Why Europe’s fika capital isn’t actually in Sweden

Swedes are crazy about coffee. They’re so crazy about it that they’ve even coined a special word for a simple coffee break.

Why Europe’s fika capital isn’t actually in Sweden
A delicious latte? Photo: Coffee Geek Espresso Beans

Fika – taking time to enjoy coffee and a bite to eat with a friend or colleague – is a cornerstone of Swedish culture. If the country offered a Swedish 101 course for newbies, fika would probably be the first subject taught in the curriculum. Followed by a mandatory break for fika

But what if we told you that there’s a European city where fika is taken so seriously that its coffee house culture is protected by UNESCO world heritage? If you’re as hooked on java as the Swedes are, an extended coffee break in Vienna is just the cultural pilgrimage that the barista ordered. Follow in the footsteps of some of Vienna’s most notable past inhabitants like Mozart, Beethoven, Klimt and Freud and soak in the gemütliche (cozy) atmosphere of the city’s famous coffee houses. 

Presenting four reasons why all coffee lovers should visit Vienna.

It’s bean around a long time

Coffee first arrived in Vienna courtesy of a failed Turkish invasion in 1683. Forced to flee, the Ottoman army left behind sacks of coffee beans, initially assumed to be camel feed. Allied military officer Jerzy Francieszek Kulczychi had spent time in captivity in Turkey and knew that the unidentified beans could be brewed into delicious cups of liquid energy. The beans were roasted, a drop of milk was added, and Viennese coffee culture was born.4:00am PDT

It wasn’t long before elegant coffee houses sprung up all over the city. Today, these establishments are still the cultural heart of Vienna — places to while away the day sipping high-quality coffee in (often palatial) built-for-purpose spaces. Austrian writer Stefan Zweig once wrote that the coffee houses are ‘a sort of democratic club, open to everyone for the price of a cheap cup of coffee, where every guest can sit for hours with this little offering, to talk, write, play cards, receive post and above all consume an unlimited number of newspapers and journals.’

There’s a latte variety

Swedes are big fans of a bryggkaffe (brew/filter coffee, often taken without milk) and are rarely seen without a cup of black coffee in hand. But one can’t claim to be a true coffee connoisseur without extensive knowledge of the many different ways coffee can be prepared. There are dozens of different varieties of Viennese coffee, from traditional styles to third-wave artisanal brews. You could argue that some ‘Viennese creations’ are suspiciously similar to varieties of coffee found elsewhere in the world, but there are also many which are wholly unique to the Austrian capital. 

Take the Einspänner, a shot of strong espresso topped with plenty of whipped cream, named after the one-horse carriage which required just one hand, leaving the other free for holding a cup of coffee. Then there’s the Cafe Maria Theresia, a traditional Viennese recipe prepared from black coffee with warming orange liqueur and a dollop of cream. Not forgetting the Verlängerter, an espresso with added hot water for when you want to prolong your espresso hit.

Nice buns

Napoleon and Josephine, Wills and Kate…coffee and cake. Some things just go together. And so naturally Vienna has a long tradition of baking some of the most decadent delights known to man. From cream-filled cakes and flaky pastries to slabs of chocolate cake slathered in shiny chocolate ganache, there’s a treat that caters to every sweet tooth. It’s no wonder that cake was the first thing Viennese-born French Queen Marie Antoinette thought of when asked what the peasants should eat instead of bread. 

Try a sugared violet, the favourite sweet of the beautiful but tragic Empress Sisi, at Demel, once the royal patisserie; indulge yourself with a Buchteln – a sweet Austrian bun served with plum jam – at the iconic Cafe Hawelka; and have your cake and eat it at classy Cafe Sacher (the birthplace of Sacher torte – the aforementioned chocolate cake which is, perhaps, the most famous cake of all time).

Use code CoffeeBreak19SE for 165 SEK off flights from Sweden to Vienna. Click here to redeem*.

