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When I think of a typical old Viennese coffee house, I immediately have pictures of marble tables and dark Thonet chairs, large daily newspapers in old wooden frames, as well as coffee specialities always served with a fresh glass of water on a silver platter in my head. Do you feel the same way? The traditional Viennese Grand Cafés - some of them still located on the Ringstrasse - are an integral part of the cityscape and a visit to Vienna. The Viennese coffee house culture goes back to the last Turkish siege of the city in 1683, when Turkish spoils of war with bags full of green beans came into the possession of a spy and coffee became the favourite drink of the Viennese. Gradually coffee houses began to appear, which then became popular meeting places for philosophers, writers, artists and musicians.
For centuries, the coffeehouse was purely a male affair. Not only were there heated debates about art, culture or politics, but many a woman's heart was also broken, chess or billiards played. A little later the tradition of the female seated cashier developed, which you can still see today in the K&K Hofzuckerbäckerei Demel. This was followed by the first theatre cafés in the Viennese Prater, as well as the garden and summer cafés with the famous “Schanigarten” or pavement cafés. Meanwhile the Viennese coffee house tradition has been recognised as UNESCO cultural heritage and today as then captivates its visitors with various coffee specialities, delicious pastries or Viennese delicacies.
But the new and modern French cafés, which have been added in the last 3 years, also offer wonderful patisseries and especially appeal to young people. Here again the circle closes, because after all it was Marie Antoinette who brought her own Viennese baker and thus the famous croissant to Paris in 1770 and not vice versa. Here I take you to my absolute favourite Viennese cafés: a perfect "Viennese Melange" of old Viennese coffee houses and trendy French cafés!
A Viennese Grand Café can be recognized not only by its unique coffee house atmosphere, but also by the waiters dressed in elegant black with the white cloth napkin over their right hand as a trademark. But the friendliness of the Viennese "Herr Ober" waiter is disputable. A “Küss' die Hand gnä' Frau" ("a kiss on your hand, my lady”) is not always meant literally.
What would a visit to a coffee house be without the famous Viennese pastries such as curd cheese or apple strudel? Very often served with whipped cream. Many of the recipes still originate from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Vienna not only has the traditional Grand Cafés and imperial confectioneries to offer, but also numerous more modern cafés, where coffee is served daily in a slightly different environment and the coffee culture of the city is kept high.
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