The Kaffeehäuser are the public living rooms of Vienna. The home of Mozart and Freud is as famed for its coffee culture as it is for opera. From the grand vaulted ceilings of Café Central to the intimate corners Café Hawelka, there is a coffeehouse in Vienna for everyone, an ambiance for every temperament. Historically, they have always been places where a few hours respite can be bought for the price of a cup of coffee; a haven for artists and flâneurs; a place to sit, drink, and read the newspaper –the writers of which could likely be found at the next table over scribbling out their next story– while churlish, tuxedo-clad waiters glide between marble tables and Thonet chairs carrying silver platters of artfully prepared melange and home made cakes. As proudly described by Austria’s National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Viennese coffeehouse is truly a place “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.”
Legend has it that the tradition of the Vienna coffee house sprang from the abandoned beans left in the aftermath of the failed Ottoman siege in 1683. In reality, coffeehouses existed before the invasion and their popularity didn’t really take hold until the 19th century. Today, despite the rise of globalization and the prevalence –even in Vienna– of modern coffee chains, the tradition of the coffeehouse continues, although many of the city’s cafés have updated their services with non-smoking sections, WiFi connections, and other modern amenities.