Coffee in the clouds

Hop on an Austrian Airlines flight from Stockholm or Gothenburg and you can be in Vienna in just a couple of hours. The planes are designed to reflect the gemütliche ambience of a Viennese coffee house with premium cups of Julius Meinl coffee served onboard, so you can start your coffee odyssey precisely as you mean to go on.

 *Offer valid until 31st May 2020

Header image: Coffee Geek Espresso Beans

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Austrian Airlines.

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Reader question: How do I get from Vienna Airport to the city centre?

After arriving in Austria’s capital, there’s plenty of options to get you into town, depending on how much time you have and what you’re willing to pay. Here’s the rundown of the options available and what they might mean for your watch and wallet.

Reader question: How do I get from Vienna Airport to the city centre?

By taxi, private car, or chauffeur service

The simplest and most obvious options are also the fastest – but most expensive.

The drive from VIE to downtown Vienna will typically take around 20 minutes, not including time you might spend waiting in a taxi line of course.

There is no flat rate for a taxi from Vienna Airport, so expect the amount you’ll shell out to vary depending on how far you have to go, but a trip to the city centre will typically be around €35. Some bookable taxi services though, may offer a rate that’s cheaper than this, so it may be worth checking ahead.

In addition, a bookable service will allow you to skip the taxi stand line that sometimes forms during busy times. You may also be able to request an English-speaking driver.

If you use one of these services and need a van though – such as when you’re travelling with a large group of people – expect to pay more.

The transfer services at Vienna Airport offer a plethora of options if you look ahead, including the possibility to get a ride from VIE to Bratislava – if the Austrian capital’s connections are just more convenient than the smaller Bratislava Airport. A ride from Vienna Airport to Bratislava will take just over an hour – and typically somewhere around €90.


The Slovak capital of Bratislava is only about an hour trip from Vienna, and about a €90 taxi from VIE. Photo: Pixabay

If you’re looking to park your own car at VIE, there are several lots available, some with transfer buses to take you from their lot to the terminal. At €12 a day or so – depending on the company you use – this option may be the most convenient for shorter trips. But for at least €80 to park for a week, it might make less sense the longer your trip is.

READ ALSO: How to make the most of a quick trip from Vienna to Bratislava

By train

If you’re willing to lug your bags around a bit and find the Vienna Airport train station near Terminal 3, the train services into Vienna’s city centre are affordable and rival even taxis for speed.

You’ll be looking for trains that head to Wien Mitte – or ‘Vienna Centre’ – and two main lines will take you there.

You can take the City Airport Train (CAT) for €14.90 one-way or €24.90 return. You can also get these tickets in combination with Vienna City Tickets for tourist visits.

Vienna Airport CAT train

The Vienna City Airport Train (CAT) will have you in central Vienna faster and cheaper than a taxi in many cases. Photo:

The CAT typically runs every half an hour and will have you in the city centre in 16 minutes via its non-stop service.

You can also take the regular S7 train – which isn’t much slower. You can pay €3.90 and be in the city centre in just over 20 minutes using this train. It typically runs every 15 minutes.

The train is a cheap, fast way into central Vienna. The only real drawback here is that the trains won’t run through the night, so they might not help for flights that leave really early or get in very late. The S7 runs from 5:18 am to 0:18 am, while the CAT runs from 6:09 am to 11:39 pm, so they will still cover you for most flights.

READ ALSO: One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

By bus

Public transport options to Vienna Airport are limited to the S7 train. However, Vienna Airport Lines is a private company that runs a service from VIE to many major transport hubs in the city.

These include Schwedenplatz bus station in the city centre, as well as the main and west train stations – Hauptbahnhof and Westbahnhof.

The journey takes just over 20 minutes, includes multiple stops and costs around €8. You’ll need to buy a ticket online beforehand or from the driver as you board.

Compared to other options, it’s certainly cheaper than taking a taxi but may have less luggage space. It’s more expensive than the standard S7 train but cheaper than the CAT, and runs 24/7.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is Vienna a safe city to visit?