Vienna’s equivalent of Paris’ St-Germain des Prés Literary Cafés :
If you’re looking to experience a typically Viennese coffee house, Café Hawelka in the old town comes highly recommended. This classic Viennese coffee house is a legend in its own right.
Located at Dorotheergasse 6 in the 1st district, this venerable institution owes its success to its prime location, excellent food and above all, the amazing people who run it, not to mention the regulars who frequent the café.
Café Hawelka’s Story
Café Hawelka started life in 1939 when Leopold Hawelka and his wife Josefine took over what was then the defunct Café Ludwig in Dorotheergasse. When war broke out they were forced to shut up shop, but reopened again in the fall of 1945.
Although most of the surrounding buildings suffered extensive damage during the war, miraculously, Café Hawelka did not even incur a single broken pane of glass.
In spite of the shortage of supplies after the war and the perils of dealing in the black market, the Hawelkas managed to get the necessary supplies to reopen their coffee house. Coffee was prepared on a wood-burning stove and during the winter, the resourceful Mr. Hawelka would himself go to the Vienna woods with a pushcart to gather firewood whilst his wife looked after the coffee house guests.
A Literary Café
During the post-war period, this compact and cozy coffee house became a favoured meeting place for writers and artists, with many of them calling it a home away from home. The list of regulars reads like a who’s who of the contemporary Austrian art and cultural scene with Friedrich Torberg, Heimito von Doderer, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Ernst Fuchs, H.C. Artmann, Helmut Qualtinger, Oskar Werner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and André Heller among its famous patrons – not to mention celebrity visitors to the city, who in spite of their busy schedules always manage to find time for a trip to Hawelka. When the Café Herrenhof closed in 1961, most of its influential “writer” clients moved over to the Hawelka and the coffee house then reigned supreme as the literary café.
Although the golden years are over, Café Hawelka is still going strong and maintains that “it is the outside world that has changed and not the Café Hawelka.” This small, dark and cozy coffeehouse is as popular as ever, even if the clientele has changed a little over the years. Leopold Hawelka (born April 11, 1911) still runs the café with his son Günter and grandsons Amir and Michael. Unfortunately his wife Josefine passed away in 2005.
A Café Hawelka Ritual
Get to the Café Hawelka at 10 p.m. and enjoy a treat of piping hot Buchteln – a variation on jelly-filled donuts. These piping hot Buchteln are served fresh from the oven every evening at 10 p.m., a ritual that remains unchanged for over half a century.
Dorotheergasse 6, 1st district
What questions does this raise for you?