New clubs, bars and contemporary art spaces are springing up all over the Austrian capital – sometimes in the places you would least expect to find them. Although each location has its own distinctive identity they all manage to pull off a typically Viennese blend of tradition and young pop culture.
The Giant Ferris Wheel, or Riesenrad as it is known locally, shot to international fame thanks to its role in Carol Reed’s classic film noir The Third Man. The landmark also defines the capital’s Prater park. Known as the Wurstelprater, the capital’s amusement park is now more popular than ever. And now this old-school, slightly clichéd version of the city is increasingly finding its way back into the capital’s popular culture. It all started with Club Fluc which can be found a short hop from the Praterstern station right in front of the Giant Ferris Wheel. The venue, an apparently makeshift piece of architecture, is the perfect place to enjoy a drink at the bar or get down on the dance floor. One level down is Fluc_Wanne, a former pedestrian underpass, where an ever-changing line-up of DJs and bands play until the early hours. The music ranges from experimental electronic sounds to techno and garage with a bit of industrial and indie rock thrown in for good measure.
Pratersauna is just a few minutes’ walk from Fluc. This monument to sixties architecture – including an outdoor pool in the garden – is the ideal venue for the latest in electronic music and all-night parties. The adjacent Art Space goes to show that this area is also a fertile breeding ground for young art, as is nearby Praterstrasse which is home to various galleries including the
LABfactory and Viktor Bucher project space. There’s also fine food to be found just around the corner – superb, young and daring Georgian cuisine at Café Ansari and creative Japanese dishes at Mochi.
The Karmelitermarkt is at the heart of a once thriving Jewish quarter. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the old town, the remaining market stands are now flanked by a buzzing – and highly international – bar and restaurant scene. Madiani, for example, serves up authentic Georgian cuisine. Zimmer37, meanwhile, serves up an excellent breakfast and delicious vegetarian dishes cooked according to the five elements philosophy. On the other side of the market is Schöne Perle, which has retained its old name from its days as a Chinese restaurant but now specializes in modern Viennese cuisine. Diagonally opposite, minimalist fish bar Wulfisch is the place to go for fish and North Sea crabs – a popular choice, and not just among Vienna’s thriving Hamburg expat community.
The Museum of Crime just opposite the Karmelitermarkt gives a spine-tingling insight into some of the city’s most gruesome murders and looks at some of the equally barbaric punishments meted out to criminals over the centuries. And if all that leaves you with jangled nerves than you should head for shabu which is famous for its array of different Schnapps. This 1950s style hideaway also offers a range of snacks made from regional ingredients. A few meters on is a new arrival, simply named New Bar. Here, the working title was adopted as the final name, which dovetails perfectly with this new art club, shorn of any extraneous details.
For many years Vienna had a strangely ambivalent relationship with the Danube Canal. This offshoot of the Danube proper flows along the fringes of the historic first district, and its quaysides are a mecca for walkers and cyclists.
But attitudes towards this urban space have changed massively in recent years. Bars and restaurants have sprung up like mushrooms and in summer the Danube Canal is one of the most exciting places to be in the whole city. Strandbar Herrmann, Adria Wien, Hafenkneipe and Tel Aviv Beach add a splash of beach color to the Austrian capital. Diners can sit down to fine food in a historic setting at the Schützenhaus, an architectural gem built by Otto Wagner over a century ago. During the hot summer months the swimming pool on the deck of the Badeschiff pool boat offers an oasis of cool, while the Laderaum club and Holy Moly restaurant are open to visitors all year round. The Danube Canal is also the lifeblood of the Waves Vienna pop festival. Now a permanent fixture on the capital’s annual music calendar following its successful debut in fall 2011, it will be playing out at the clubs on the Danube Canal and the neighboring second district with international acts such as The Wedding Present and Scout Niblett as well as Viennese artists like Luise Pop and Violetta Parisini.
On Schwedenplatz, the futuristic mooring for the Twin City Liners shuttling between Vienna and Bratislava is home to Motto am Fluss, an upscale restaurant with a discerning young clientele. At the other end of the quay is Flex, a former punk hangout that attracts bands such as Arcade Fire, Stereo MCs and Attwenger as well as turntablists like Jeff Mills and DJ DSL. Contemporary sounds also play a central role at many of the art installations at BAWAG Contemporary, an art space just a stone’s throw from the banks of the Danube Canal.
The Baroque Karlskirche church with its pair of minaret-like towers is one of the city’s most photographed sites. A large expanse of water directly in front of the church makes for some impressive reflections, given the right light conditions. Each summer Calypso, consisting of an unprepossessing kiosk, chairs and palm trees sets up shop next to the water feature, creating a wonderful spot to chill out on a balmy evening. On the other side of the lake the Wien Museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of the capital. Next door, the Künstlerhaus is home to a constantly changing program of exhibitions as well as Theater brut whose bar doubles up as an interface between art and Viennese nightlife.
The Kunsthalle Wien Karlsplatz glass cube can be found at the Naschmarkt end of Karlsplatz. Visible on the other side of the road, the Secession building is just opposite the entrance to the capital’s busiest, largest and most popular market. The Naschmarkt is the destination of choice for international foodstuffs and specialties and also has a booming bar and restaurant scene with Neni, DoAn, Deli, Kim kocht and TeWa leading the way.
At nearby Schleifmühlgasse, branching off the Naschmarkt, a range of galleries such as Gabriele Senn, Georg Kargl, Momentum, Christine König, Kerstin Engholm and Michaela Stock give an interesting view of what’s happening on the Viennese art scene. The bijou Bananas boutique, in Kettenbrückengasse, is stocked with perennially popular 1930s and 1980s furniture. Schikaneder cinema and bar has long been at the heart of nightlife in this particular part of town. And for anyone looking to turn night into day, there is always Sass Music Club, Market and Roxy – great places to hit the dance floor or simply hang out at the bar.
