When you think of Vienna, music is probably one of the first things that springs to mind. Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss – all the greats have lived in this city at some point in their lives. However, Vienna also has an avid literary history and is perfect for book lovers. On a recent trip, I set out to find as many literary locations as I could – from impressive libraries, to book museums and café’s, Vienna is definitely the perfect destination for bibliophiles.
The Austrian National Library
My favourite literary haunt in the whole of Vienna is the State Hall in the Austrian National Library. Built in the 18th century, this 80-meter long library is the biggest Baroque library in Europe, housing over 200,000 valuable books in its collection that can be dated back to the 1500’s.
The State Hall was originally created as a private wing of the Hofburg Palace, by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, and was commissioned by Emperor Charles VI – whose statue stands in the centre of the hall. With dark walnut walls and stone floors, it is absolutely stunning. It’s also comprised of two opposing sides – War and Peace – which is reflected in the impressive artwork by Daniel Gran that decorates each fresco on the ceiling.
The Austrian National Library as a whole holds almost 12 million volumes, including a collection of everything ever published in Austria, along with any work created abroad by Austrian authors, and books that concern Austria or its culture. It is the largest library in all of Austria, and therefore somewhere to check out even if you’re not the biggest book lover around.
An adult ticket to visit the State Hall is 8 Euros, or you could buy a Vienna Pass and get in for free.
Address: State Hall, Austrian National Library, Josefsplatz 1, 1015 Wien, Austria
The Literature Museum
Franz Kafka, Johann Nestroy, Ingeborg Bachmann, and Arthur Schnitzler are just some of the names of notable authors who once resided in Vienna, and whose work is now on display in the Literature Museum. From letters penned, to manuscripts and novels, the museum holds an abundance of unique, original work from the 18th century to present day.
In total there are over 650 objects from 200+ authors on display here, in all forms of media. Highlights include a manuscript page from Franz Kafka’s ‘The Man Who Disappeared’, personal letters by Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, and a hat from Elfriede Gerstl’s legendary hat collection.
The Literature Museum is housed in the former Imperial and Royal Hofkammer Archives which was constructed in 1848. In addition to the permanent exhibition which extends over two levels, the museum presents special, annual exhibitions on the third floor, whilst the ground floor is host to numerous lectures and events.
Tickets to the Literature Museum are 7 Euros. Entry is also available using the Vienna Pass.
Address: Literarute Museum, Grillparzerhaus, Johannesgasse 6, 1010 Wien, Austria
Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company is a paradise for book worms, stocked to the brim with English language books. It’s the kind of bookshop where you could easily while an hour away between the intimate shelving stacks, searching through all of the interesting books on display.
From classic and contemporary literature, to poetry, plays, sci-fi and graphic novels, Shakespeare and Company have a little something for everyone – and if they don’t have what you want, they’ll order it in. It’s not the largest bookstore in Vienna, but it’s certainly the friendliest – the staff are very welcoming, super helpful, and incredibly knowledgeable.
If you’re planning to visit the bookstore, make sure to keep a look out for events. They regularly host book talks, signings, poetry readings, and visiting authors. If you’re looking for the perfect holiday read, this is the place to go.
Address: Shakespeare and Company, Sterngasse 2, 1010 Wien, Austria
If you want some coffee with your books, then Phil Cafe is the place for you. It’s part bookstore, part hipster café, but it also seems to double up as a library / second-hand furniture store as well – basically it’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to selling literature.
The relaxed, open space is perfect for a morning of light reading, or an afternoon of checking emails. You can pull up one of their many tables hidden amongst the bookshelves, and dig into anything they have on offer – which is a lot. There are autobiographies in abundance, poetry books and contemporary novels, and the drinks selection is good too.
Address: Phil Cafe, Gumpendorfer Str. 10, 1060 Wien, Austria
Pickwicks is another literary café/bar in Vienna that’s worth visiting. The atmosphere of the little building was completely different to any other we’d visited – it was relaxed and peaceful, but was by no means empty or quiet. It also had a great selection of drinks on offer at the bar, which included cocktails at a very reasonable price.
When Jess and I visited at lunchtime, we ended up ordering off their extensive menu, and the food was incredible. I got a toasted sandwhich, which came out on a plate piled high with homemade chips and salad. Jess ordered a BLT and it was the biggest thing I’d ever seen. It completely encompassed the plate – which wasn’t small.
As for the books, the entire room was covered with shelving and completely filled with novels. They had a little bit of everything for every country imaginable – I noted English, Germany, Russian and French authors. And for anyone who wanted a quieter spot to read, they had a downstairs area with incredibly comfy sofas.
Address: Pickwicks Café, Marc Aurel St. 10-12, 1010 Wien, Austria
If you’re remotely familiar with Vienna’s literary history then you’ll probably recognise the name ‘Young Vienna’ which was a society of writers who met in numerous coffeehouses around the city in the late 19th Century – most notably the café’s Griensteidl and Central.
The group experimented with modernism, turning away from traditional 19th century literature in favour of sociological and psychological truths. Amongst its members were Hermann Bahr, Arthur Schnitzler, Karl Kraus, and Felix Salten – the author of Bambi.
Café Griensteidl ended up getting demolished in 1897, but Café Central is still open to this day. It’s one of the most grand and attractive coffeehouses in the whole of Vienna – it’s completely out of this time – and it boasts a broad menu filled with Viennese dishes, speciality coffe, and decadent cakes. The only problem is it is incredibly popular with tourists, so get there early to avoid the queues.
Address: Café Central, Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien, Austria
Have you ever visited Vienna in Austria before? Would you go on a literary tour? If you check any of these places out, I’d love to know what you think.
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