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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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Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria’s biggest open air festival

Austria has the largest free open-air festival in Europe, and the Donauinselfest is taking place this weekend. Here is what you need to know.

Donauinselfest: What you need to know about Austria's biggest open air festival

The Austrian Donauinselfest is known as the largest free open-air music festival in Europe, and it happens yearly on Vienna’s Danube island. The festival attracts around three million visitors over its three days of events and is starting on Friday in the Austrian capital.

The festival has been taking place yearly since 1983 on the 21.1-kilometre river island. This year, it has 14 different areas and 11 stages, according to the official website. Visitors can expect more than 600 hours of program.

READ ALSO: The best festivals and events to enjoy in Austria this summer

Here is what you need to know to enjoy the programme fully.

When and where is the festival?

The festival has an extensive range of events starting on Friday, June 24th, and lasting until Sunday, June 26th. It takes place on the island between the new Danube and the Danube rivers, known as the Donauinsel.

READ ALSO: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

It is easily accessible via the U1 (Donauinsel station) and U6 (Handelskai station) metro and there are no parking spaces available near the festival site.

Admission to the event is free.

The festival is back after the pandemic

After two years of reduced capacity and many Covid-19 restrictions, the Donauinselfest is back to (almost) normal. There is no limit to the number of visitors, no requirement to show proof of vaccination or recovery from the disease, and no mask mandate.

However, the authorities have asked that people take “personal responsibility” as coronavirus infection numbers have been rising.

READ ALSO: Five of the best things to do in Vienna this summer

The organisers have requested people to get tested before visiting the vast festival, Vienna.at reported.

People gather on the shores of the Danube river, in Vienna during a hot sunny day and Danube Day on June 29, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN

“We ask everyone who would like to visit the Donauinselfest this year to take a PCR or rapid test in advance and thus protect themselves and others. People with symptoms are not allowed to enter the festival grounds.”, said organiser Matthias Friedrich.

Though masks are not mandatory, they are recommended on-site if it is too full of people and no social distancing is possible. Besides, there is a masks requirement to all Donauinselfest workers in indoor areas.

Watch out for what you cannot bring

There is an extensive list of things that are not allowed on the festival site. For example, visitors are not allowed to take large bags and backpacks (“A3 format”, according to the website). However, a gym bag is not considered a backpack.

Animals, including dogs, are prohibited – except for guide dogs and service dogs.

You are also not allowed to bring umbrellas, alcoholic beverages, cans, glass bottles, or drones. The list of prohibited items includes “propaganda material”, spray bottles, whistles, large or bulky objects, bicycles and skateboards, stools and chairs, food and more.

Check out the complete list here.

Danube festival

Vienna’s “Danube-island” Festival will return this weekend. (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

READ ALSO: Forecast: Austria set for high temperatures and storms throughout weekend and beyond

You can – and should – bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as temperatures are expected to be around the 30Cs over the next few days.

What kind of music is there?

The festival has several stages and a broad programme selection. The bands are usually more regional, with a significant presence of Austrian, German, and Italian bands.

You can find all sorts of music, from pop to rock, rap, and techno. There are even tribute bands like Break Free, which will play Queen’s best signs on the rock stage.

The program includes other activities as well, such as poetry slam, art stages, sport areas, and even events for families and children.

You can check the official program here.

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