The reason I have always been interested in visiting Vienna is because of its history in coffee. Vienna is where (one of) the first coffee houses was established, and coffee consumption here goes back centuries. People would use the coffee house as a place to meet with friends and contemporaries and discuss politics, philosophy, and literature. Many famous authors would find a cozy corner in a coffee house and sit all day and write whatever inspired them (when served coffee, the waiter would continually bring water to let people know they were welcome to stay as long as they wished). More recently, some coffee shop literature was conceived at The Elephant House in Edinburgh (Yes, I am talking about J.K. Rowling writing the Harry Potter series and yes, of course I have visited!).
I am sad to report that over the past few years, dozens of Viennese coffee shops have closed because chains like Starbucks have moved in. This is globalization at its worst, closing institutions rich with a country’s finest history. Luckily there are still quite a few remaining and they continue to serve delicious coffee! My favorite drink is coffee mélange, which is regular coffee (not bitter in the slightest) served with whipped cream instead of foam (similar to an Irish coffee). The whipped cream here is not sweet, but it mixes into the coffee slowly creating a very rich and thicker drink than I’m used to. One coffee drink that I tried today (I had three!) was a mélange with cream added so it was even, well, creamier. This was served at Cafe Sacher, where I also enjoyed an apple streusel which was packed full of apples and reminded me of Thanksgiving.
Vienna is a very beautiful city – everything is ornate, and the café culture matches that of the rest of Europe. We toured the inner city loop, strolling past the Belvedere, the Opera House, museum square, Parliament, several theaters, and Stephansdom – one of the tallest churches in the world. We were lucky to have another wonderful day, warm enough to sit outside sipping coffee and indulging in some of Austria’s finest cake while resting from our walking tour of the city.