My husband loves to find “the best” options in absolutely everything. When we headed to Austria, our travel plan included a hunt for the best cafe in Vienna. What I found, however, is that the best cafe in Vienna is dependent on what you’re looking for out of an experience. (In all cases, we skipped the food and went for coffee or dessert.) The cafe is considered to be the living room of Vienna. Cafe and coffee house culture is a large part of life in Vienna, so I thought it would be fun to write about which cafe to visit for what. We’ve visited Vienna three times (April & December 2016, December 2018), so I feel like our choices are relatively well-researched for consistency. If you want a second opinion on the best cafe in Vienna for delicious desserts, Sharon also shared her thoughts and some beautiful photos as well! World of Wanderlust has a great guide to Vienna cafes, too!
Best Cafe in Vienna… for Apple Strudel
With a light, flaky crust, a dusting of powdered sugar, a filling that isn’t too sweet, and a seat outside, Cafe Demel wins the best apple strudel in Vienna. I highly recommend getting a reservation in advance. We stopped by several times and weren’t able to get a table until right before we left the city for Prague. Everything about this apple strudel is perfection. Just look at him – he’s a handsome little guy!
Best Cafe in Vienna… for Sacher Torte
Is it really all that surprising that the best cafe in Vienna for sacher torte is the original Cafe Sacher? Service is hit or miss depending on the day or how busy they are, but I do enjoy their sacher torte. What is a sacher torte, you ask? It is a delicious dense, iced chocolate cake with a surprising ingredient to keep the cake moist. Allegedly, no one else has the recipe, but given the proliferation of sacher tortes in Vienna, it’s safe to say that someone violated the non-compete agreement. (Obviously I don’t mind.)
Best Cafe in Vienna… for Enjoying a Lazy Morning
Arriving in Vienna after an early train from Budapest, our first stop was Café Central. This cafe is what inspired the taste test. Starting with chocolate cake (delicious) and apple strudel (also tasty), my Vienna trip was kicked off in a remarkable sugar rush. The Austrian molten chocolate cake is rich and decadent; the whipped cream offsets it nicely. (I believe it’s the local speciality called mohr im hemd.) My husband and I both loved the high ceilings and ambiance. When we returned in December, we found ourselves at Cafe Central armed with our books to read on a lazy Sunday morning. (The delicious amaretto hot chocolate is a great way to warm up during the winter.) I found myself imagining what it must have been like during the early 1900s as a popular meeting place for the great thinkers and writers coming here for sweet treats and to be inspired.
Tip: You can tell that it gets busy by the ropes outside, we didn’t find the lines too overwhelming in the morning or the mid-afternoon.
My favorite day on our April trip was the afternoon when we braved the consistent crowds at Cafe Demel, grabbed a table outside and feasted on their delicious apple strudel. Even if you can’t sit outside (like in December), the cafe inside is frantic with people purchasing sweet treats. Demel is a beautiful side street near the Hofburg Palace, so there’s quite a bit of foot traffic to watch. We tried their sacher torte and their apple strudel. As stated above, the strudel wins hands down. I would certainly return and try more of their cakes though.
Right around the corner from the opera house, Cafe Sacher lends itself to a prime spot for a romantic evening rendezvous. The dark decor, the plush interior, and the deep red tones are perfect for a romantic dessert. This place almost convinces me to redecorate our bedroom in rich ruby tones. (I might have realized that I have an obsession with walls adorned with really expensive fabric. My love for our suite at the St. Regis Florence on our honeymoon was NOT an anomaly.)
Best Cafe in Vienna… in Our Opinion
Choosing the best cafe in Vienna is not an easy task, but we felt most welcome to relax at Cafe Central. (The amaretto hot chocolate may have also played a part in this decision.) Service is not intrusive, and the waitstaff is more than happy to offer recommendations when asked. The ambiance, however, is what propelled Cafe Central to the top of the list for us.
On our next trip, I hope to check out Café Sperl, which is supposed to be one of the most traditional Viennese coffee houses.
Best Cafe in Vienna for Gluten-Free Options
This is a bonus! Sarah from Endless Distances, one of my favorite bloggers to follow, reached out to me and shared her favorite gluten free coffee shops for sacher torte and apple strudel. I know this is something that is increasingly more important to share, so I asked her if she would send them to me to include. (She does a great job of sharing gluten-free options regularly, so make sure to follow her!) Here are her picks:
Gasthouse Zumwohl – This one is more of a restaurant than a bakery, but is 100% gluten free! They have gluten free desserts on rotation. When we were there they didn’t have sacher torte, but the apple strudel and lemon cream cake were amazing. The lemon cream cake was actually my favorite cake I had in a very long time (and my non-gluten free boyfriend agreed!).
Allergiker Cafe – This is a specialty bakery with everything gluten free, lactose free, nut free, and soy free. They have TONS of cakes but I had to try the sacher torte (when in Vienna!) and it was very good.