Coffee house culture in Vienna

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Vienna is proud of its coffee houses and for a good reason. Many of them were witnesses of world history, frequented by artists, thinkers and politicians of the turn of the 20th century such as Klimt, Schiele, Freud, Tito, Trotsky, Hitler, Stalin…

Coffe, food and newspapers

Vienna Cafe Central, photo: Wikipedia
Vienna Cafe Central, photo: Wikipedia

Viennese cafés are not only about coffee, many of them also serve classic meals of the Viennese cuisine. Almost all coffee houses offer small food dishes like sausages as well as desserts, cakes and tarts, like Apfelstrudel, Millirahmstrudel, Punschkrapfen and Linzer torte.

It is perfectly normal to dive into a newspaper while sipping your coffee accompanied by delicious pastry.

In many classic cafés (for example Café Central and Café Prückel) piano music is played in the evening and social events like literary readings are held.

Since 2011, the traditional Viennese coffee house culture is listed on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.

Legend has it that soldiers of the Polish-Habsburg army, while liberating Vienna from the second Turkish siege in 1683, found a number of sacks with strange beans that they initially thought were camel feed and wanted to burn. The Polish king Jan III Sobieski granted the sacks to one of his officers named Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who started the first coffee house. After some experimentation, the legend goes on, Kulczycki added some sugar and milk, and the Viennese coffee tradition was born.

Another account is that Kulczycki, having spent two years in Ottoman captivity, knew perfectly well what coffee really is and tricked his superiors into granting him the beans that were considered worthless.

According to recent research, Vienna’s first coffee house was in fact opened by an Armenian businessman named Johannes Diodato in 1685. 15 years later, four Greek owned coffee houses had the privilege to serve coffee.

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