No trip to Vienna is complete without a visit to the traditional coffee houses (placed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011) and beisln. These are my recommendations based on food, atmosphere and heritage.
Café Leopold Hawelka, Dorotheergasse 6
Entering this coffee house is like stepping back in time; opened in the 1930s, Café Leopold Hawelka maintains a cosy, bohemian feel. The décor is dark and traditional, with marbled tables, booths and postered walls and the service is brusque in the typical Viennese style. A former haunt of artists and writers including Arthur Millar and Andy Warhol, it plays host these days to regular clientele engaged in debate over a melange (a Viennese coffee similar to a cappuccino, short and topped with foam or cream). They don’t serve much more than a range of different coffees and cakes, but the coffee is top-notch and I can whole-heartedly recommend the apple strudel.
Demel, Kohlmarkt 14
A café, bakery and pastry shop, Demel has an illustrious history. Having once-upon a time supplied the Austro-Hungarian imperial family and royal court with baked goods, the shop and café opened in the late 19th century close to the Hofburg palace, where it still stands today. Sprawled over 3 floors, it serves sweet treats, drinks and hot meals. It can get crowded but the divine cakes are well worth queueing for and you can watch the bakers at work in the kitchen while you wait. Indulge yourself with a slice of sachertorte or one of the many other delights on offer; I opted for the nussk cake (coffee-nut) and spent far too long wondering how they managed to get the sponge so light yet satisfying and the icing so perfectly sweet.
Griechenbeisl, Fleischmarkt 11
This historic inn dates back to the 15th century and is today one of the best beisln you’ll find in Vienna, having been frequented by many a well-known name along the way (Mozart, Beethoven and Mark Twain are just a few notable visitors). The décor, heritage and hearty dishes combine to make this an essential dining experience. Eights rooms make up the restaurant, each one wood paneled and decorated with hunting pictures, antique furniture and the like. The menu contains classic dishes made with only Austrian ingredients, including beef goulash, Weiner schnitzel and tafelspitz.
Loos American Bar, Kärntner Durchgang 10
Designed by influential Vienna-based architect Adolf Loos in 1908, this tiny bar is a real gem. The cocktail menu is astonishing – whatever tickles your fancy is featured and made by expert mixologists before being served by attentive waiting staff. That said, the bar is worth visiting for the architecture alone; the tiny interior seats just twenty inside (there are further tables and chairs outside) and is comfortable and stylish, with leather booths, mirrored walls and brass and onyx fixtures all in a classic early twentieth-century style.