(All photos by DBBD unless otherwise stated)
I think that most of you think that Vienna is for old people, because we invented Mozart instead of Joy Orbison. Well, a) according to my mother he's better and b) just because everyone thinks it's basically one massive, Mozart-themed chocolate box, it doesn’t mean it is. In fact, it’s a great party town with Conchita Wurst in it. And as such, it is cool and you should come and hang out.
Jump to sections by using the index below:
– WHERE TO PARTY
– WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
– POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
– WHERE TO EAT
– WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
– LGBT VIENNA
– WHERE TO DRINK
– WHERE TO STAY
– WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
– HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
– HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
– PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
– TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
– A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
– VICE CITY MAP
WHERE TO PARTY
In the last few years, us intellectual, sophisticated, Baroque Viennese have learnt to shove a pill up our arse and have fun, but the crowds are still relatively small so most clubs vary their playlists through the week. There isn't one seminal Viennese techno club, for example. That said, if you're into electronic music it’s worth checking out the area around the Prater, one of Vienna's large public parks, which has both the Fluc (a former underpass) and the Pratersauna, which is a former sauna. Don’t jump in the pools though, they're usually left dry, so you'll just end up screaming in agony as some Austrian bloke in a snapback tries to mix moombahton into an Amen break. Another option is the Grelle Forelle, a mysterious club near the Donaukanal that maintains its shadowy reputation by forbidding photography inside. But this is a travel guide, so we'll tell you what it looks like inside: a club.
In terms of smaller clubs, we recommend the Celeste, which is usually full, sweaty and a good place to drink. There’s also the brut bar, which is often full, sweaty and a good place to get laid. Nights in Vienna usually go until 5 or 6AM.
In the summertime, the city offers a lot of good outdoor parties. The best are Tanz Durch Den Tag (Dance Through The Day), Techno Sonntag (Techno Sunday) and the similarly spirited but slightly more adamant Kein Sonntag ohne Techno (No Sunday Without Techno).
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH DRUGS?
To be completely honest, Vienna isn’t the easiest city for tourists to score drugs in. There are a lot of straight-edge hardcore dudes around here, and tons of recovering heroin addicts around Karlsplatz, so between the threat of getting beaten up and the walking warnings from history, recreational drugs haven't managed to make much of a dent on our jugend.
It has been known for people to score at subway stations like U2 Schottenring, or even on the green U4 line that runs between Karlsplatz and Längenfeldgasse, but tales of this happening are at the urban legend level of credibility and frankly the cocaine around here is pretty much 100 percent horse wormer anyway.
MDMA and speed are rare, unless there happens to be a free techno party going on. If there is, then there will often be a mobile laboratory available to test people’s drugs, called "check it”.
The legal situation is similar to most of mainland Europe. Don’t go lighting up a joint under a policeman's nose, you idiot, but the busy buggers do have bigger problems to deal with. They'll be harsher if they catch anyone with anything else, but that’s assuming anyone actually manages to find it in the first place (which they don’t).
POLITICS, PROTESTS AND JUST HOW RACIST IS EVERYONE HERE?
Unlike neighbouring Hungary, Austria doesn’t currently have too many far-right militias or openly anti-Semitic biker gangs. There is, however, a fairly solid right-wing following that people from abroad probably wouldn’t know about until they’re at the wrong end of a protest. It should be said that compared to most riots around the world, Vienna’s protests are small, delightful farts. However, things did kick off last January when a tiny leftist group demonstrated against the annual Akademikerball, which is hosted by Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party and was attended by Marine Le Pen and Filip Dewinter. Even though it led to nothing worse than two or three broken shop windows, it was accompanied by a massive police block and numerous arrests.
A new addition to Vienna’s grumbling protest culture are the so-called "Monday Protests", where old hippies, conspiracy theorists and other random activists unite to share their distrust in Austrian politics, Western politics, NATO, the mainstream media and everything else they can dream up. As of now, they haven't managed to fuse their theories into one enlightening super-conspiracy, so they remain mostly harmless lunatics who cuddle on Heldenplatz every week and like to read out poems (although some of the poems do have a definite anti-Semitic vibe). If you happen to visit Heldenplatz on a Monday, bring your tinfoil hat.
We also have a small squatting scene. Well, to be precise there’s one house full of squatters – the notorious EKH. They’ve been there since 1990 and host concerts and underground wrestling events, but this being Austria even they actually technically signed a lease contract in 2008, so in relative terms they're a bunch of plastics.
Refugees are a crucial topic for Austrian activists. In 2012, a wave of protesters supported a refugee camp with a 35km-long march from Austria’s biggest refugee centre in Traiskirchen to Vienna. The camp survived no longer than a couple of weeks before being torn down (and completely destroyed) by police, much to the chagrin of fucking none of the dickhead press.
The refugees migrated to the close-by Votive Church, held extensive hunger strikes and numerous press conferences before being partly arrested and partly deported to a monastery where some of them continue to wait for a decision on whether or not they will be granted asylum by the State of Austria.
WHERE TO EAT
Wollzeile 38, 1010
Beef is bigger than water in Austria and this place’s Tafelspitz (prime boiled beef) is about as authentically Austrian as beef gets without being served by Michael Haneke on a harpsichord.
Schleifmühlgasse 19, 1040
If you consult most tourist guides, they’ll probably recommend Figlmüller for Schnitzel – and righty so, since they serve the largest fucking pieces of meat you’ll see in town. However, if you want to avoid the crowds when gobbling fried schnitzel like a repellent pigman, this meeting point for artists is the place for you.
Order whatever fish they recommend at this great Croatian place. The waiters know best, and you wouldn’t want to argue with them anyway, as they’re terrifying.
