Vienna — a guide through the central European village

You value vegetarian/vegan food, fine arts and green places? Get to know Vienna from a young urban point of view — and enjoy the city just like a local would.

Icon: Vienna by Befoolish from the Noun Project

At first sight, Vienna’s Ringstraßen architecture may give an old-fashioned dusty impression. But Vienna is more than just the historic centre, and the imperial palaces surrounding it. In recent years it’s population increased massively (with about 25k new inhabitants per year), significantly making the Vienna a younger city. Making it not only the second largest German-speaking city, but also the fastest growing EU capital and the most liveable city in the world. Or if you want to believe other surveys one of the top 3 most liveable cities. You can feel this changing process in the number of newly opening places. There is something for everybody, not just classical music lovers, retirees and tourists.

Votivkirche — only Church along the Ringstraße. ©matt.schach

Museums to VISIT

Not a big fan of all the Sissy or palaces that is why I won’t recommend any of them. Moreover, most museums are inside former palaces, so you get an impression of palaces while visiting museums. ;)

KHM (Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010) is the national art gallery. It hosts one of the largest art collections in the world with pieces from Rubens, to Raphael, Rembrandt, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Dürer or Vermeer. The collection also includes an extensive collection of Roman art and the Emperor’s collection of curiosities and treasures with pieces dating back to the early middle ages. Depending on your interests you can spend several days at the museum. There is also a combi-ticket that allows you to visit other museums (Imperial Treasury or Leopoldmuseum) too. If you spend more time in Vienna, think about purchasing the year pass, as it also includes the Imperial Treasury, the newly opened Welt Museum (Ethnological Museum), the Museum of Instruments and Armory, the Theatre Museum and the Imperial Carriages Museum, all for 44€ or 25€ when you are 25 y/o.

Weltmuseum (Heldenplatz, 1010) — the World Museum hosts the Imperial Ethnographic Collection with pieces from all around the world. It focuses on the lives of people from the insiders point of view, rather than from an external viewpoint. The largest collections are on the pre-Columbian cultures, and Oceania. If you are traveling with children this is definitely a good place to visit, as you see things very close by. It is the newest addition to the National State Museums, and is also included in the year pass of KHM. BTW its inside the Imperial Palace.

The staircase at the Rüstungsmuseum located in the former Imperial Palace. Looking up at the Imperial Palace. ©matt.schach

DISCLAIMER: For avoiding confusion — “S” is the name of my partner.

Rüstungsmuseum (Heldenplatz, 1010) — the Imperial Museum of Armory (a recommendation by S.) guides you through centuries of Knighthood and explains the ways people fought and lived with armor twice or thrice their weight. Besides the museum also includes the collection of instruments and is located in the former Imperial Palace, which itself is a unique experience.

NHM (Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010). The Natural History Museum of Vienna hosts a total of 30 million exhibits, which makes it one of the largest collections in the world. S. likes to go there as its collection of minerals is outstanding, and so is its collection on specimens. Unfortunately the museum’s setup of artefacts varies from section to section. Therefore you find different ways of exhibiting items throughout the museum. Definitely plan to spend several hours there.

MQ (Museumsplatz 1, 1070) — right next door to the Imperial palace and the Imperial Collections you find Museumsquarter. The complex of museums hosts one of the largest collections of modern art in the world. Depending on your taste you may want to check out MUMOK, museum of modern art, or the Leopoldmuseum, which hosts one of the largest collections of Schiele pieces. Depending on the exhibition I normally recommend Leopoldmuseum over MUMOK.

Be careful you need to purchase separate tickets for each museum. As long as it’s still warm the courtyards of MQ are a gathering spot for everybody enjoying the outside. During the winter the courtyards turn into a modern Christmas market and ice skating rinks.

MAK (Stubenring 5, 1010) — Museum for Applied Arts. This building was originally built to imitate the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and already back then planned to exhibit pieces of applied arts. Today, it displays fashion, furniture and building design starting in 19th century until today. The way of presenting the items lets you retrace the development of Austrian design, with a special focus on the early 20th century. It also hosts a large collection of Chinese, Korean and Japanese design objects, which lets you “touch” millennia old pottery. Free admissions every Tuesday from 6PM till 10PM.

The furniture collection at MAK. ©matt.schach

Albertina (Albertinaplatz 1, 1010)- Got it all. It is part of the Imperial Palace and has some Imperial apartments left untouched from the Napoleonic times. It is famous for its 19th and 20th centuries collections, among them are Picasso, Miró, Monét, and Klimt. Recently it opened it’s contemporary section, which by curation outdoes MUMOK — but that is just my personal taste. Definitely plan to spend some hours at Albertina.

