Attention book lovers! We put together 5 spots, cafés and coffeehouses in town you should definitely have on your list for a literary tour through Vienna. There’s probably little that sums up living in the Austrian capital better than heading to one of th many cafés or coffeehouses for a classic mélange and a piece of cake. Check out our insider tips off the beaten tracks!
Discover the literary side of the Austrian capital
Deemed as one of the most livable cities in the world, Vienna really has a lot on display. Visitors marvel at the omnipresent art, impressive architecture of not only the city center, but also enjoy the many green areas it offers on every other corner. Despite its “imperial” outside Vienna is still affordable for every taste and purse size. And a big number of students make sure that Vienna also stays young at heart. They also allow hip and budget-friendly theatres, bars and eateries sprouting up everywhere.
It’s the right mélange that makes it
Vienna is a charming mix of old and new not merely living alongside but indeed complimenting each other. The impressive but gemütlich (transl.: cozy) surroundings and attitudes of this city have always inspired the various arts, many creatives have called Vienna their home, and many still do. It is the mélange of apparent opposites that have inspired many great works – up until today. The “Wiener Schmäh”, meaning the Viennese unmistakable charms, will greet you wherever you go. Imagine a tuxedo-clad waiter in one of Vienna’s traditional cafés and coffeehouses being rude at first sight, when totally ignoring your order for a cappuccino but instead bringing you one of the above mentioned mélange – with a little wink and a “so trinkt man des in Wien” (transl: “this is how we do it in Vienna”).
Coffee plays a very important role in Vienna and drinking coffee is part of the fabric of social life. There’s everything: from traditional cafés and coffeehouses in opulent surroundings with waitcoat-wearing waiters to small and hip coffee shops. You’ll see business people talking through the latest contract over a cup of coffee. And you’ll definitely see many students studying, writing their theses or simply having one of the many coffee breaks.
Habsburg meets Heuriger (transl.: new wine, also used for traditional tavern), Sissi (most glamourous but famously unhappy empress of Austria) meets the famous Sachertorte. Kahlenberg (the green heart on the outskirts of Vienna) meets Kaisergruft (where all famous Habsburg rulers have been buried), Fiaker (horse-drawn carriages) meets modern finesse. If you feel like getting in touch with your inner baroque prince or princess, while enjoying the city’s modern vibe – Vienna is the perfect destination for you.
Attention book lovers!
Do you like books as much as we do? Consider yourself on a diet of books? Do you take more books than clothes when you travel somewhere? Do you think of your e-reader when it comes to choosing a travel buddy? If one or all of the above apply, the following list was created for you!
As mentioned above, Vienna has always been a breeding ground for the arts. A city as diverse as this one – it only comes naturally that it has always been an attractive place for the discussion of new thought and artistic expression in general. Many writers such as Heimito von Doderer, Peter Handke, Johann Nestroy, Elfriede Jelinek, Arthur Schnitzler, Michael Köhlmerer, Franz Kafka, Ilse Aichinger, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard and Friederike Mayröcker felt inspired to write in and also about Vienna.
5 Things to do for the bookworm when visiting Vienna
If you’re looking for places the locals go to as well, we’ve got you covered!
1. Café Phil
Address: Gumpendorfer Straße 10 – 12, 1060 Vienna
Opening times: Mo 17:00 – 1:00, Tue – So 9:00 – 1:00
Connect: Find Café Phil on Facebook
Why not start your day in Vienna with a mélange in the stimulating company of books. Café Phil serves breakfast and snacks for every taste in the middle of a beautiful bookshop. It is also an event space as well as a meetup for study groups and poetry lovers. A hip vibe, vintage furniture and really good coffee. Bring you book (or buy one there) and enjoy.
2. The main library, Hauptbibliothek Wien
Address: Urban-Loritz-Platz 2a, 1070 Vienna
Opening times: Mo – Fr, 11:00 – 19:00, Sat: 11:00 – 17:00
Connect: Find the main library on Facebook
Do you always want to know where locals get their “read on” when you visit a new city? Then you should visit the main library that is situated directly above the subway station Burggasse. The library was opened in 2003 and is a three-storied and light-flooded place. It offers big reading areas, and a great amount of books, magazines and various digital resources.
