Get yourself to Vienna. It’s beautiful and full of art and music and culture, but more importantly it’s overrun with really, really good chocolate and desserts.
I arrived there on a cold, rainy morning with friends and insisted that our first stop be breakfast at Cafe Mozart. I felt a little under dressed and soggy walking into this lovely cafe, but the staff must be used to dealing with tourists and they provided us with friendly service even though we looked ragged.
My friends went for full meals and said the eggs, croissants and bacon were delicious, but I had my eye on just one thing: the hot chocolate. It was served with the melted chocolate and hot milk in different vessels so I could mix it myself, which I always take as a sign of quality.
I still remember the first time I ever had a hot chocolate served this way, somewhere on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris. I was in my early 20s and my experience with hot chocolate up until then revolved around packets of powder, sometimes with dry, shriveled marshmallows. The idea that I could drink actual melted chocolate, with as much or as little milk as I wanted, blew my mind. It changed the way I looked at hot chocolate and probably drove me even more quickly into my chocolate obsession.
The hot chocolate at Cafe Mozart did not disappoint. It was rich and creamy and even in my dripping clothes I felt classy sipping it from the gold-handled china cup. I wish I’d made it back here for another cup, but there was just too much more to see and eat.
For an afternoon treat we made the pilgrimage to Demel. This place is historic and completely worth all the hype. You might have to wait a while for a table, but it’s worth it. Use that time to go inside and look over all the cakes so you’re ready for the strange and confusing ordering process.
Once we had a table we were told to go in and tell the woman at the counter what we wanted. It took a while to get help, but once we pointed out the cakes we wanted (three slices for two people isn’t too crazy, is it?) the woman then gave us a ticket to take back to the table. Then the server came and filled the order. I assume they do it this way because the cakes they have change often (or sell out) and this is the only way customers can pick from what’s available right then.
The chocolate and caramel cakes were really good, but the passionfruit cake was so fresh and flavorful and sweet I never wanted to leave. I’m sure people have moved to Vienna just to be able to eat here. Well, maybe.
The hot chocolate here was also good, although not as rich as the cup I had at Cafe Mozart. And really, the cakes were all so sweet that the hot chocolate was overkill, but I just couldn’t leave without trying it.
When you’re done eating, wander to the back of Demel to have a look inside their kitchen. There’s a glass wall so you can watch them make and decorate all the treats.
There’s also a shop up front where you can buy chocolates to take home. I couldn’t resist the vintage packaging and bought several chocolate bars, most of which made it home without being eaten.
Finally, after a night at the Vienna Mozart Orchestra (very cool) my friends and I went for what we thought would be the best of the best desserts in Vienna: The Sacher-Torte at the Hotel Sacher. This cake has been around since 1832 and the unofficial versions I’ve had before were moist, a little fruity from the apricot jam, and very chocolatey. What came to our table though was dry, dull, and very disappointing. Between three of us we didn’t even finish one slice. I was a little bit crushed to find that something I’d heard so much about and built up in my mind to be spectacular was really very ordinary.
Maybe we caught them on a bad night. Maybe someone left the cake uncovered for too long. Maybe they know they’ll sell a ton of the stuff just on reputation so they’re slacking off on quality. I don’t know what the reason was, I just know you shouldn’t bother to go there. You can make a better Sacher-Torte at home, or just go back to Demel to try more of their fantastic goods.
One more cafe I would recommend is the bistro inside the upper part of Belvedere Palace. I don’t usually bother with museum cafes, but it was a rainy day and we needed to get off our feet for a while between the Klimt and the Schiele so we stopped in here for a drink and snack. It’s a really cute little room and the cakes were delicious. It’s a perfect place to stop and write some postcards, or just pretend that you’ve traveled back in time to take tea with royalty.
And other than that, eat what looks and smells good. We had delicious sausages and currywurst from a kiosk downtown. There were a lot of local businessmen in line there so we figured it had to be good. And get yourself at least one big schnitzel.
Happy, tasty travels!