Vienna: Coffee and window shopping, 03-06 November 2012

A trip to Vienna wouldn’t be complete without stops at a cafe or two (or four), for you’d be missing out on a great Viennese tradition. Traditional coffee houses in Vienna are an important piece of history and culture, an institution. They represent a bygone era; some are dating back to the 19th century and have not changed much over time. Some are cosily rundown, some elegantly preserved, all of them welcome you to stay as long as you please, no one seems to be in hurry, you can drink, eat and read from a bunch of newspapers and magazines available, surf or (pretend to) work on your laptop, or just be lazy… In all cases you are enveloped by a sweet nostalgia enhanced by arrays of antique objects, photos and a kind of ‘old’ smell these places exhale.

Cafe Rüdiger Hof, Hamburgerstr. 20, A – 1050 Wien

Cafe Rüdiger Hof

Cafe Rüdiger Hof

A remarkable Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) building – one of many in the area. Saturday morning, a few locals for coffee or beer (never too early for beer!), a few visitors for breakfast. Smoking -unusually- permitted. Non-smokers confined to the inner -ugliest- area. In winter, if you can’t tolerate smoking, you’d better skip.

Cafe SperlGumpendorferstr. 11, A – 1060 Wien

The most iconic of them all in my opinion; a real gem. Great for any time and very affordable. The one we kept going back to, for the legendary Viennese cakes or dinner – a few traditional, quality plates. Appreciated by locals and visitors alike. We watched elderly gentlemen having their rounds at the pool tables at the back, ladies playing cards, young people having fun. All taking place in this interior:

Both Rüdiger Hof and Sperl, are close to the famous Naschmarkt, Vienna’s oldest market. Open every day, with kiosks and shops packed with delicacies and raw material to prepare from the simplest to the most elaborate & exotic dinner, just think of something… chances are you’ll find it in Naschmarkt. You can try the goodies on the sport; a number of restaurants and canteens stay open in evenings too. On Saturdays, a flea market completes the picture. We were lucky our hotel was in the area; we walked through the market every day on our way to the centre.

Cafe LandtmannUniversitätsring 4, A-1010  Wien

Cafe Landtmann, Vienna

Cafe Landtmann, Vienna

Between Rathaus (City Hall) and Burgtheater this could only be a top notch place for Vienna’s most affluent (there are many)! Quietly elegant, old-school, fully-booked over lunch,  mainly by said affluent business people or City Hall civil servants. Ladies taking a break from their shopping spree. Elderly, elegantly dressed ladies & gents, who seem to know everyone and have dined there everyday for the past 40 years! Great Apfelstrudel (with warm vanilla sauce). Although not the most affordable cafe in Vienna if you’re on budget, definitely worth the visit.

Cafe HawelkaDorotheergasse 6, A – 1010 Wien

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Leopold & Josefine Hawelka

In the inner city centre, run by the Hawelka family since 1939, this is the legendary cafe in Vienna. The most artistic of them all, gives you the impression it hasn’t changed a bit since it opened – and it hasn’t. They must have got some modern equipment over the years, but the patina of time is visible everywhere: on the faded wallpaper, the pictures and drawings exchanged in the 40’s by poor struggling artists for a cup of coffee and a bite, the wooden floor, the red(ish) benches… Sadly, it did not feel right taking pictures at the time – this is a widely published one, in loving memory or Mr & Mrs Hawelka. We had warm Goulash soup to fight the cold and the traditional Buchteln (pastry rolls with jam and iced sugar, originally from Bohemia) for the sweet tooth – although I understand it’s normally served as main course. Apparently, they are still baked by Mr Hawelka (the son)! Attention, make sure to have cash in hand, it’s so traditional, they don’t accept cards.

Kärntnerstrasse & Graben

Hawelka is just off this large pedestrianised area in the city centre, great for (window)shopping, strolling, watching street performances, watching the world go by… It’s interesting to compare windows of international chains; they really do promote different styles  depending on the country and what’s pushed as trendy there… Swarovski bedazzled me: sparkling crystals seemingly everywhere… whichever direction I turned my head to… then I remember it’s Austrian, so it figures!

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Two more eye catchers: this building and, right next to it, this window. My favourite outfit in Vienna… given it’s a Louis Vuitton I reluctantly passed it by…

Photos by Konstantinos Implikian.

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