In a city that manages to make the most out of its coffeehouse culture, it’s not impossible to spend every day of the year in a new café. Despite cafés being a ubiquitous feature of this historic city, we all have our favorite (I know I have mine) that stand out in the crowd. UNESCO recently honored the intangible cultural importance of Viennese coffeehouses, thereby providing global recognition to what Austrians internalize as an essential component of life.
Though definitely worth the experience, one doesn’t have to limit oneself to the marble-topped tables of the traditional coffee house. Steeped in history and grandeur, these ornate spaces meant for caffeine and cake consumption can feel slightly imposing, their stale air of silent beverage consumption and newspaper reading often stymieing captivating conversation.
Here is a short guide to some unusual spots around Vienna where the culture of coffeehouses departs from expectation, offering a guest something different while still paying homage to the nuanced mores of the city’s café culture – one that is as grand and layered as the Hapsburg family tree.
Café Neko: not just for the cats
Cat cafés haven’t quite hit the saturation level of Seattle’s famous hot-drink haven, but they have come a long way since the first one opened its doors in 1998. Conceptualized as a tourist destination, the idea has evolved around the world, with cafés opening in Canada, USA and Japan. Combining the (mostly) soothing ambiance of cats with the relaxing chill of a café, these spaces often double as a rescue or respite home for felines. Cat cafés remain one of the quirkiest and endearing ways to enjoy a cup of coffee.
Vienna’s Café Neko offers warm drinks, light meals and five delightful furry felines. It’s positively magical to enjoy a caffe latte while watching these cats prowl around a space that has been kitted out to accommodate kitty curiosities, complete with built-in cat ramps. Visitors can even purchase treats that can be used to solicit a cuddle from any one of the five resident cats.
It’s fair to say that I wouldn’t travel down to Blumenstockgasse for their coffee, but the trek is worth it for the chance to cuddle with Moritz.
Location: 1., Blumenstockgasse 5
(Photo credit: Café Neko)
The Palmenhaus: Butterflies and Espresso
From cats to butterflies. The Palmenhaus stands as a testament to the beauty of early twentieth century architecture while providing an eccentric destination for coffee. After taking in the tropical temperatures and butterflies in the adjoining Schmetterlinghaus, guests can relax over a Melange in the Palmenhaus. The glass structure was built as the Hapsburg’s imperial palm house in 1901, replacing the original 1822 greenhouse, and was renovated to its current use in 1988. The decadent treats and extensive menu almost outshine the stunning grandeur of the art nouveau design.
Location: 1., Burggarten 1
(photo credit: Vienna: Now or Never)
Schloss Concordia: Coffee and Coffins
Not exactly contained within the Central Cemetery, Schloss Concordia is a common stop for those who make the trek to Simmering to wander around the famous corpses resting eternally in Vienna’s 11th district. After exploring the Funeral Museum and visiting the graves of Austrian presidents and Mozart, Schloss Concordia offers a slightly creepy vibe that is appropriate for post-cemetery rambles. Not given the best reviews for its selection of traditional Austrian vittles, it is praised for atmosphere and comfort.
Location: 11., Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 283
Simply Raw Bakery: Some Like it Raw
Vienna’s coffeehouse culture is grounded in tradition, but Simply Raw Bakery has flipped the script on traditions, offering guests a place to sit and relax while indulging in nouveau raw desserts. Using a selection of nuts, dried fruit and raw cocoa, this bakery offers decadent cakes, truffles, cookies and tarts that never feel the heat of an oven. Tea is served in divinely over-sized pots, and coffee is mixed with nut milks and raw free-trade sugars. Despite the nod to edgy new baking techniques, the welcoming atmosphere of a Viennese coffee house is anything but lacking at Simply Raw Bakery.
Location: 11., Drahtgasse 2 Am Hof
Frauen Café: Women Only
If you want some politics with your coffee, and you identify as a woman (trans-women included), then the Frauen Café in the trendy 8th district is deserving of your patronage. Operating on a strictly feminist ethos since 1977, this café considers itself a site of much more than coffee consumption. Frauen Café welcomes those interested in making change through feminist activism. Although you have to be officially “invited” into the space (check here for opening times and simply knock on the door), once inside there is a true sense of the distinctly Viennese coffeehouse vibe of being “inside someone’s living room.”
Location: 8., Lange Gasse 11A
Other unique coffee houses in Vienna:
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