Dialog im Dunklen (Freyung 6, 1010) — “Dialogue in the Dark” is a museum that tries to create awareness for the blind. For a bit more than an hour you will be in complete darkness, going through some day-to-day situations blind people go through. Be it crossing a street or just getting around in the city. You will be guided by blind guides that describe their daily encounters and how their perception has changed when they became blind. Such a unique experience — and tours are given in German or English.

The Technical Museum (Mariahilfer Str. 212, 1140) hosts a large interactive exhibition. From the early beginnings of electricity production, to the steam engine — the exhibit focuses on how human lives have changed. The current setup focuses on sustainable urban city planning and how available spaces can be used to make cities more self-sustaining. At all times the museum presents you real life cases, where the exhibited projects are being implemented and how e.g. urban farming or smart city lightning changes the environment. If you really want to enjoy the museum the fullest, plan to spend more than half a day at the museum. Plus S. really appreciated the efforts paid to translations, and interactive design.

DISCLAIMER: For avoiding confusion — “S” is the name of my partner.

Narrenturm (Uni Campus, Spitalgasse 2, 1090) — literally “Fools Tower” — is located in the last courtyard of the University campus. It was originally the the first mental hospital on the continent, that is why it was built circular and with very few corners. Today it hosts one of the largest pathological-anatomical collections in the world. If you are interested in how medicine evolved over the last 200 years, want to understand why antibiotics basically saved all of us and see hundreds of wet and dry specimens of diseases and viruses. The exhibition is now being re-designed, so don’t be surprised that one room is new and another still follows older display forms. Make sure you take a tour for extensive explanations by medical students.

Wien Museum (Karlsplatz 8, 1040) — The city museum of Vienna gives you a short overview on the history of the town. In case you stroll through town, visit some places, but want to get some understanding of its history, I really recommend you to visit the Wien Museum. Moreso, because the temporary exhibitions shed light onto non-conformist approaches of the City, e.g. the lives of Jews after WWII in Vienna. Unfortunately, the temporary exhibition is not very modern, neither really well curated: it seems like they put a lot of items into the rooms, and then created the ehibition around them.

Classical Viennese Coffee Houses

If you want to experience the full Viennese coffee house culture, yet without too many tourists these are the places I normally go to. But be aware the customer ain’t king in a Viennese coffee house, the waiters are, so don’t be irritated if the waiters ignore you or talk too little with you. -yes that is possible-

Café Diglas (Wollzeile 10, 1010) — we like to go there to have a full cake meal. Whatever type of pastry you order, be assured the amount of calories is enough for a full meal. If you order a strudel make sure you order with sauce, that is what S. likes to do. Personally, I adore their “Scheiterhaufen” (warm apple pastry — literally meaning “pile of shame”) and their chocolate/berry cakes. Pay attention to the chandeliers, and if you go to the restroom be careful you fully lock the doors. ;) And if you want to enjoy some piano music, every day from 8PM — 10PM.

Café Korb (Brandstätte 7–9, 1010) was my first favorite coffee house and still is one of the places I like to go to with friends. The upstairs furniture is original from the 1950s, and the downstairs furniture reminds me of a bad acid trip. Cafe Korb is probably the only coffee house that still has this typical intellectual atmosphere. That is thanks to its owner, Susanne Widl, who still organizes philosophy and science talks once a month.

Looking up at Café Schwarzenberg. ©matt.schach

Café Schwarzenberg (Kärntner Ring 17, 1010) located in between the opera and the Stadtpark, Cafe Schwarzenberg is one of the most renowned places in Vienna. Today most of their pastries, strudels, coffees and teas are organic, while their furniture remained original. That means that you enter an imperial atmosphere, where time seemingly stopped ticking.

Gardens to Chill

Deutschordenhaus (Singerstraße 7, 1010) is the building of the German order, a medieval knight/monk order that still owns property all around Europe. When you are in the city centre make sure to visit this building, as its courtyards are an oasis of quietness and calm in the heart of the city. You can rest there enjoying classical music or a cup of coffee, while watching St. Stephen’s Cathedral. It is one of the places I enjoy reading during warm months, as it is super quiet. Side note, Mozart used to live in this building too. Please make sure you take your waste with you, as this is one of the conditions why this courtyard is open for public.

