Have some cake at Café Central, Vienna

Cafe Central, Vienna
Cafe Central, Vienna

„Central is not a coffeehouse like any other – it’s a philosophy.“

(Alfred Polgar)

If you want to rub shoulders with the likes of Sigmund Freud and Trotsky, you should visit Café Central in Vienna. Though, you’ll only see Mr Freud & his friends if you can see ghosts! Today this historical beautiful coffeehouse is overrun with the tourists but they don’t diminish its old-style charm.

The café culture is still strong in Vienna so during the week and off-season (if there’s such a time of the year when there are less tourists in Vienna) this café is still frequented by the locals. But if you’re visiting during Christmas season be prepared to wait in the cold to get in this very popular café/patisserie.

Housed in a grand old palace (Palais Ferstel) Cafe Central has been opened since 1876. It offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and Vienna coffee of course. Made famous by its notorious patrons and as a rendezvous place for many artists, revolutionaries and philosophers it’s a hot spot for today’s visitors to once imperial Vienna. Everybody wants to eat cake in Cafe Central (or take selfies) as it seems when you’re freezing in the long queue outside this old institution.

When you get in eventually you soon forget all about your half-frozen fingers and look up in awe. The ceilings are very high and exquisitely painted and there are elegant arches, like in a proper palace or church. But the religion preached here is coffee! The central place inside is occupied by two large cake displays and a large gingerbread house. There’s also live piano music after 5 pm. I came earlier so I didn’t get to enjoy this part of Vienna coffee culture.

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Christmas markets in Villach & Velden, Austria

Villach
Christmas market in Villach

Three years ago I took my mum to Austria for a day trip. Our destinations were Villach and Velden and their charming Christmas markets. We both love Christmas markets very much so I decided to ask her and not my boyfriend (now my husband) to join me. Besides my boyfriend and I went to a chocolate factory near Graz (Austria) just a few weeks before this Christmas markets day trip.

About Villach & Velden

Villach is located on the Drau river and it’s the seventh largest town in Austria with a population of around 62 000. It’s got a big Croatian community too so it’s not a surprise that Villach is very popular for shopping and Christmas trips from Croatia. Velden am Wörthersee is a market-town and a popular holiday resort situated at the Wörthersee lake and close to Villach.

Villach
Villach

Villach

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That time I had Sacher cake in Vienna…..

Sacher Cake at Cafe Sacher, Vienna

Who doesn’t like cakes? I can’t resist a dessert  and I often peruse the dessert’s menu even before I order the drinks let alone the main dish. Sacher Cake is probably one of the most famous cakes in the world and there are also plenty of recipes to make it yourself at your home. But you can only have the original Sachert-Torte at Café Sacher in the heart of historical Vienna.

I’ve been to Vienna several times. My first visit was in December 2005 when my best high school friend and I took a train to Vienna. We’ve done a ride on Prater’s Giant Wheel, took photos of colourful Hundertwasser’s house, tracked down the cafe from the movie Before Sunrise and we visited Schonbrunn palace among other things. Above the castle is a great viewpoint and a cafe called Glorietta where I had my first Sacher Cake in Vienna. It was horrible; it was dry and old. A big disappointment.

Glorietta just opposite the Schonbrunn palace
Glorietta just opposite the Schonbrunn palace

Fast forward almost a decade and I’m back in Vienna and I’m having Sacher Cake in a beautiful restaurant Residenz right next to the Schonbrunn palace. Again the Sacher Cake wasn’t really good. I couldn’t believe it. I had other great cakes at this restaurant and I had wonderful cakes in Vienna in a lot of different places but I still couldn’t find a decent Sacher Cake in Vienna even if my life depended on it. Maybe the castle had something to do with it? Both times I had Sacher Cake was actually in places in Schonbrunn palace garden!

I’ve wanted to try the original Sacher Cake at  Café Sacher for a long time but there was always a long queue outside the cafe and I just left it always for some other time, some other trip to Vienna. Finally, last December I had the one and only Sacher Cake. And it was so delicious!!

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Visiting a chocolate factory

Zotter chocolate factory, Austria

When I was a child I thought that visiting a real chocolate factory would be a dream come true. Many years later formally an adult but still very childish in manner occasionally, especially when it comes to food according to my loving husband, I did visit an actual chocolate factory. In November 2013 my husband and I visited Zotter chocolate factory in Riegersburg, Austria. Firstly, we wandered around nearby town of Graz and then in the afternoon we went on our visit of the Zotter chocolate factory. The visit costs 14.90€ for an adult but it also includes the all important tasting of chocolate.

