Kultur- und Themenführungen - Wien Fremdenführer - Wien

Cultural walking tours - Vienna

Guided tours - Vienna



 Coffeehouse life and coffeehouse literature



The coffeehouse can be considered as one of the most characteristic Viennese institutions. Thus, it is important to comprehend its social and cuktural significance. It is not primarily a place to consume coffee and cakes. The irresistible attraction of the Viennese café evolved from its particular atmosphere and stimulating ambiance which dedicated coffeehouse guests will never want to miss. Very often literary circles gathered in the cafés, just as it happened at the famous Griensteidl, the most important coffeehouse at the end of the 19th century, frequented by Hofmannsthal, Zweig, Schnitzler and Beer-Hofmann. Even nowadays, the coffeehouse represents the most appreciated counterpart to arduous and boring everyday routine. Strangely enough, however, the typical Viennese café is not merely a place of encounter and conversation. As Anton Polger put it, in the coffeehouse you will find people “whose hatred of their fellow human beings is as fierce as their longing for people, who want to be alone but need companionship for it.”





The walk starts at the Sachereck; it will lead you to the most important Viennese coffeehouses, tell you about their history and famous customers. The first stop is the Tirolerhof which shows the characteristic decoration of a classical café: crystal chandeliers, mirrors, marble tables and Thonet chairs. Walking past the imperial burial place of the Capuchins we come to the Bräunerhof, Thomas Bernhard’s favourite café. Just around the corner in the Dorotheergasse, shortly after the Jewish Museum, you will find the legendary Hawelka – a relic of the past. This charming and slightly shabby coffeehouse was able to preserve its interior from over a century ago and has so far never been tempted to restore or modernize its outfit. In comparison to the Hawelka the magnificent decoration of the Demel spreads an air of imperial splendour. The delicious pastry displayed in the glass cases invites to a coffee break. A few steps further on the Michaelerplatz opposite the Hofburg you can find the most important literary coffeehouse of the fin de siècle period: the Griensteidl. Unfortunately the renowned Herrenhof frequented by Roth and Musil does not exist any more. The tour ends at the marvellous Central located in the representative building of the former Austro-Hungarian Central Bank. This café was the favourite meeting place of bankers and intellectuals such as Kraus, Kokoschka, Friedell and of course Peter Altenberg, a well known bohemian poet whose life-sized figure is still sitting at his marble table near the entrance.



Practical information


MEETING POINT: "Sachereck",  at the corner Kärntnerstraße / Philharmonikergasse.

DURATION: 2 hours.

END OF THE TOUR: Café Central (1st district).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Harold B. Segel, The Vienna Coffeehouse Wits 1890-1938, Indiana 1993.

Friedrich Torberg, Tante Jolesch or the Decline of the West in Anecdotes, Ariadne Press California 2008.