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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
Photo: Chevanon Photography from Pexels

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.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by Wien | Vienna (@viennatouristboard) on Sep 27, 2019 at 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*.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by Austrian Airlines (@austrianairlines) on Oct 1, 2019 at 5:45am PDT

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

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

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Winter semester break: Five things to do with kids in Vienna during the holidays

Austrian children have their Semesterferien, a week off school, during the month of February. In Vienna, the holidays start on February 4th. Here are five things to help them enjoy their time off.

Winter semester break: Five things to do with kids in Vienna during the holidays

February is a much beloved month among many students, as schools go on a short one-week holiday and families take the opportunity to travel. The break takes place on different dates each year and varies depending on the state. 

In Vienna, the break starts on Saturday, February 4th, and ends on Sunday, February 12th.

READ ALSO: What’s happening in Vienna in February 2023?

Many schools and families take this time to travel to the west of the country, where Austria’s best skiing resorts are located. However, if you are staying in the capital for the next week, here are a few suggestions of places to take your kids to – many of them for free.

Spielcenter in Wiener Rathaus

The Vienna City Hall will be transformed into a giant play centre from February 9th to 11th, open from 2 pm to 7 pm. Families with children up to the age of 13 can try out board games and games at the Game Zone, have their face painted as their favourite animal or superhero, design their own games in the workshop and build robots.

You can read more about it HERE.

Wiener Eistraum

For those who prefer to be out in the fresh air, there is an excellent possibility just outside of the City Hall, as the Wiener Eistraum ice skating area is still open. In addition, several skiing paths can even take you uphill and downhill. Families are welcome, even with smaller children, as the city rents out age-appropriate gear.

You can read more about it HERE.

READ ALSO: Here are over 20 things you can do in Vienna for free

Theatre for young audiences

Also, parents can find the Dschungel Wien in downtown Vienna, a theatre house for young audiences.  There, on the first vacation weekend, the play “Leinen los!” for children aged five and up can be seen at 4 pm each day. Puppeteer Michael A. Pöllmann brings little wooden puppets to life. 

In addition, the Children’s Theater is showing the play “Cosma Superheroine” for kids nine and older during the semester break, in which the protagonist takes care of her hard-working father. 

You can read more about it HERE.

Online coding classes

Over several Fridays at 3 pm, children ages 8 to 13 can learn how to write code, develop websites, or programme apps and graphs online. The events are part of the CoderDojo club, a worldwide network of coding clubs for children and young people. 

The kids playfully discover technology and learn online (via Zoom). There is no need to register.

You can read more about it HERE.

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

Wiener Winter Circus

Immerse yourself in the fascinating realm of the circus ring – for children from 6 to 13 years. A winter fairy tale with ponies, goats, ducks, pigeons and surprises awaits you. The circus attraction brings international artists, funny clowns and adorably arranged animal acts.

The show takes place on several weekend dates, and entry for kids costs €12. 

You can read more about it HERE.

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