Once in a while you find yourself in a place where you think you have accidentally dropped into a historic film set. This happenes repeatedly when I visit Café Sperl at the corner of Gumpendorferstrasse and Lehargasse in Vienna. Suddenly time stops and every feeling of being hurried falls off, the mind is free.

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Cafe Sperl Vienna

That is probably the reason why many writers and creative people visit Viennese Coffee Houses to immerse into their graft, especially Cafe Sperl. This was true during the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as it is now.
The Sperl coffee house was built in 1880 for Jacob Ronacher according to the designs of the architects Gross and Jelinek who also designed many buildings on the Ringstrasse. In the same year the Sperl family overtook this Café Ronacher and it soon became a second home for architects, visual artists, musicians, actors, singers alongside generals and high officials of the monarchy.

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Conrad von Hötzendorf (Chief of the General Staff of the armed forces of the Austro-Hungarian Army) and archdukes Josef Ferdinand (military commander, and early advocate of air power) and Karl Ferdinand (A son of the “Hero of Aspern”, Lieutenant Field Marshal of the Austrian Army) were also regular guests in those times. Interestingly this coexistence of artists and military personnel was possible despite of the divergent political and sociological attitudes.

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Starting around 1890, the operetta began to inspire the Viennese (“Golden Age of the Viennese Operetta”). Its illustrious stars like Alexander Girardi, Edmund Eysler, Leo Fall, Carl Zeller, Richard Heuberger, Carl Millöcker, Franz Lehár and Emmerich Kálmánn were regular guests until 1930 due to Café Sperl’s proximity to the stages of the “Raimund Theatre” and the “Theater an der Wien“.

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Cafe Sperl Vienna

After World War I, with a now much smaller Austria the Cafe Sperl still served its great coffee variations to composers, painters, writers and architect. After the storm of World War II business slowly went back to “normal”, but the old traditions were still preserved.

Cafe Sperl Vienna

Coffee Table at Cafe Sperl Vienna

In June 1968 Manfred Staub (former owner of “Cafe Mitterhauser”, now called “Cafe Volkstheater”) took over the cafe and worked out a plan for restoration of the premises, which should leave the patina with that touch of sentimentality well and still ensure the convenience, hygiene and claims of a contemporary restaurant.

Today, the writers are again increasingly represented: In the eighties, Jörg Mauthe was anxious to take literature into the café. Also authors like Pavel Kohout, Peter Marginter, Kurt Sobotka and many others read their work at the Sperl. Current stars from the musicals of the “Theater an der Wien” savor their coffee here and famous contemporary writer like Robert Menasse and Michael Köhlmeier have been spotted repeatedly at the Sperl.

Well, here it is folks. Visit the Cafe Sperl in Vienna, slow down and inhale more than a century of Viennese Coffee House history.

PS.: The following English language newspapers can be read here: The Times, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, The Economist. There is also a wide range of newspapers in German and other languages.

PPS.: The Café Sperl is also home to the original Sperl Cake. The actual recipe is a well preserved secret, but it seems to contain delicate milk chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, delicious almond paste and probably some other (secret) ingredients.

Address: Gumpendorfer Straße 11, A – 1060 Vienna

Phone: 0043 – 1 – 586 41 58

Mailmelange@cafesperl.atOpening hours: Monday to Saturday 07:00 – 23:00, Sunday: 11:00 – 20:00 (During July and August closed on Sundays)

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