Burggarten (Josefsplatz 1, 1010) and Volksgarten (Burgring, 1010) are the two public parks next to the imperial palace. The former was the private imperial park, the latter opened only at the turn of the last century, was for the citizenry. Especially during the warm months of the year Burggarten invites you to chill and relax next to Vienna’s youth. What I really like about Volksgarten is simply that you enter the park and suddenly hear hardly any city sounds anymore, since the trees were planted to shield the park from the streets. In Volksgarten you normally also have musicians playing music, from classical to contemporary.

Augarten (Obere Augartenstraße, 1020) is a large baroque-styled garden. During summer you have concerts and open air cinemas. What makes this place so unique, are the two World War II towers that lurk over the whole park. Both are still embedded into the park and city landscape, as it is impossible to demolish any of them. Little side note, S. and me spent most of our first date at Augarten wandering around and sharing the first kiss.

Botanical Garden (Rennweg 14, 1030) — most certainly the only park that gives me the feeling of diving into a forest. Especially, if you are not looking for some imperial gardens which neither give you shade, nor let you sit on the grass, the botanical garden offers you a nice alternative.

Altes AKH (Spitalgasse 4, 1090) — previously been the first general hospital for the city, it was turned into a university campus. Numerous courtyards to stroll and hang out. During the winter you can also ice skate there and enjoy a small, yet lovely Christmas market.

For a best practice example of Social Housing — take U6 to Alterlaa. ©matt.schach

Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants

Tofu and Chili (Linke Wienzeile 18, 1060) — You will love this restaurant! It makes you froget that you are in Vienna and that makes it my all time favourite restaurant. There are many Chinese restaurants along Naschmarkt, none is as authentic and as much appreciated by my Chinese friends than Tofu und Chili. Their noodles are handmade, and their spring rolls are different from any I have ever had anywhere else. Make sure you ask for the second menu, as the second menu offers original dishes from the province the owners come from. Also if you get the chance try the Chinese Kebap!

Hasan Falafel (Rochusmarkt, 1030) is a Turkish market stand at Rochusmarkt. They sell the best Falafel in town. Until today I can’t quite tell what makes them so unique, but I assume its partially because the ingredients are mostly organic and local, and the love of the owners. I strongly recommend Falafels with some stuffed eggplant. Besides visiting Hasan’s Falafel also gives you a glimpse into other non-touristy farmers’ Viennese markets. If you come in the morning hours you can buy almost anything organic, locally produced and fresh.

Elvira’s (Seidlgasse 39, 1030) is a Ukrainian restaurant, that was recently refurbished. Now it looks like a super hipster place, that reminds me a lot of places we have been to in Kiev. The food cannot be described. Everything is cooked fresh, all Wareniki are made fresh and make the experience even more worth it. S. says that the food tastes like from his Ukrainian grandmother, so whenever he misses Ukraine we visit Elivra’s.

Tata (Seidengasse 23, 1070) is a Vietnamese fusion place. Most dishes come in either vegetarian or vegan version. The taste is unique, and all food is cooked by the mother of the owners. Moreoever the interior gives you a nice timeless feeling in between concrete brutalist and turn of the century buildings.

Le Troquet (Kirchengasse 18, 1070) is a French bar/diner, where you can spend a great time eating French dishes or just drinking various kinds of French and Austrian wine. I spent many evenings there enjoying life with friends.

Gorilla Kitchen (Gußhausstraße 19, 1040) very small diner selling street food wraps. All the ingredients come from local farms and the sauces are incredibly recommendable.

Il Sestante (Piaristengasse 50, 1080) is an Italian restaurant and for many considered to be one of the best pizzas in town. Besides the tasty food you also have a very scenic environment surrounding you.

Weinstube Josefstadt (Piaristengasse 27, 1080) right off the main street in the heart of the 8th district you find this tiny winery. You enter through a small door and find yourself in a large calm ivy courtyard. The food is as authentic as it can be and the wines are pure pleasure.

Weinschenke (Franzensgasse 11, 1050) is an organic Burger place. Everything from the meat to the buns is as local as it gets and is organic. My best friend recommends the boar burger, but also the vegetarian options are delightful. The interior is very authentic Austrian and reminds me of the wineries from the region I come from. Make sure to reserve a table.

Daily piano concert at Cafe Schwarzenberg. ©matt.schach

Coffee Houses and Cafeterias

Harvest Bistro (Karmeliterplatz 1, 1020) an all vegetarian/vegan diner, with probably the coziest interior in Vienna. Whenever we spend a morning coffee at Harvest, I feel reminiscent of my grandparent’s place — lovely decorated, and hand-selected items. On weekends they offer brunch and during the week there is a lunch buffet. And if you are in town long enough you can also take one of their cooking courses.

