Home Town Tourist: Vienna (Re-) Discovered
The High Life, for Credit Card Waggers and Those of Us a Bit More Financially Challenged
The inhabitants of fair Vienna are notoriously dissatisfied with their city and often travel long distances in search of what they think they lack at home. At the same time, when they’re home they continue to frequent all the same restaurants, shops bars and clubs they always have, perpetuating the cliché that "Nothing ever changes in Vienna!"
We beg to differ. Our modern, classy metropolis is a plethora of contemporary design, art and fashion, and a vast array of fine dining, exclusive cocktail bars and a throbbing club scene. This city’s urban culture is fresh and unsaturated, making Vienna not only a place to live well, but a place to live it up, where the new complements the timeless.
So come with us to check out the new and improved as well as the established and loved among Vienna’s prime contemporary eating, drinking, shopping and clubbing scene. This is a city for everyone, where both the credit card waggers and the financially challenged can live it up right at home.
For such a small country, Austria has a strong selection of popular exports like Red Bull and Manner Schnitten that of course taste better at home. Perhaps as a result of this heightened modern self-esteem, the real fashionistas know that a hat from Mühlbauer or shoes from Rosa Mosa are a must.
Boutiques in the first district are generally internationally outfitted like Emis, near Tuchlauben where minimalist décor underlines the dramatic collections ranging from Comme des Garcons to Junya Wantanabe.
Key addresses for men’s fashion are on Mahlerstrasse and Seilergasse, both off of Kärnterstrasse. Neon recently opened with the practical goal of tastefully heightening men’s fashion consciousness without going unnecessarily glam.
On Spiegelgasse, you’ll find Mühlbauer – where the hat becomes iconography. Across the street is the label’s fashion line, subtly glamorous without upstaging the headwear.
But to get a real taste of Austrian fashion you have to go to a step further, to the sixth district, to Gumpendorferstrasse – at the boutique Nachbarin, unique fashion labels including Anna Aichinger and Claudia Rosa Lukas have their women’s collections on offer. Another must is PARK in the seventh district’s Mondscheingasse – a unisex mix of Austrian and European designers and classics like Fred Perry combined with stylish accessories and gadgets – from laptop bags to lomo cameras.
Fully equipped with the local look, a culinary reward is in order. One hot spot is Fabio’s, a sleek, glassed-in Italian establishment on the high end of the wallet spectrum. The compensation is a wonderfully diverse menu, served in transparent exclusivity.
Another multifaceted experience is Hansen, situated underneath the old Stock Exchange or Börse. The restaurant is in and around a heavenly plant and flower shop called Lederleitner. Its Mediterranean flair is accentuated by the terra cotta and greenery, reminiscent of a Roman marketplace.
If you’ve strayed too far into the Mariahilfer area, the Nashmarkt is a key location for the art and fashion crowd. In addition to the food stands, the open-air market includes various Asian and multicultural restaurants. The place to see and be seen tends greatly towards Deli, near Kettenbrückengasse. The food is good but completely superfluous as the eye candy is enough to quench any appetite.
For the morning after painting the town there is no better place to get a revitalizing breakfast than Point of Sale on the corner of Schleifmühlgasse and Operngasse. Not only are the coffee cups sufficiently large but the breakfast variations From "Zen - Breakfast" with raw vegetables to a "POS – breakfast" with sausage and baked beans – served till 5 p.m.
Downstrairs from the restaurant is the Ramien Bar, where strong cocktails are served to Hip Hop and Drum and Bass. Decorated like a Chinese brothel, the red lanterns and black wood furnishings are unique in Vienna, the cocktails are quite strong and the barkeepers charming. On special occasions the bar manager has been known to stand on the bar and pour vodka into the open mouths surrounding him.
For beer-buffs the well-established pub and brewery 1516 has a vast selection of beer from all over the world. It was dubbed best brewery in Austria in 2001. The food is just as international but it serves best as a pre-dinner watering hole.
When more dignified drinking is in order, Vienna has plenty to offer. The perfect place to impress a date is in a room with a view. The Do&Co Bar was recently renovated and presides over St. Stephan’s cathedral from the sixth floor of the impossibly central Haas Haus – the Building caused lots of commotion because its modernity. But, while sipping something wonderful, the view down the Kärnterstrasse is priceless.
A similar effect is achieved in the Sky Bar, on top of the glass high-end department store, Steffl. You take the outdoor lift, made entirely of glass and ascend with a view of the entire Kärtnerstrasee. The bar looks over the rooftops of the city center and gives a peek of the steeples of St. Stephans and St. Peters Cathedrals. Unlike the Do & Co bar this establishment also has live singers and a grand piano.
Any one who prefers to stay more down-to-earth can try the Museumsquartier (MQ). Here you’ll find good food at Halle or Kantine and a good amount of watering holes.
So it’s finally time to flaunt that Anna Aichinger dress or those Zenga slacks. In summer, the MQ courtyard fills with loungers, but in winter the bars and clubs quickly have them lined up outside. At Café Leopold, for instance, they serve very long drinks to the sound of Break-Beats and Drum & Bass and occasionally Brazil beats by local hero Joyce Muniz. Most of the barkeepers also DJ, making the club a party hot spot and all-round experience. With two floors and enough seating, both next to the dance floor and offside, Leopold is a bar where you can chose how hard you want to party.
Walking towards the Ring, on the right hand side of Maria Teresia’s statue you’ll arrive at the Passage. Opened in 2003, the popular club hosts exclusive parties with star DJs like Armand Van Helden. The club is underground and combines inspired lighting with lots of white upholstery. The crowd is mostly under 35 and tends to admiring itself in the omnipresent mirrors. The drinks are good and slightly overpriced but still – a great place to strut your stuff.
Back toward parliament is Volksgarten. This is where the after-party for the famous Life Ball often takes place. In the summer the garden bar in the back is open, giving it Mediterranean flair. The inside is decorated tropically around the Bar area and red velvet couches encircle the dance floor. The music varies from Hip-Hop and R&B nights (trans: mainstream pop) to Electronic and House.
For those who like a more personal club experience, Roxy, on the corner of Operngasse and Faulmanngasse is small but always comfortably full. Downstairs and past the tireless barkeepers, the dancefloor is always pumping. With a wide DJ selection focusing on British stock, the club is dedicated to very danceable music and seductive red lighting.
So remember! Now that summer’s over, start being tourist in your own home town. Rediscovering Vienna could just be the most intriguing holiday you’ve had all year. You’ll discover the real "afterhours," and finally have the requisite unique evening attire to make the most of them. And then you can start the treasure hunt all over again.