The large windows provide an outlook into Vienna’s green outskirts. On clear days you can see the Kahlenberg as well as the Wiener Wald (transl. Vienna Woods). The library is located in between two of the busiest lanes in Vienna. It still represents a place of calm and repose to many Viennese. On top of the library there is a nice little café. So enjoy a break from reading or relocate with your book.
3. Watch “The Third Man” at the Burgkino
We really love this one. The Third Man is a classic espionage thriller written by Graham Greene in 1949. The novel is set in Vienna just before the end of the Second World War. At this time Vienna was still divided in a Russian, a British, an American and a French zone. Dive into this story before or while you are in Vienna! Take advantage of the Burgkino regularly showing the movie version with Orson Welles as the main character.
The Burgkino alone is worth a visit. It is one of the oldest still operating cinemas in the world, founded in 1912. Since the 1980s tourists and Viennese alike enjoy its special trademark: the regular showings of The Third Man. If you’d like to dive even deeper into Harry Lime’s world, there is a Third Man Tour. You’ll visit the famous book/movie locations and/or the sewers that also play an important role in the story.
4. Café Central Wien
We promise you, this beautiful cafe is so much more than just the tourist trap it appears to be. Just avoid the high times, meaning try a morning or a lunch during the week. Then you’ll dodge the crowds and, we are serious, it’ll be worth it. The huge columned room with its beautiful marble interior and its gorgeous red upholstery will make you feel transformed back in time when Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Arthur Schnitzler used to work there and Sigmund Freud met his patients before therapy sessions. Also, the cakes are a delight.
Cafés and coffeehouses have always been important places in Vienna. Literature and poetry were produced, discussed and challenged here. Make sure to visit Café Hawelka that inspired Heimito von Doderer and order their famous “Buchteln mit Powidl” (yeast dumpling with plum jam). Head over to Café Landtmann that famously hosted Thomas Mann and where you’ll most probably see some Austrian politicians as well. Also, visit Café Mozart that served as Graham Greene’s inspiration for his famous spy novel. And add Café Sperl to your list, as well!
5. The Literature Museum of the Austrian National Library
Address: Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Vienna
Opening times: Tue, Wed, Fr, Sat and Sun: 10:00 – 06:00, Thur: 10:00 – 9:00
Connect: Check out their Website
This one is a real insider tip, since we know many Austrians who’ve never visited this museum. At this traditional place, you have the opportunity to discover the city. Head to the third floor labelled as “special exhibition: Vienna. A city reflected in literature” – and actually, the whole country – on the other two floors – through literature. You’ll stroll through this three-story building surrounded by unique sources and numerous media stations displayed on beautiful old wooden shelfs. Make sure you reserve some time to really take in these particular exhibition rooms.
Bookstores for a quick fix
In case you, like us, are insatiable and never get enough of your reading material there are many bookshops to be found in Vienna. The bookshop-chain Thalia has a huge selection of books and magazines, and also offers a satisfiable range of international writing. If you want something more of an original, try Shakespeare & Company. It’s a hidden gem right in the city center, where you’ll find everything from classic to contemporary.
What to read in advance
- The Strudlhof Steps, Heimito from Doderer
- The Tabacconist, Robert Seethaler
- The World of Yesterday, Stefan Zweig
- The Piano Teacher, Elfriede Jelinek
- The Third Man, Graham Greene
Are you already inspired to get some reading done while visiting Vienna? Maybe you even bring your notebook and give writing yourself a try. Let the many cafés and coffeehouses that influenced so many great pieces of art inspire you as well! One never knows, you could have a bestselling piece of writing lingering inside of you. Or maybe just some thoughts that are dying to get out on paper.
Want to discover more must-sees in Austria? Check out Elli’s Guide about Salzburg On & Off The Beaten Tracks.