Monday, October 20, 2014

Vienna, Part 1: Killing Time in Wiener Kaffeehaus (Viennese Coffeehouse)

Volksgarten. Public park in Vienna, part of the Hofburg Palace.
If you ask me what was most memorable about my recent vacation in Vienna, I'd first think of Klimt's paintings from up-close. Unforgettable impressions.  Then, the Secession Building, which I visited right upon arrival. Of course I would mention the grandeur and Art Nouveau splendor of the architecture, and all the museums.  But then…then I would settle on my memories of cozy, quiet cafes with endless apple strudels, arched windows and crystal chandeliers, worn-out velvet upholstery of Victorian furniture and mannerly waiters in bow ties. Some of these lovely Wiener Kaffeehäuser go as far back as 18th century.

 “An asylum for those who want to kill time without being killed by it.” -Alfred Polgar

I lingered for many unhurried hours in Vienna's most beautiful cafes, sipping wine or having tea and pancakes with cranberry jam, people-watching and drawing. This series of drawings is from Cafe Sperl. I went there more than once. Its ornamental interior and predominantly Austrian patronage created a very special atmosphere. Some of the other cafes I visited were frequented by Mozart and Freud (drawings coming soon.)

Since 2011, Wiener Kaffeehaus is listed with UNESCO as "Intangible Cultural Heritage", with the following description: "[a place] where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill."

Cafe Sperl.

Cafe Sperl. The waiters.

Cafe Sperl.
Cafe Sperl.  Lady in the niche.

Cafe Sperl.
A local patron who came in for a cup of espresso and news. It's customary to offer daily
newspapers that are fitted into large wooden frames in every cafe.

Drawings of other cafes in Vienna are here >


  1. Wonderful sketches! I was in Vienna in January and also loved the cafés the most. Café Sperl was a very nice one. I can even see where I was sitting from your sketches. Thank you for taking me back there through your drawings!

    1. Beliza-thank you! That's just wonderful. I miss those cafes the most.

  2. Gorgeous gorgeous, Julia!! Welcome back!

  3. Julia, what a gorgeous reportage! Just beautiful!