refined ability to draw people into their grand coffeehouses, cafes & hotels, to ensure you never want to leave! Whether you’re there to eat Apfelstrudel, Schnitzel or Sacher-Torte or simply content to just enjoy a coffee and sip & chill, Austria is pretty woke when it comes to providing you with the full cafe & dining experience.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on my favourite cafes in the Austrian cities of Vienna & Salzburg! Let me know what you think of it and if you are a coffee fan or foodie too!