Viennese cafe culture is so renowned that it was the only thing I wanted to experience when we had a few hours to roam around what was once the capital of the Austro-Hungary empire. After searching through various blogs, I decided to try Cafe Schwarzenberg purely for its visual patina. It was established in 1861 and had all the hallmarks I was looking for. It is the oldest coffee house still standing in the boulevard, and interestingly, it was not a meeting place for intellectuals and artists as per the customary tradition of Viennese coffee houses but was a meeting spot for entrepreneurs. It still maintains its past glory and hasn’t been renovated in a fundamental way, and hosts various cultural events such as concerts and readings.
And so after we arrived in Vienna Central Train station, we took the tube to Stephenplatz, and strolled for about 8 minutes to Cafe Schwarzenberg. It looked perfectly regular from the outside, and was, thankfully, not like the famous New York Cafe in Budapest where the queue would spill outside of the cafe and onto the pedestrian pavement. In fact, we sailed in around 12pm with no hassle at all and were seated immediately, without a reservation. We chose to sit indoors as it was very hot outside.
Once you step in, it is pleasantly delightful as you imagined what the past could be like – high ceilings, chandeliers and tufted leather seats. I also liked the many seating enclaves by the window. We didn’t choose to sit by the window only because the weather that day was absurdly hot, we would have gotten a heat stroke. But I imagined it would be the perfect spot over winter, cuddled in wool, sipping hot chocolate and biting into a warm apple strudel.
I chose the prawn salad and my husband ordered some scrambled eggs. The food was decent but nothing to write home about. The service was good, the waiter that attended us was attentive and friendly, nevermind the slightly expressionless tone. He gave us some sightseeing tips and shared with us what was his favourite Viennese landmarks and why. It intrigued me how easily Europeans could casually rattle on the name of specific architectural styles in their city – Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic.
Overall, I would recommend Cafe Schwarzenberg more for its historical atmosphere than its culinary offerings. That’s not to say that the food is horrible in any way, I just wouldn’t call it memorable and it was a tad overpriced. But it still thrills me to be in a place once alive with atmosphere, industry captains and history more than 100 years ago. Have Viennese coffee and a desert here just for that alone. Click on their website here to know more.