i am actually writing about 2 different things here – the best old school coffeehouses in vienna where you can languidly sit and soak up the vibe, and, the places to find the best short dark espresso to get your brain moving into higher realms.  two very different things.  i know its all a bit mental, really, but the map below has the old school coffeehouses in brown, and the short dark espresso in orange, naturally.

first, the old school coffeehouses….

the old school cafes in vienna are magickal things – they are lost in time and you can lose hours sipping coffee and reading a book and eating apricot cake or steamed jam buns.  if you are an espresso snob like me, do not miss out on the slow languid culture of cake and coffee.  take a book.  maybe some french philosophy.  perhaps michel serres.  find a window seat.  sink into it.
the best old school cafe of all time is cafe leopold hawelka in the middle of town.  late at night, when they only serve their jam-filled buchteln (divine and addictive), it is as if the place has one foot in an alternate world – it is truly wondrous.  there are hints of miyazaki style magic, deep european strangeness (i am thinking grimms tales), and the comfy languid ease of your grandparents’ favourite couch. the old dark wood and age-stained paint are saturated with years of conversations, lovers whispers and heated debates – the place is really quite alive.  if there is one cafe to visit, it is hawelka, late at night, when it is not too busy and quietly bubbling away.


so many of the old school coffeehouses are sweet, but there are two others that really caught my fancy while i was here for 5 months.  cafe sperl is a sprawling old place with lovely old wood and comfy seats, and the best cakes around – the marillenkuchen (apricot) is amazing, though poppy slice and chocolate cakes are great, and there is sometimes a tart plum slice. wow…. there is an old guy who does the accounts on pieces of scrap paper, very slowly. sometimes there is soft daggy live music. and the waitresses are almost friendly, which is a nice plus.


a gorgeous old coffeehouse that has been my local for a while is cafe jelinik. lovely – with its nicely worn green velvet seats and brocade curtains, its pot belly stove all nice and warm in winter, and all dilapidated to just the right degree with sweet shimmers of bohemian elegance glinting through the slow decay. and here as well, the waitresses are actually friendly, which is something unusual in vienna.


two other beautiful old school coffeehouses worth mentioning are pruckel, which is clean and simple – quite fresh seeming (maybe it is all the white paint….), and central, which is a bit too swish for me, really, and more of a classy lunch affair or high tea, though it is so over-the-top that it is worth visiting for a slice of cake or a meal.


now, the best short dark espresso….

if you are an espresso fiend and need something that does not taste like warm dishwater, you will need to alternate your visits to the charming old school coffeehouses with a more modern kind of establishment.  i am mentioning places here that make espresso that is short, full of complex flavours, and love  – not half-ok shit – i am only interested in a decent ristretto with a full body.  i have been here for almost half a year, and i spent the first few weeks hunting down my daily intake of good caffeine, so this is no hazy matter for me….

just off neubau shopping area is kaffeemik, which makes killer ristretto and is pure and minimal in its singular purpose of making excellent coffee.  when i had my last coffee in vienna, i went here, and it was a sweet little ristretto brewed off a lovely blend of natural-fermented brazilian and ethiopian beans…. this little place might be number one in vienna for me.


caffècouture brews excellent short blacks that are deep in taste and creamy on the tongue – you can’t go wrong with them if you are near the university.  they also hold roasting and tasting events.  people on caffeine are great people, and while they can sometimes be too cool for me deal with, they do make incredible short blacks and their homemade cakes are very tasty.  another one of the best around is brass monkey, who make dense little wonders of espresso, and, if you want super tasty cakes, you need to try them – seriously the best cupcakes ever – wow.  i know it may sound wrong to some purists, but these cupcakes are pretty amazing with a dense little espresso. really good coffee….


excellent short sharp blacks can also be had at radlager, where there are super-bicycles hanging about and specialist parts in fancy boxes for the cycling obsessed, and the staff are friendly and very pretty.   kaffeeküche under schottentor station area makes great espresso and has quick and tasty edible stuff too.  finally, akrap may be a bit daggy, but it makes a pretty good espresso (that just scrapes into this snobby list), and they sell beans and equipment.
vienna coffee is good!

i am actually writing about 2 different things here – where to find the best short dark espresso to get your brain moving into higher realms, and, the loveliest languid old school coffeehouses.  two very different but somehow complementary notions….

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