- /Cafe / CafehausThough coffeehouses are perhaps more closely associated with Vienna than with any other city in the world, they came to the city relatively late. Outside of Constantinople itself, where Habsburg emissaries had drunk the beverage for some time, Venice had such establishments in 1645, London in 1652, Hamburg in 1671, and Paris in 1672.Vienna’s first coffeehouse opened in 1685, two years after the second, and last, unsuccessful Ottoman siege of the Habsburg capital. Consumption of the beverage itself, however, had been going on in Vienna for some time. Once established, coffeehouses caught on quickly. By 1736, there were imperially licensed coffeehouses selling the drink tax free, and 19 ordinary houses that did not have this privilege, but offset their higher prices with a more dignified level of service and atmosphere than the often-raucous inns of the city. By 1703, such coffeehouses were buying periodicals for their customers to read with their refreshment. Billiard tables were also frequently available. For those who had neither the time nor the money to lavish on such comforts, there were numerous street purveyors who sold both coffee and a very popular spiced brandy (Rosolio). Coffee became a special seasonal pleasure in Vienna around 1750 when one proprietor, Gianni Tarroni, whose establishment was on the Graben in the center of the city, was licensed to serve customers out of doors in the summer. Its contemporary name—Gianni Garden—has been crunched through the phonetics of Wienerisch as Schanigarten, the term for any sidewalk eating facility with umbrella and tables. By 1788, small musical ensembles were playing in cafes, a custom that continues to this day, though in only a few facilities and at specific times, usually weekends.The inner decor of cafes grew very elaborate following the Napoleonic Wars. Wall mirrors, chandeliers, plush chairs and banquettes, and silver cutlery made their way into the more pretentious establishments. Some became lively centers for artistic and political discussion. Card games and chess were also available as was a wider selection of reading material, including foreign journals. The importance of cafes as centers of intellectual activity endured through World War I. The Griensteidl (1847) and the Central (1860) were especially prominent in the artistic and literary life of the city; the Landtmann (1873), which is very close to the Parliament and the City Hall on the Ringstrasse, was, and is, a meeting place for political figures.Following World War II, many coffeehouses closed, made obsolete by the fast-paced lifestyle of economic recovery, soaring property values and rents, and finally television, which turned the home into a center of family entertainment. Since 1990, there has been some recovery of coffeehouse culture. Several of the great cafes, including both the Central and the Griensteidl, have been elegantly renovated. Like their more modest counterparts, they now combine restaurant service along with their more traditional beverage offerings and assorted baked goods.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.