TOP Kino (Rahlgasse 1, 1060) is a two-screen cinema and an urban coffee house/diner. It got a touch of rock meets urban style, and the food is fairly priced. If you are in the mood Top Kino also offers a very good selection of movies, or if you are a film maker yourself you can rent the facilities and screen yours. I was writing much of my thesis at Top Kino, as it is also a great place to work, and be productive. Especially during the warm months of the year you have a lovely seating area in front of Top Kino.

Das Möbel (Burggasse 10, 1070) became my second home while writing my thesis, besides the above mentioned Top Kino. Das Möbel, which literally means “the furniture”, is unique in a sense that all the furniture was designed by designers and artists, who use the coffee house as an exhibition area. This makes it an experience itself, because you try working on different tables, get inspired and dreamy. The food mostly comes from organic and local farms, cakes and dishes are cooked fresh, and the homemade juices are delightful. This and the amazingly tasty cakes, that make me want to move in there.

Hidden Kitchen (Invalidenstraße 19, 1030) is hidden between Stadtpark and Wien Mitte. This place offers you everything from cakes and breakfast to vegetarian lunch options. It is also a great place to work from and spend your time reading. Normally S. spends his days either here or at Top Kino, when I am working. Make sure you try the carrot cake.

Vollpension (Schleifmühlgasse 16, 1040) — literally translates to as “full pension” and normally describes a full service option at a hotel or hostel, meaning that you get breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Vollpension the cakes and tarts are baked fresh, right in front — well right above your heads. It doesn’t matter who baked the cake, it always tastes like at your grandparents — and that is exactly the experience. If you want to see how Austrian 70s or 80s looked like visit Vollpension and have yourself some food!

POC (Schlösselgasse 21, 1080) — located inside a church, this tiny urban place offers exquisite coffee and some small dishes. Whenever I had classes at the campus building, I stopped by to have a coffee and enjoy this unique feeling of being “inside” a church, having coffee.

Joseph’s Brot (Landstraßer Hauptstraße 4, 1030) is an all organic bakery right next to Wien Mitte. It does not matter whether its morning or evening, Joseph’s always got fresh dishes and delicious cakes. The quality, the location and urban style have their price, yet if you want to treat yourself Joseph’s is the place.

Where to party — going out

Tastes of music are really different, and maybe living in Germanic countries most of my lives made me too obsessed with electronic music. However, if you enjoy electronic music then you should check out these two venues, while in Vienna.

Grelle Forelle (Spittelauer Lände 12, 1090) is a large electronic club, with three floors. It is very open to all kinds of people and beliefs and always feels like a safe space for me. Check the events and DJs playing and then decide whether its worth goign for you.

Das Werk (Spittelauer Lände 12, 1090) right next to Grelle Forelle you find “Das Werk”. An underground electronic club, where music is deep and people are fun. Depending on the event parties can go one until 10AM. Berlin Feeling times 2.

DISCLAIMER

If you are in Vienna and want to experience a different kind of Vienna, then check out if any of these events happen, because they are where the urban alternative progressives party.

Journey to Tarab is an event series, and nothing comparable to any other Vienna event. You should check out any events when you are in Vienna and into electronic music. The series started a year ago and turned into one of the best, most authentic series existing in Vienna at the moment. It basically took over where the old Pratersauna stopped (also the reason why as a lover of good deep electronic music I did not add to the Sauna) .

Lovely people, a lot of glitter and love put into decoration, and grand Berlin music.

Visit Journey to Tarab for a different Vienna experience. ©matt.schach

Rhinoplasty is another event series normally hosted by Club U. It is a party series for all genders and sexes. Open to all people, lots of love and costumes. It normally starts around 12AM, is for free and everybody is welcome. It is one of the most loving crowds, the music varies from trash and pop to hiphop and electronic, just right to dance. Make sure you try one of their cocktails ;)

Carbaret Fledermaus (Spiegelgasse 2, 1010) is a club that has been existing for more than 100 years. Today its events focus on 50s-80s music, however I really recommend the events on Sunday. On that day the club only plays 60s and 70s music, the crowd is wild and everybody is dancing. Make sure you come before midnight, otherwise you have to queue. I spent many nights there, and still go there every few months to dance to classics like the Mamas and Papas or Beatles.