What better way to start the day than with a breakfast at one of the cafés at the MuseumsQuartier, such as MQdaily, Kantine, Café-Restaurant Corbaci or Café Leopold? Afterwards, a trip to one of the other cultural institutions at the MuseumsQuartier such as the mumok (Museum für moderne Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien), the Leopold Museum (home to the world’s largest collection of works by Egon Schiele), the Kunsthalle Wien or Architekturzentrum Wien should feature on any itinerary. Fans of vintage computer games and consoles from Atari to Vectrex will be in their element at the Subotron Shop in quartier21. This creative cluster provides working spaces for digital culture, fashion and design outfits at the MuseumsQuartier. At the Volkstheater opposite the MQ, the Rote Bar shows exactly how well stagecraft, music and nightlife come together in the Austrian capital.
On one side the MuseumsQuartier is hemmed in by Vienna’s longest shopping street, Mariahilfer Strasse, which is lined with department stores and branches of international chain stores. The side streets leading off Mariahilfer Strasse are dotted with countless independent boutiques and shops carrying up-and-coming labels. Lindengasse is a great example. Home to Werkprunk, Wabisabi, Elke Freytag and others, it has quickly developed into a strictly non-mainstream fashion oasis.
After an exhausting shopping trip it’s just a short walk to Sapa for some delicious Vietnamese food. Other nearby options include quiche at Le Troquet or a drink at Dondrine. And then it’s just a few steps to futuregarden or Elektro Gönner, two clubs that stand out for their minimalist architecture and electronic sounds. Various new hot spots including the Louisiana-inspired bar If dogs run free, retro club Wellmann and late night favorite Puff – die Bar have recently opened in the district. Among the best options for seeing out the night in style are Tanzcafé Jenseits which is a vision in red plush, or Camera Club. Partygoers at Hotel am Brillantengrund stand a good chance of seeing one of the DJs still on the decks early the next day as they sit down for a brunch with friends.
The city’s cabaret lovers have found a new home from home at the opulent Stadtsaal on Mariahilferstrasse, where established stars such as Josef Hader take the stage, as well as and up-and-coming cabaret artists. From time to time they make way for (mostly Austrian) pop outfits such as Soap & Skin and Naked Lunch.
At first glance the Gürtel is not one of Vienna’s most attractive locations. This multi-lane beltway encircling Vienna’s inner districts is one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares. But that is also what makes the Gürtel so attractive at night, when the clubs have special dispensation to turn the music up a bit. Nowadays the distinctive Otto Wagner-designed railway arches are home to clubs and bars, and instead of the former Stadtbahn commuter railway it is now the subway that rumbles on overhead. A favorite for guitar gigs, Chelsea set the trend back in 1996. Meanwhile rhiz is the place for electronic music and B72 goes for a little bit of both. Café Carina offers live music every night.
Ragnarhof, a former packaging factory, has provided a creative space for pop and art of just about every genre imaginable, as well as a gallery and an exhibition hall. Here the parties go on well into the night, which also applies to The Loft, which serves up a mix of DJ sounds, film screenings and such like in a decommissioned wooden flooring factory.
The part of Ottakring just outside the Gürtel is experiencing something of a pop cultural renaissance. For a decade now, Galerie Ulrike Hrobsky has run a showroom for young art in Grundsteingasse.
It’s not far from the bars and clubs lining the Gürtel to the Brunnenmarkt, a market with numerous Turkish restaurants such as Kent and Etap. Here, scenesters come to bask in south east European charm. The cultural rebirth of this area was kick-started by the SohoinOttakring festival, which is staged every two years. Traditionally, the festival gets underway on Yppenplatz, a piazza adjacent to the Brunnenmarkt with market stands and acres of space for outdoor seating. During the summer months this square really comes into its own as a lively multicultural hang-out. That said, there are plenty of reasons to visit in winter too. AnDo, La Salvia and Wetter all combine first-rate cuisine (from Mediterranean to Vorarlberg) with a laid back, contemporary atmosphere.
The ground floors of the attractive apartment buildings that frame the square are now home to a selection of exciting smaller galleries and showrooms, for instance anika handelt Galerie and YPPIG eco fashion showroom with its Designers in Residence programme.
It goes without saying that not all of the leading lights on the city’s cultural and music scene are concentrated around these up-and-coming districts. Arena, located in a former slaughterhouse in the third district, is home to several different concert halls and an open air stage. A popular venue for a punk, techno and hip hop loving underground crowd, it has also pulled in a number of international stars over the years including Lou Reed, David Bowie, Ringo Starr and Patti Smith.
The striking brick walls of WUK – a former locomotive factory in the ninth district – bring together more than 130 cultural and social initiatives. For over 30 years it has been a popular choice for exhibitions, theater productions, off-the-wall installations and pop concerts. Bands such as Iron & Wine pack out the house, and acts such as Shantal & his Bucovina Club Orkestar are among the regulars.
Kabelwerk in the 12th district and Ankerbrot-Fabrik in the 10th are made up of a mix of residential and cultural spaces for culture and the creative industries. These two revitalized former industrial buildings have breathed new life into Meidling and Favoriten, two of the city’s traditionally working class districts. Meanwhile, the 21er Haus hosts a regularly changing line-up of exhibitions and parties. This forum for Austrian art from 1945 to the present day run by the Belevedere also has a shop with a selection of quality coffee table books. All of which goes to show that there is lots to discover for anyone who ventures off the beaten track in Vienna.
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The information, and photos, on our Vienna pages has been compiled with the help of Wien Tourismus – http://www.wien.info/en– to ensure quality, up-to-date information on the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria.
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