Vienna 647328 1920

Brief History of Coffee in Vienna, Austria

Coffee is an Arabian invention. In the early 16th century, the first cafes opened in cities like Cairo and Aleppo. However, in Europe – especially Vienna – the coffeehouse came into full bloom. In 1685 a Greek-Armenian merchant Johannes Theodat founded the first coffeehouse in Vienna. The Viennese added milk and sugar to soften the taste of the strong Turkish coffee. Viennese coffeehouses soon became places where you could freely exchange ideas and enjoy thoughtful conversations over a cup of coffee.

Caffeine sharpens the wit and revives the spirit. Maybe that’s why by the end of the 19th century, a generation of scientists, writers, and artists like Gustav Klimt and Joseph Roth frequented coffeehouses. Stefan Zweig wrote his famous memoirs at the elegant Hotel Sacher in Salzburg. Perhaps that’s why philosopher George Steiner noted that “the coffeehouse is one of the main components of the European identity.”

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Our Top 2 Coffeehouses in Vienna

Two of our favorite coffeehouses include Café Pruckel, where musicians play piano music in the evening, the elegant Landtmann, where Freud used to drink his coffee, and café Demel where you can enjoy a delicious Apfelstrudel. There’s also the Hotel Sacher – home to one of the best pastries in the world, the Sacher Torte (cake).

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The Sacher Torte of Vienna, Austria

Like Viennese coffee, the Sacher Torte has an interesting history all its own. It was created by Franz Sacher. In 1830 – at the age of 14 – he joined the kitchen brigade of the prince of Metternich, a famous diplomat of the time. One day, the kitchen’s chef fell ill. Franz replaced the Maestro and created his dessert for the prince. He combined dark chocolate, vanilla, and apricot jam with some whipped cream and voila the Sacher Torte was born!

How to Order Coffee in Vienna

When you visit a Viennese coffeehouse, make sure you take the time to peruse the expansive menus – some feature over 30 coffee variations! 

Basic Viennese Coffeehouse Menu

Strong black coffee

Regular coffee with warm milk and lots of foam

Black coffee with milk

Black coffee with whipped cream and powder sugar

Strong coffee with rum or brandy

Maria Theresa
A double Mokka with apple liquor, whipped cream, and flakes of chocolate

Ice Coffee
Cold coffee with vanilla, whipped cream, and chocolate flakes

There is also the familiar Italian espresso or cappuccino. Besides coffee and pastries, most Vienna coffeehouses offer small dishes, salads, or sausages.

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Once you’ve ordered your coffee, fully immerse yourself in Vienna’s coffeehouse culture by sitting back and maybe reading a newspaper or engaging a travel companion in a lively debate. By doing so, you’ll quickly discover why Viennese Coffeehouse culture is listed as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

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