Vienna has always been a fertile soil for artists and intellectuals, and a lot of the creativity and big ideas have happened first in the city’s charming coffeehouses. There’s something special about these places that makes them conducive to creativity. Have you ever wondered where the great creatives of the past sipped their coffees, smoked their cigars, played a game of chess, and probably came up with their big ideas and masterpieces?
We’ve put together a list of the old coffeehouses that have inspired Vienna’s great creatives and thinkers of the past. Just in case YOU were looking for an inspiring place for ideas, heated discussions, plans to change the world – you know, casual conversation like that 😉
Café Frauenhuber – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Himmelpfortgasse 6, 1010
Café Frauenhuber is not only the oldest coffeehouse in Vienna (and looks practically untouched from the past), but it’s also known for having had W.A. Mozart and L. van Beethoven play table music for the dining guests in this café time and again between the years 1782–1791.
Café Hawelka – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Dorotheergasse 6, 1010
This traditional Viennese café located in the heart of Vienna is not only known for its infamous Buchteln (jam-filled sweet rolls made of yeast), but also for the VIPs it’s attracted over the years. A café for artists and a hotspot especially during the early 60s – people such as Oskar Werner, Ernst Fuchs, Heimito von Doderer, or Friedensreich Hundertwasser showed up and made this their second home. The Austrian musician, Georg Danzer, was so inspired to immortalise the café in his song “Jö schau” in which he sings about a naked guy hanging around in the Hawelka. Now taken over by tourists, this place carries history and the aura of it haven’t worn off. The owners were also beloved personalities amongst those who knew them – Josefine and Leopold Hawelka. Josefine would prepare the coffee on a wood fire stove which was fuelled by wood Leopold would collect in the Wienerwald. They both were talents at charming the guests and making them feel at home. This is a very special place when it comes to Vienna’s past creative and intellectual scene. Imagine the ideas and words that filled the place back in the day!
Café Korb – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Brandstätte 9, 1010
Café Korb is famous for three things: its grand grand opening bash, late nights filled with psychoanalytical debates, and as a favourite café amongst Nobel Prize winners. Not to mention it’s current owner who you can see in a portrait up on the wall – Susanne Widl has lived many lives as a actress, model, and coffeehouse owner. A true one-of-a-kind personality. For its opening in 1904, none other than the emperor himself, Franz Joseph I, turned up and kicked out some moves on the dance floor (ok, maybe he just showed up). A few years later, the café became one of the first weekly meeting points for Freud’s “Vienna Psychoanalytic Society”. And to this day, this location is the favourite haunt for Elfride Jelinek, author and Austria’s exclusive winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Café Landtmann – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Universitätsring 4, 1010
Over the years many great (and wannabe great) personalities have waltzed through this café’s doors. Artists of all kinds, such as Kokoschka, politicians like Julius Raab, authors like Thomas Mann, and musicians such as Gustav Mahler were regulars in the early 20th century. Café Landtmann is also known to be Freud’s favourite café in Vienna, as it was also a spot where he found many of his important patients that played a role in his research. More recently, the café has hosted the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Hillary Clinton, and Paul McCartney. If you go there, you might also stumble upon Vienna’s mayor, Michael Häupl.
Café Mozart – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Albertinaplatz 2, 1010
Did you know that the fancy schmancy coffeehouse, Café Mozart, was the birth place of the first Viennese Schanigarten? This place in18th and 19th century Vienna was a popular hang for opera visitors, and a meeting point for journalists, literati, artists, and also singers and members of the philharmonic orchestra. Fast forward to the 20th century: World War 2 took a great toll on this café, leading to many tough years. However, it wasn’t the shining years of the 19th century that got Cafe Mozart its name, but rather the dark post-war era when it inspired inspired the American writer, Graham Greene, to include the Café Mozart as the “Café Old Vienna” in his famous novel, “The Third Man”.
Café Museum – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Operngasse 7, 1010
The greatness that once sat on the red velvet seats here gives us goosebumps every time we plant our cute bums in the same booths! Now an over-priced tourist trap, Cafe Museum was the meeting spot for Austria’s greatest contemporary artists (hence why it’s become an attraction for tourists). Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka were regulars here. Other well-known people also frequented the café, such as the composers, Franz Lehar, and the architect, Otto Wagner (who’s brain led to the magnificent Secession building across the way from the cafe coming to be). Maybe there’s something in the cake.
Café Schwarzenberg – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Kärntner Ring 17, 1010
The grand and regal corner coffeehouse, the Café Schwarzenberg, was a favourite for one of this city’s most prominent and pioneering architects. The architect Josef Hoffmann, co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte (production community of visual artists), had his chauffeur drive him to the café on a daily basis. In later years, the painter Hermann Nitsch, actresses and (wannabe) political and business personalities have been sighted there.
Café Central – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Herrengasse 14, 1010
With its over 140-year-old history, the Café Central has been home to some of the greatest poets, philosophers and storytellers that walked Vienna’s streets. The ‘Centralists’, as the Café’s regulars were known as, came here because of the tranquillity, cigars, chess, billiards, and of course, the coffee. Writers and poets such as Alfred Polgar, Stefan Zweig, Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and architects like Alfred Loos, and philosophers and revolutionists including Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin held court and traded in wild discussions at the tables at CC (yes, we’re regulars there for the cake and we’ve got our own nickname for the place!). The famous psychoanalyst, Freud, was also seen there, meeting his patients for a coffee before taking them to his couch.
Café Sperl – Inspiring coffeehouses
Where: Gumpendorfer Straße 11, 1060
A wild mix of writers, painters, architects, composers, musicians, and members of the military were once amongst the crowd in the early hours of the now tame café Sperl. An odd mix – artists and military characters – but it worked somehow. However, a group of young artists made this café special: seven of the early Secessionists came here to host their first meetings that led to the establishment of the Vienna Secession in 1897. In more recent years, writers like Michael Köhlmeier and Jörg Mauthe have become regulars at the café.