Graz
Graz

Our visit started with a short viewing of the company’s history in a small cinema-like room.The film also explained briefly the origins of chocolate and its production. Then we were given audio-guides and a pretty ceramic spoon for the tasting. We weren’t supposed to keep the spoon but we did 🙂 You can taste everything you see and at the end of the visit you find yourself in a cafe-like room where you can make yourself one hot chocolate. There are clear signs stating only one hot chocolate per person ( we did comply to that rule). Of course, you left the factory via the gift shop but after a lot of hard thinking I didn’t buy anything. You are probably asking yourself: she left a chocolate factory without a single bar of chocolate? Yes, I did. Frankly, by the end of the visit I was almost sick with the mere thought of seeing another chocolate let alone eating one.

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Butterflies in Vienna (Dec 2015)

In the midst of cold & snowy winter you can enjoy the fragile beauty of butterflies in Vienna’s Imperial Butterfly House ( Schmetterling house). It’s set in an Art Nouveau Palm house, a part of the Hofburg Royal Palace. You can enter it via the palace gardens Burggarten. Of course the Butterfly house is open all year round but if you visit it during winter be prepared for scorching heat. Tropical conditions are inside because butterflies need warmth which is fine when it’s warmer outside too and then there isn’t such a big difference in the temperature. But when I visited it last month it was so freezing outside that when I walked in I wanted to strip down to my undies , that’s how hot it was! Of course, I just took off my coat and jumper :).

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The views of Vienna (Dec 2015)


Are you afraid of heights and confined spaces? Then, please don’t climb 343 steps to reach the viewing point of ˝Steffl˝ tower in Vienna (the southern tower of St.Stephen’s cathedral). Yes, I went up 343 steps. There must be something wrong with me, right?:)  Well, I just like climbing towers and viewing the city from above. And it’s always interesting to get the bird’s-eye perspective of the city, don’t you think so?


It was a long climb and it’s really narrow so when you come across other people trying to go down while you’re going up it isn’t’ really pleasant. Luckily, I did it first thing in the morning (read at 9.30 am but the tower opens at 9) so there weren’t that many tricky situations. The cost of the ticket is only 4.50 euros and you get your money’s worth. The only disappointment is that when you get to the top (at 67 m; you can’t get to the actual top of the tower at 137 m) there’s a souvenir shop. As with other towers there’s a protective wire so you have to take pictures through it. It wasn’t the sunniest of the days but I still got to see the beautiful Vienna’s buildings down below me. Since the St.Stephen’s cathedral is right in the center of the city you get to see the top of Hofburg’s dome (the royal palace), the Belvedere castle, many church spires and domes and the magnificent neo-Gothic Rathaus (City Hall). You can also see the amazing tile work of the cathedral’s roof which represent Hapsburg’s coat of arms in the shape of the double-headed eagle. It must be quite something to go up in the late afternoon when the Christmas lights are switched on because then you can admire the festive decorations of Kartnerstrasse (the high street) and Graben street (there are beautiful pine Christmas trees which smell so nice) and you see the big red baubles of Rotenturm street.

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the view of Belvedere castle

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Christmas markets in Vienna (Dec 2015)

What says Christmas better than having a mug of glühwein (mulled wine) in one hand and a giant pretzel in another? Every town in Austria has its own Christmas market but perhaps the most famous ones are in Vienna, the city of the waltz. The Christmas markets are scattered around the center of Vienna but there are a few at the outskirts too.

The biggest and the best is the Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt)  in front of the City Hall. It celebrates its 30 year anniversary this year. Beware of the crowds though! You should visit it twice. Once during the day so you can see the goods at the different stalls (Christmas decorations, chocolates, gingerbread, candles, ceramic ware, leather notebooks, etc.) and once in the evening so you can admire the Christmas lights and decorations which hang from the trees. If you have got children then you can take them to participate in the Christmas workshops in the City Hall so they can make marzipan cookies or candles or other stuff for a small fee. You can also hear Christmas carols or Christmas stories read by different Austrian celebrities at the stage under the giant Christmas tree. Of course, there’s plenty of choice of food and drinks. You can have hot chocolate, or punch or mulled wine in beautifully decorated Christmassy mugs. The average price of mulled wine is 3.50 euros, but you actually pay it 6 or 7 euros because of the deposit for the mug. If you return the mug you get back 3 euros, but if you decide to keep it ( and it is so nice that you would want to keep it)  you actually paid your drink 6.50 euros. But it’s worth it. Trust me, I had the best mulled wine and punch at Vienna’s Christmas markets.

Every Christmas market has got its own style of the mug so you can drink around and decide to keep the one you like the best or collect them all 🙂 You can eat sausages and you can have soup in the bread or baked potatoes or chestnuts or toasted almonds and many other traditonal foods. So, don’t be on a diet when you come to Vienna! Apart from all the gorgeous foods&sweets at the Christmas markets there are so many old fashioned traditional pastry &cake shops  that you just can’t say no to a piece or two of cake.

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