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Vienna and cafes are as intrinsically linked as coffee and cake, and these institutions appear timeless and traditional – a stop for coffee, yes, but historically these cafes served as a meeting of bourgeoise minds and places for erudite conversation.
However, Café Bellaria, Vienna’s oldest café dating back some 150 years has decided to buck with convention, and re-model their interior with a modern finish. Restaurateurs David Figar and Rubin Okotie who took over the institution after the previous owner retired, reopened Café Bellaria “as a modern way of life. Because traditions are powerful – but fragile. In order to preserve them, we must always revitalize them.”
And Café Bellaria really has an impressive and storied past full of traditions, that quite rightly should be protected. Opening in 1870, it was located at the axis of culture and business between the Parliament, Natural History Museum and the Palace of Justice, set back from Ringstrasse boulevard. Even its name Bellaria came from Emperor Franz Josef, who so named its area because of the ‘good air’.
If walls could talk, Café Bellaria would have some stories from Austrian literary, art and science society that passed through its doorway to drink coffee and sample sweet treats such as Sachertorte, the domed Guglhupf and Strudel.
Back to the modern day and Café Bellaria’s reinvention. With assistance from Viennese architectural firm BÜRO KLK, traditional features such as the elegant domed ceiling remains, but the heavy velvet curtains, dark wooden furniture and ornate detailing are gone, replaced with pared-back contemporary aesthetics. A modern neon light installation catches the eye in the dome alongside cherry-red designer Thonet chairs and orange benches in pops of Le Corbusier-style colour.
And moving forward from the classic coffee and cake, Café Bellaria is the perfect spot to linger over pancakes for breakfast, veggie and vegan dishes, plus an impressive list of cocktails by night. A new menu for a new way of life at Café Bellaria.