Six of the best: Viennese coffeehouses

Long the meeting places of writers and thinkers, they offer an instant fix of caffeine, chocolate and cream.

Café Hawelka

Tucked into a laneway in Vienna's Innere Stadt (old town) is one of its favourite coffeehouses. Café Leopold Hawelka has long been a meeting place for artists and writers and has a relaxed yet gloomy charm. Settle into one of its striped velvet booths by the window and linger over a "café melange" (an espresso with steamed milk, topped with whipped cream), which comes with a glass of water and a teaspoon on top, a Viennese tradition. There are newspapers to read (some in English) and when it's time to leave, your bow-tied waiter will simply add up your bill in his head and give you change from his belt-purse. Open daily 8am (10am Sundays) to 1am, see hawelka.at

Café Demel

Originally confectioner to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Demel is now a sweet shop, bakery, café and ice-creamery. Wander through the mirror-walled gift shop to the glass-walled kitchen at the back to see master bakers at work before heading upstairs to the Rococo-era café – it's like a palace, all marble floors, chandeliers and waitresses (all staff are female) in black dresses with starched white collars. You'll have to wait for a table, but it's worth it. Try the Kleine Fruhstuck (small breakfast): two sublimely soft-boiled eggs, fresh bread rolls with butter, jam and honey, and tea or coffee, for just €8,50. Open daily 9am-7pm, see demel.at

The Phil

Pronounced "feel" (as in "phile", to love), The Phil could be the future of furniture stores as well as coffeehouses. It's light, airy and hip, with tattooed, moustachioed waitstaff and mismatched retro furniture – which you can buy. Also for sale are records, CDs and books, including literary classics in English by the likes of Hesse, Woolf, Sedaris and Eggers. An Albert Camus quote – "Should I kill myself or have another cup of coffee?" – graced the bright orange counter when I was there. Have another coffee, or a Che Guevara: rich Italian hot chocolate with a dash of Havana rum. Open 9am-1am Tues-Sun, 5pm-1am Mondays, see phil.info

Café Landtmann

Take an outside table at this sprawling restaurant-café, one of the oldest in Vienna (established in 1873), and you'll be within spitting distance of the Burg Theatre, where three of Mozart's operas premiered in the late 1700s. With its pre-show goulash soup and post-theatre drinks, the Landtmann is a place to meet friends rather than lose yourself in a book. The theatre is closed in summer, but the surrounding grandeur (the Rathaus or City Hall is nearby too) elevates the coffeehouse experience to a nobler plane – or maybe that's my Salon Einspanner talking (a double espresso with whipped cream). Open 7.30am-midnight daily, see landtmann.at/en

Café Central

When you can hear the clip-clop of horseshoes on cobbles, from the "fiaker" sightseeing carriages, you know you're in Tourist Central – where you'll find Café Central. Despite the line of people trailing out the door and the United Nations of caffeinated conversations inside, however, the waiters in long white aprons never rush you. So there's time to soak up the ambience of this exquisitely ornate café once frequented by Freud and Trotsky, with its vaulted ceilings, marble columns and parquet floors – and order another pastry from the in-house patisserie. After 5pm, there's also the tinkle of a grand piano playing Strauss; Central is one of 16 cafes in Vienna to have live music. Open 7.30am-10pm Mon-Sat, 10am-10pm Sundays, see cafecentral-wien.at

Aida 

For a more down-to-earth coffeehouse experience, join the newspaper-reading locals at one of the city's 31 Aida "café konditorei" (coffee and cake shops), established by Czech-born confectioner Josef Prousek in 1913. The decor is 1950s American diner meets Hello Kitty. Everything but the chocolate-brown coffee cups is pink – the chairs, the awning outside, the sugar sachets, the menus, the serviettes, the staff uniforms. Go early in the day for a typically Viennese breakfast, a melange coffee and an "apfelstrudel", for only €5,20. Opening hours vary with location, see aida.at

The writer travelled at her own expense.

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