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A Foodie’s Paradise

Viennese buchteln
Cakes and pastries in the Demel window
Demel Bakery
Hotel Sacher
Tarta Sacher via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA pollobarca2 via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Your mouth waters at the window display of every pastry shop. Welcome to Vienna, one of the sweetest capitals in Europe.
Elegant cafés and bakeries appear at every turn in the old town, their scrumptious delights tempting you through the glass. One stands out above the rest: the Sachertorte. This cake is made with two layers of chocolate cake spread with raspberry or apricot jam and covered with dark chocolate icing. It is usually served with whipped cream, the perfect companion for this cake which even has its own day, National Sachertorte Day on 5th December. As famous as it is controversial, it takes the name of the family that created it.

The first to formulate the recipe was novice baker, Franz Sacher, in 1832. He was just a teenager when he invented the sweet treat that would surprise Prince Metternich and his guests, and make his own family famous. Years later, his son, Eduardo, took the recipe to the Demel bakery, which began to sell it with great success. The Empress Sissi went there every afternoon in a golden carriage to delight in the taste of the cake. Hearing this, the Sacher family and their entourage of lawyers began a long legal process that ended with the courts ruling in their favour. The Hotel Sacher was given the right to use the phrase “The Original Sachertorte” while the Demel cakes could be decorated with 'Eduard-Sacher-Torte'.

The stately Demel bakery, at number 14 in the central Kohlmarkt, was able to recover and remained the bakery to the court of Habsburg. It is still considered one of the best cafés in the city. Following a 200 year tradition, Demel only employs women. Great pride is taken not only in the flavours but in the appearance of the bakery. The window displays are decorated with artistically arranged cakes and pastries, highlighted by the unique shade of its famous sugared violets.

Less than five minutes on foot, on the ground floor of the Palais Ferstel, is the Café Central. Since 1876, this expert bakery has fulfilled the sweet desires of such illustrious figures as Sigmund Freud, León Trotsky and Arthur Schnitzler. It is one of the most popular to this day and has only once closed its doors, during the Second World War. Very close to the Stephansplatz, the heart of Vienna, is the Café Hawelka, famous for the smell of freshly baked ‘buchteln’ that emanates from within. The small sweet rolls made with yeast and filled with plum jam attract artists and bohemians, like the late Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, to its tables. Leopold Hawelka, its founder, died in 2011 at the age of 100. He had spent the last 70 years among cafés and artists.

Beyond the Ringstrasse there are also excellent places to satisfy the sweetest tooth. The Café Sperl has built up a loyal clientele thanks to its pastries and period setting with red velvet sofas and dark wood furniture. Opened in 1880, the café has been featured in films like ‘Before Sunrise’ starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

Next to the Schönbrunn Palace, the Café Dommayer stands out as one of the most authentic places for sampling Viennese delicacies, evidenced by the local clientele and its waiters who speak little English. Years ago, Johann Strauss played his compositions here. And this is just a small selection; the traditional Viennese café will surprise you at every corner of the city, so follow our advice: always leave room for dessert.

From Bakery to Luxury Hotel

It all started with the success of the Sachertorte. Although the recipe was the creation of Franz Sacher, it was his son Eduard who began laying the foundation for success, buying a palace right behind the Vienna State Opera. There he opened the bakery which would, in time, become the luxurious five-star Hotel Sacher, where a double room will set you back close to 500€. It competes with the Hotel Imperial and Hotel Das Triest for attracting the most famous guests.

Freud’s Favourite Cake

Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis and illustrious Vienna resident, was a diehard fan of the Sachertorte. Freud, who lived in the city from the age of three until 1938 when he fled from the horrors of the war just a year before his death, enjoyed the cake in the Hotel Sacher, where the orginal recipe was created.

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