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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.

ENERGY

Vienna forced to dim street lighting and cancel some Christmas illuminations

Christmas illuminations in Vienna will also be scaled back this year as part of the city's energy saving measures.

Vienna forced to dim street lighting and cancel some Christmas illuminations

Vienna, a city known for its Christmas markets and its New Year concert, is cutting back on public lighting in the face of soaring energy prices.

“There will be no Christmas illuminations this year on the Ring,” the famous boulevard that encircles the centre of the Austrian capital, city spokeswoman Roberta Kraft told AFP.

READ MORE: Five of the biggest challenges facing Austria right now

And the lights at the Christmas market in the square in front of the city hall would only be switched on at night and not at dusk, as in previous years, “which is to say about an hour later, on average, every day”, she said.

The city authorities said they had not calculated exactly how much they would save, but the move comes after energy prices have skyrocketed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its response to Western sanctions.

Last Friday, the Austrian Energy Agency announced that its electricity price index for September rose by more than 256 percent year-on-year.

READ ALSO: Inflation at 9.2% in July: How to beat rising prices in Austria

Austria, with its population of nine million, is very dependent on tourism and its end-of-year celebrations are a major motor of the economy.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down much international travel, more than four million people visited Vienna’s famous Christmas markets in 2019.

In 2021, around 30 of Vienna’s shopping streets were lit up for seven hours a day, from November 12 until early January.

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