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Viennese UNESCO Protected Coffee House Culture

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place where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill

Viennese Coffee House Culture is very important part of Viennese tradition that has been part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2011. Viennese cafés have specific atmosphere found nowhere else in the world, very elegantly decorated, they offer big variety of coffees, typical Viennese pastries and international newspapers. Unlike in an ordinary café, it is quite common for a guest who had just ordered a coffee to sit at his table for hours, extensively studying the existing newspapers. The newspapers are traditionally held on the magazine racks, which are usually made of thin bentwood.

Time works differently in here. The famous Austrian writer Stefan Zweig wrote about Viennese coffee houses as a “sort of democratic club, open to everyone for the price of a cheap cup of coffee, where every guest can sit for hours with this little offering, to talk, write, play cards, receive post, and above all consume an unlimited number of newspapers and journals.” Many literary works were written entirely or partially in these coffee houses, what led to development of specific coffee house literature (Kaffeehausliteratur) typical for Vienna during the time of the fin de siècle (end of the century). This era was golden age of Viennese coffee houses; there were around 600 of them in the city. After Second World War lot of famous Viennese coffee houses had to close, caused by changing leisure habit of Viennese.

©commons.wikimedia/Philipp Hummer
©commons.wikimedia/Philipp Hummer

The decor of the typical Viennese coffeehouse ranges from comfortable plushy to cool and stylish, very often inspired by Historicism. Most of them are decorated with famous No. 14 chair of the Thonet manufactory and typical coffee tables with marble tabletops.

In the long-standing Viennese coffee house tradition, around 50 coffee preparations were served, which were varied with the addition or exclusion of sugar, cream, whipped cream, milk, milk foam, milk skin, or spirits. With the coffee guests will be served with the glass of tap water and if you stay longer the waiter would often top it up. The coffee house usually offers small dishes such as sausages and pastries, cakes and tarts. Some of them offer a full menu of mostly traditional Viennese cuisine.

History of Viennese Coffee House is very interesting. Legend has it that during the liberation of the Second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683, the soldiers found some sacks of strange green beans, which they first thought of as camel food and wanted to burn them. Polish king Jan III Sobieski who liberated Vienna is said to have handed it over to his officer and interpreter Georg Franz Kolschitzky who then used it and opened first coffee house in Vienna. There is also version that the first Viennese coffee houses dates back to about this time and was founded in 1685 by an Armenian named Johannes Theodat.


Today there are long list of traditional Viennese Coffee Houses, Central Café or Café Sperl are among the most prominent ones.

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The author

Ogi Savic

Ogi Savic

I am Ogi. A journalist and economist, I live in Vienna and I am passionate about skiing, traveling, good food and drinks. I write about all these aspects (and more) of beautiful Austria.

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