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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Healthcare in Austria: Why are there fewer ‘public’ doctors?

The number of elective doctors, known as "Wahlarzt" in German, is increasing in Austria - as the number of 'panel' doctors, those connected to the public health insurance system, drops.

Healthcare in Austria: Why are there fewer 'public' doctors?

The proportion of elective doctors in Austria, those known as a “Wahlarzt”, is increasing, according to a new report

Over the past six years, the increase has been particularly notable for doctors specialising in dermatology (rising from 58 percent to 71 percent) and urology (increasing from 55 percent to 62 percent). This means that more than a third of dermatologists in Austria are now “elective” doctors, seeing people in their own private practises and charging for their consultation.

Elective doctors are those without contracts with health insurance funds. If you receive treatment from one of these doctors, you have to pay the bills yourself and will only receive partial reimbursement from your insurance funds.

This is quite different from visiting a doctor who has a contract with the health insurance funds, known as “panel doctors” in Austria, where the bill is directly paid by your insurance fund – and consultation and treatment are, therefore, free for the person. 

A higher proportion of elective doctors means there are fewer panel – or ‘free’ – doctors available, a situation particularly made worse by the fact that Austria faces a staff shortage and there are fewer doctors overall. Opposition parties have said that the country’s “two-tier” healthcare system – with some people receiving faster and better care if they can afford it and some left to wait for weeks for a panel doctor’s appointment, is at a “tipping point”.   

But why are there more and more elective doctors?

According to IHS health economist Thomas Czypionka, two main reasons contribute to the increase in elective doctors, reported Kurier.

Firstly, the legal reduction of doctors’ working hours in hospitals allows them to offer their services in private practice alongside their hospital jobs.

Secondly, the working conditions in insurance-funded practices are no longer as attractive to many doctors as they once were, the report said.

Despite the increase in patients as the population grows, the Medical Association does not want to increase the number of insurance-funded practices. By limiting the number of doctors, they can allow them to earn a higher income even though insurance companies pay low fees.

However, earning a high income as a doctor in an insurance-funded practice requires treating a large number of patients daily. This means that the doctors do not have the possibility to spend enough time understanding and addressing the patients’ health concerns, according to Czypionka.

READ MORE: What kind of insurance do I need to have in Austria?

Improving competencies for non-physicians

To maintain a functional healthcare system despite this situation, Czypionka suggests that other healthcare professionals, besides doctors, should take on more responsibilities so that the doctors can focus on their main tasks.

In practice, this means that patients may not always be cared for directly by the doctor, as they currently often are.

Czypionka disagrees with recent ideas from various parties about mandating doctors to provide services in the public system. “This would conflict with freedom of employment. Additionally, it would suggest that the medical profession is second-class if obligations were imposed,” he says.

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: What is a Wahlartzt in Austria?