After Dark: in the Pratersauna

Artsy, hedonistic, versatile and hip: Dare we ask what else?

On The Town | Peter Diller | April 2012

Smack between the Hauptallee and the Prater Amusement Park, there is a most eclectic venue. Hot summer nights see young things trolling through the dark, wooded area – past herds of women of the night – seeking an asylum revered by several generations of Viennese. Part nightclub, part bar, part sauna, Pratersauna is a legend in its own time.

Originally opened as a wellness spa in 1965, the reinvented venue retains much of its 60s cool. Whether that’s because of the architecture or the contemporary scene it cradles is unimportant. A hushed history of exhibitionists’ bacchanalia seems to feed the space’s rebirth. Acquired in the summer of 2008 by managers Hennes Wiess and Stefan Heiss, the aging giant of the sauna era has been transformed into a "social life and art space": Capable of transcending the defined barriers of a club, while evoking an atmosphere of relaxation, invigoration, and youth.

Approaching the venue at night, a dense queue traces the side of the building. With the muffled sounds of cusp-of-renowned DJs reverberating from inside, those waiting outside are pacified by the practical presence of a Würstelstand. They chug cans of Gösser and Ottakringer to warm up.

By the main entrance, you grab a drink and a conversation by the floor-to-ceiling windows that separate nature from the beats within. The outdoor space anchors the ambiance, where a tiered wooden patio leads to a long pool spotted with girls, shoes off, soaking their tired feet in the cool waters. On summery afternoons, the pool opens at 13:00 and the lawn is laden with hedonists either starting their day or ending their night.

Back inside, at the end of the bar, you are confronted with the first dance floor. A long room with a padded bench on one side, capped by a DJ booth at the far end. The hoards dance alone in unison as those not caught in the rapture attempt to make paths through the crowd.

Behind the DJ is a confused intersection. The coat check and a photo booth are to the right, swarmed by loitering patrons shouting into mobile phones, looking for lost companions, while glistening party-people enter the bathroom stalls in groups – only to be busted by the bouncers before they can latch the cabin.

Past this crossroads the club opens up. Thanks to recent renovations, a bar area relieves the sweaty congestion with a small sitting area to boot. To the left, a white staircase leads to the 300-square-metre gallery space upstairs. Straight ahead is the main dance floor, an oblong room where Austrian and international DJs pump techno, minimal, tech-house, deep house and the occasional hip-hop act.

Though it’s been itself for three years now, things take time in Vienna and the management has more big plans for this ever-changing spot. As the Vienna sun hits the Prater, and summer returns, this garden may be just the place to plant your feet – and whatever else is looking for a good time.



Thu.-Sat., 23:00-6:00

May-Sep., Wed.-Sun. 21:00-6:00

2., Waldsteingartenstraße 135

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