Vienna is known for its good coffee, lavish cakes and buzzing café culture. During our stay we managed to visit one or two, so here we have Viennese cafes, 3+1! (Flashback to my 2016 Central Europe trip, so obviously things may have changed since then…)
Cafe Diglas, according to efficient Hayzybobz’s efficient Lonely Planet guidebook, is a historical, must-visit cafe. They’re especially famed for their apple strudel, though I would like to hand them the trophy for most confusing toilet doors. They were see-through. Yes, literally. We’ll get there in a moment.
We originally went to Cafe Diglas for coffee and lunch. Yummy, breezy, traditional. No taste bud-blowing culinary experience, but decent.
Viennese coffee comes foamy and accompanied with glasses of water.
So fastforward to the exciting bit: them toilet doors and their transparency. Exhibit A.
I went in and I came out, bladder still full, racking my brain about what part of the toilet experience I’d missed. I’d been successfully using toilets for the past twenty-fourish years of my life, where did this brain freeze come from? How had I never noticed the fact that all other toilet doors I’d ever witnessed were non-transparent? Was I missing a point? Technically, as a woman, and with a skirt, if I sat on the toilet and someone walked in and saw me through the door, technically they wouldn’t see any hazardous body part as I’d be sort of leaned in front of it if you walk in on me straight on? But what about when I get up? I wasn’t aware of Austrians being revolutionarily free with nudity, genital-flashing and public peeing, but well, there were many things in life I wasn’t aware of…
Like transparent toilet doors.
All these thoughts whirled in my mind as I wandered back to Hayzybobz and told her, absent-mindedly and feeling rather silly, that I didn’t go to the toilet because the door was see-through.
Well, Hayzybobz has brains and life experience, and she went to have a look at this World Wonder herself. She returned, successfully having emptied her bladder, and apparently with a non-transparent door!
The trick? The trick is that when you go into the cubicle with the transparent door, once you lock it, it hazes up, like a mirror after a hot shower. See Snapchat screen shots below.
So I managed to relieve myself in the toilet cubicle with the see-through door after all, and without practising revolutionary Austrian public urinating.
So, anyways, the famous apple strudel.
On a later pop-in we tried the apple strudel, famous in Vienna and especially Café Diglas. As gentle piano music tinkled through our auditory canals, the polished mahogany chairs caressed our bottoms and suited waiters floated past us unperturbed, we let the subtle flavours of our apple strudel pamper our taste buds. Well, I’m sure it was high quality, but according to my travel journal I commented “it’s ok, but not my thing” and gave it two-and-a-half-stars and Hayley commented “well I don’t like apple and I don’t like pastry” and gave it three-and-a-half-stars.
Café Leopold Hawelka
Café Leopold Hawelka had a nice terrace area and was suitably out of the way to not be packed, and we were keenly ushered to an outside table by a very well-dressed, politely friendly older male waiter. I ordered an iced coffee, and was brought this magnificent specimen.
We’d just come back from trying, and failing, to find painkillers that cost than less than seven euros, so I felt sick thinking about the price of this coffee extravaganza. (I’d ordered an iced coffee, and I hadn’t actually expected something this lavish.) I would have been fully unsurprised to see it come to seventeen euros. Well, in the end it was “just” 6,80e, which made me practically leap with joy.
The waiter was nice, the ambiance was pleasant, and the coffee was bitter – once you mixed the sweet ice cream and the coffee it was nice enough, but I still do prefer a good old white chocolate cookie milkshake from Millie’s Cookies.
Though I hasten to add, this is my own personal opinion and drink preference.
The toilets had non-transparent doors, points for that.
Café Demel houses “decadent cakes that once pleased the emperor’s palate”, according to The Guidebook which gave high praise to its goodies, claiming them to be the best cakes in Vienna. So, of course they had to be sampled.
First feels of Demel were the traditional lavish Vienna vibes. I could imagine being Empress Sisi or a foreign prince at the very least, entering the luxurious-looking coffee house, with a huge choice of intimidatingly luscious cakes. You could buy to take away, or eat in.
It took us a while to learn how exactly to eat in – it involved wandering about stupidly downstairs, looking for menus and free tables, being ushered upstairs, where the waiter promptly left us waiting at the Please-wait-here-to-be-seated sign, only to be picked up ten minutes later by another waiter. No one seemed too keen to sit us down, and we soon realised it was probably partly due to the fact the café was about to close. Well, we managed to pick out a cake to share, and even had a chance to take a few pictures in the now-empty café before feeling socially obligated to leave.
The cake? We both gave it four stars. My comment: “As good as rich truffley choc can get” and Hayzybobz’s “surprisingly good”. (And here, we remember, that Hayzybobz doesn’t like cake.)
Vienna had beautiful cafes, but as with all history, you do get tired of it after a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love history, but it is one of those subjects you can easily overdose on. And my fascination for Viennese cafes was more due to their historical vibe than the actual decadence of the cakes or especially the coffee. It just wasn’t my thing.
But there was an exception. Café Aida was themed pink and the outside tables were rickety and perhaps not up to the standard of the Emperor-Favouring Decadent Palates And Grandiose Regal Surroundings. And Café Aida was my favourite. Their almost cartoony vibe was a welcome change.
We stopped by for modest pastries, but there was also no lack of choice of epic-looking cakes, fear not.
Cafe Aida is apparently hugely popular and based on last year’s experience, it deserves it.
Dear Cafes of Vienna, thank you for providing us with such a regal experience.
What’s your favourite Viennese cafe?