Café Hawelka in Vienna – locked in the time

Ogi Savic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Viennese coffee house is a typical gastronomic institution that forms an important part of the city's tradition.  It is even listed as a part of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2011. Café Hawelka, the meeting point of many artists, plays an important role among coffee houses. Its charm comes from the fact that the café looks and feels like it is locked in the time. 

Café Hawelka is located in the city centre of Vienna, just a few minutes walk from the main square Stephansplatz, in the small side street Dorotheergasse. The exterior is very inconspicuous, so if you pass by, from outside you would never guess what jewel hides inside. The interior is unremarkable as well - very modest but cosy and with a specific Vienna's charm. In fact, the interior was designed by a student of the famous architect Adolf Loos and has remained unchanged since 1912. However, with Hawelka, it is not about nice furniture, classy lamps or crockery, it all lies in the atmosphere of the café and its history.

Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / Sniper Zeta

This year, Café Hawelka is celebrating 80 years since the opening under the Hawelka name. From its opening in 1939, the café was managed by its owner Leopold Hawelka and his wife, Josefine. They took over the "Café Ludwig-Carl". Leopold had already some experience in gastronomy since he had previously operated another Vienna’s cult café - "Kaffee Alt Wien", in Bäckerstraße street. A few years later, after the outbreak of the World War II, Hawelka had to be closed, as Leopold was drafted into the Wehrmacht, but soon after the end of the war in autumn 1945, it was reopened. Ten years later, when Austria regain its independence, Hawelka became a meeting point for artists, writers and critics of that time. It reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s.

Picture © Credits to flickr / Franz Hubmann

For all those who want to experience the real atmosphere of Vienna’s café, the house Hawelka should be the first address, since it hasn’t been renovated for more than 100 years. Famous Austrian writer Heimito von Doderer wrote in 1960 about the Hawelka: "It is already known in London, and people from Paris and the Netherlands also arrive at Café Hawelka" - and why: "Ultimately only because Mr. Hawelka is not renovating."  When you are there, you must try the speciality of the restaurant, the Buchteln. These are sweet, mostly stuffed, yeast dumplings baked in the oven. They are still prepared after the recipe of Leopold’s Bohemian mother, as they are a typical dish from the Bohemian cuisine. Until her death in 2005, Josefine personally had prepared them, and since then, her son Günter does it. Leopold Hawelka died in 2011, after managing his café for 72 years, and until his death, he could be seen at the entrance greeting the guests.

Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / Johnny Saunderson

Unlike in an ordinary café, in Café Hawelka it is quite common for a guest who orders a coffee to sit at his table for hours. That way not only the café but also the guests stay locked in the time.

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