Inspiration for Europe

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Café Sperl

Historical and cultural insignia of Vienna.

Photo credit: Kotomi_ via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

The Café Sperl is recognised as being one of the oldest cafés in Vienna. With a history spanning more than a century, it has received numerous awards and been popular since first opening its doors in 1880.

Almost immediately, the Sperl became the preferred spot for many Viennese authors, architects, composers, artists, musicians, actors and military. This was primarily due to its founder, Jacob Ronacher, having commissioned the design project to the recognised architects Anton Gross and Wilhelm Jelinek, who had already designed various emblematic buildings in the city.

The result was an establishment characterised by its traditional, majestic decoration, with parquet flooring, marble tables, huge glass chandeliers, chairs by the Viennese designer Michael Thonet, and billiard tables.

A café with over 130 years of history that remains alive and true to its origins.

Within a year of opening the Café Ronacher, Jacob Ronacher sold it to the Sperl family, who renamed it Cafè Sperl. Four years later, in 1884, the establishment changed hands again, with the new owner Adolf Kratochwilla deciding to leave its name unaltered.

Prior to the First World War, the customers who frequented the Sperl were recognised personalities of Viennese cultural and military society. Besides authors, artists, architects, composers, musicians and actors, the café was also visited by officers of the Imperial and Royal Military Academy.

Photo credit: 快樂雲 via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: caratello via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

With the success of the Viennese operetta around 1890, stars of the day like Alexander Girardi, Edmund Eysler, Leo Fall, Carl Zeller and Richard Heuberg became regulars at the Sperl, since it happened to be very close to the Theater an der Wien (Theatre on the banks of the Wien) and the Raimund Theater.

Following the First World War the establishment continued serving its coffee to composers, painters, writers and architects, but it wasn’t until the end of the Second World War that the café was able to recover its essence and normal life.

Photo credit: musical photo man via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

It wasn’t until after the Second World War that the Café Sperl recovered its essence and normal life.

In 1968, Manfred Staub, the owner of what was then the Café Mitterhauser and is now Café Volkstheater, bought the Sperl and, 15 years later in 1983, renovated it. The new look resulted in various awards from the sector, outstanding among them being the Austrian Café of the Year (1998) and the Golden Coffee Bean (2004).

These days, representatives of the cultural world still frequent the café, and such authors as Pavel Kohout and actors as Kurt Sobotka, or stars from the musicals staged in the Theater an der Wien continue being regular customers. And the popular contemporary writers Robert Menasse and Michael Köhlmeier are also known to have been seen many times in this historical coffeeshop.

Photo credit: Miguel Mendez via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Just by entering Café Sperl you can breathe in a century of history, enjoy its tranquillity, delight in the majesty of its furniture, hear the silence and imbibe the tradition in which it’s steeped. But if you have a sweet tooth, don’t leave the Sperl without having tasted the original Sperl Torte cake, famous for its flavour and for the secrecy of its recipe. Tongues wag however, and they say that its key ingredients are milk chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon, almond and other components as yet unrevealed. Shall we try some?

 

You can find further information on the website of the Café Sperl.