There is no better place in Vienna to relax and refuel from a long day of being a tourist than in one of the ubiquitous Viennese cafes.
Whilst I’m as much a fan of Starbucks as the next person, it seemed almost sinful to choose the ‘Bucks over a local café. A good local café should have some kind of lacy or velvety curtains covering tall, arched windows. There should be dark wood on the walls. Waiters with semi-formal attire – or at least something like that. There are wooden rods at one point, holding newspapers for patron reading. Table cloths, glossy menus, and a selection of drinks, sometimes meals, and, the mother of all good things – cakes.
In every café, there is a display of cakes and strudels. It’s a beautiful sight right off the “A Few of My Favorite Things” list. It’s hard enough to decide on what sort of coffee to order, but then, the moment you start perusing the cake selection, life becomes that much harder.
Good thing most waiters are well-equipped to recommend pairings if you’re unsure. Near the Hofburg is a café called Café Griensteidl. It’s right off Michaelerplatz, so that can mean loads of tourists, but on this day, it was relatively quiet, and the staff wasn’t as harried as I’d read reviews about. I opted for a thick beef goulash, which was tasty enough for lunch, and a plate of spicy sausage. Also pretty standard – and served with French fries. Whilst I had a beer for lunch, I switched over to a classic mélange coffee (with milk and topped with milky froth or whipped cream) and a piece of apple strudel. It was enough to fortify me for an afternoon of wandering about on the Prater side of things.
I visited another café near the Karlskirche, but the name escapes me. It advertised all sorts of cakes on a board outside the café, and though it was late, the selection inside was still quite vast. I settled into a table and opted for the Café Maria Theresia (strong espresso, orange liqueur, and whipped cream) and the chocolately Mozart sacher torte.
This is perhaps one of the best parts of a café – you aren’t judged if you visit in the morning for breakfast, at midday for lunch, early afternoon for a pick-me-up, or evening for a sugar-blast and warm-up drink.
Cafés in Vienna – they wait for you.