Gumpendorf – Papa Haydn’s Grätzl
(Viennese dialect) a neighbourhood in Vienna contained by subjective boundaries and a coherent identity
The bells are ringing at the Ägidiuskirche, where Joseph Haydn's body was laid to rest two hundred years ago. The father of Viennese classicism spent his final years in an apartment on today’s Haydngasse, rooming with his parrot, who, as legend has it, called him "Papa Haydn". If he were still alive today, the famous composer would have to trade in his knee britches for skinny jeans to keep up with the hipness of today’s Grätzl: Guys wearing tight pants and girls with large horn-rimmed glasses populate these streets.
From aristocrat hangout to bobo hotspot
Mariahilfer Gürtel and Amerlingstraße are the approximate borders of the former municipality of Gumpendorf, independent up until 1798. The old village was destroyed twice during the first and second Turkish Sieges of Vienna and repeatedly suffered from the flooding of the Wienfluss. In the 18th century, Gumpendorf became a popular summer retreat for aristocratic families. Then, after years of changing ownership, it was finally purchased outright by the City of Vienna. With the area´s population growing rapidly due to industrialisation, Gumpendorf became one of the centres of Viennese industry.
Today, Gumpendorf is part of the Bobo mecca of Mariahilf: Those who are able to afford the rent enjoy the luxury of living within walking distance to Europe's longest shopping street Mariahilferstraße and the equally popular Naschmarkt, both of which we are going to ignore for this month's Grätzl tour. Gumpendorf has enough to offer all by itself.
Strutting your stuff
Gumpendorf can easily be explored on foot, however, if you’re feeling lazy, take the 57A bus that cuts through the whole Grätzl.
Start your tour at the eastern corner in Esterhazy Park, where you can enjoy a gorgeous view of Vienna´s skyline from the terrace of the former Flakturm (anti-aircraft tower) that is now home to the aquarium, the Haus des Meeres. If blood and gore excite you more than looking at old rooftops, we recommend spending a nice afternoon at the Foltermuseum (Museum of Torture), which served as a bunker during World War II.
Walking up Gumpendorferstraße you will cross through the Esterhazypark, the district´s "green lung". While parks proliferate in the Old City, green space is rare in this area, making this oasis very popular. In summer, you can enjoy a cool drink bought from the near Kiosk Kaunitzgasse, one of a few grocery stores in Vienna that stays open until 11pm every day.
In icy February, though, you may prefer to turn into Otto Bauer Gasse to warm up at Café Jelinek, which might just be the finest place in whole Vienna to curl up on a cold and dark winter day. A fire burns cheerily on the hearth as the espresso machine pours out cup after cup of perfect coffee, while the waiter patiently takes orders with the typical Viennese charm, hidden behind the grumpiness of another Sunday shift.
Despite its age, the café draws in a young crowd, which appreciates the large selection of newspapers and magazines and the pleasingly worn furniture, that has patiently listened to years of conversation about philosophy, the previous day´s football results or the general indisposition of the Viennese.
Those who can afford to live in Gumpendorf don’t mind spending the extra euro at a nice restaurant – and choices are vast in this area.
Finkh you already know (see "Finkh: A Culinary Workshop", by Christopher Anderson, TVR Nov. 2011), but a reminder never hurts, so don´t forget about stopping by one of the hippest places in the area. And don´t be disturbed by the crane on the ceiling – the restaurant used to be a factory before it switched from auto mechanics to selling Schnitzel.
Right across the street, the Hafenjunge has laid anchor, offering beer and culinary specialties from Hamburg. The owner turns out to be from the Waldviertel in Lower Austria – still, the food’s authentic and very good.
Enjoy a glass of Astra beer while browsing through various artsy items such as postcards, mugs, key chains or flasks - many of them created by the owner, who also runs a design business on the side, while serving excellent coffee.
One cannot walk past Thai Isaan without being drawn in by the intense smell of curry, hot spices and fried rice emanating from the restaurant. The owners hit a gold mine by opening the stylish self-service spot, which is so busy during lunch hour that one has to wonder if the whole of Gumpendorf stops by for takeout. If you come a little later in the day and get a table, you can enjoy watching the good-natured Thai owner explaining to his bewildered clients that they have to carry the ordered food and cutlery to their tables by themselves.
Still, with all it has to offer, Gumpendorf feels like a village. Artists, designers and students have all conquered this Grätzl in recent years and have turned it into one the most exciting neighbourhoods in Vienna. So put on your Ray Bans, order an Aperol Spritzer and enjoy hipster life!
Haus des Meeres: Fritz-Grünbaum-Platz 1, Esterhazypark
Foltermuseum: Esterhazypark (located at the park´s north entrance)
Kiosk Kaunitzgasse: Kaunitzgasse 1
Cafe Jelinek: Otto-Bauer-Gasse 5
(01) 597 41 13
Finkh: Esterhazygasse 12
Hafenjunge: Esterhazygasse 11
0699 197 11 516
Thai Isaan: Gumpendorferstraße 91
(01) 595 28 00