Located in Hütteldorf, this is as far towards the edge of town as you’ll ever go. It’s worth making the trip, not so much for the food, but to watch the chef in action. He’s a Chinese dude called Martin who usually ends up drinking with you before the end of the night, sometimes half naked.
Prater 116, 1020
The Stelze (“pork knuckles”) at Schweizerhaus are about as misleadingly named as fish fingers. They’re really roasted ham hocks and they’re also the fucking shit.
WHAT DO LOCALS EAT?
Blood sausage is exactly the kind of amazing thing whose public image has suffered from a generation of supermarket pussies who like to imagine meat as something Tesco create on a 3D printer. And this stovetop dish with roasted blood sausage and potatoes is the best way to eat them.
In Austria, we have come round to the idea that actually a full English breakfast is a pretty great idea, but we’re not ready to let go of our staple diet. As such, we've mashed them up; this is goulash with fried eggs and sausages, basically, and it’s delicious.
Bosna mit Käsekrainer
Take a classic hot dog, pump the sausage full of cheese and then add trowel loads of onion and curry powder. It really must just be moments before the Yanks try to Columbus this meal. Hot dogs and bad cheese? They'll freak the fuck out.
This is roast pork unlike any you’ve had before. Your nation’s shitty sliced ham sandwiches are what our schweinsbraten feed to their invalid children.
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
WHERE TO DRINK
The 4th district around Margaretenstraße is where most really good nights out begin. It’s also where plenty of them end up, with loads of decent places in walking distance, like Schikaneder, Transporter and Kiosk.
For every bar, like Liebling and Europa, there’s also some nice boutique in a small side street, which makes Zollergasse a closed ecosystem for people who want to spend the day drinking and shopping.
This place is in a great location beside Vienna’s most famous Flakturm, one of only a handful of anti-aircraft gun towers that survived WW2. Also has a sweet outside area, known as the Futuregarden, which sounds like a Tom Cruise sci-fi film or an Odd Future-Savage Garden supergroup but is actually just a nice place to hang out.
Everyone in Europe is supposed to hate Americans because of Iraq and Kimye, but we kind of love them. Kärntner Straße proves this, being as it is the Rodeo Drive of Vienna. It’s got the highest density of classy American bars in town, including the tiny Loos Bar, where Quentin Tarantino was once spotted telling a bartender she had beautiful feet. I wonder if she boned him? You’ll have to ask (don’t ask).
The Austrian variation of a hipster is known as a “bobo”, short for “bohemian-bourgeoisie”. If you want to meet bobo, short of my house, Karmelitermarkt is the place to go. Surrounding the small market you’ll find bars with great food like Tachles or Shabu, where you can play mushroom billiards. There’s also one of Vienna’s best pizza places, Pizza Mari, but you won’t get a table without a reservation.
WHERE TO STAY
You won’t have to shit the bank to stay at the Hotel Urania (from €54 for a room), but it’s got this old-fashioned Viennese flair that should give you plenty of material to fill your Instagram feed and looks like money. There’s also an observatory nearby, which as any seasoned traveller knows, is a boon.
If you’ve got a bit more money to spend and want somewhere that looks like it’s been teleported in from Williamsburg, the Hotel Daniel (from €95 a room) has its own bakery and bikes to hire. Another hipster favourite is Urbanauts (from €120 for a room). Conceived by a three-person architect collective from western Austria, the project converts abandoned business spaces into residential lofts, which sounds like the most Central European thing that can possibly happen outside of Midge Ure being chased screaming into a secret bank vault by some wild boar who are really good at clarinet.
No list of Vienna's hotels would be complete without a mention of Hotel Orient, even though this isn’t the sort of place you spend a whole night. You can’t even hire rooms overnight except at weekends. Their rooms cost between €63 to €95 for a three-hour stay, so this isn’t some down-at-heel flophouse. This is an upmarket, indulgent “love hotel”, so bring a friend. A friend you fuck. Which would be weird because if you’re on holiday with a friend you fuck, presumably you’ve already paid for a hotel room to share.
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
There are a few homophobic assholes in every country, of course, but Vienna is a pretty enjoyable place to be gay. Holding hands and necking in public shouldn’t be an issue, and there are plenty of parties that are so cool that most straight people would rather hang out at them.
The best night is probably Rhinoplasty, which takes place at Club U every other week. It’s organised by a bunch of typically competitive drag queens, and is perfect for heavy after-partying, so it’s probably not a surprise that it smells like lube.
Once a year, the Rainbow Parade transforms the ancient boulevards of downtown Vienna into an orgy of spinning schlongs and freewheeling vaginas, but that’s par for the course at Pride, right? More distinctive is our annual Life Ball, which attracts gay people from all around the world – along with Bill Clinton – and leaves the whole town covered in glitter. This year, it also advertised itself using this amazing poster.
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
WHERE TO HANG OUT WHEN YOU'RE SOBER
Even though it’s called “museums quarter”, it’s not a quarter at all, but rather one block with cafés, bars and museums on the outside and a large open space on the inside. Although the surrounding facilities are fine, the main attractions are the modernist plastic seating in the middle, called Enzis, which are ceremonially unveiled in different colours each year. They're kind of ugly as shit, but are where the city’s youth come to hang out, drink beer and wonder what drugs are like.
You know the Prater for its Ferris wheel, which is the site of Harry Lime’s famous self-justification monologue in The Third Man (this bit). You can either reenact the scene or go nuts, forgo parroting a very depressing speech about how cheap human life is, and instead enjoy the sun like the uncomplicated kid you are.
If you only visit one museum in Vienna, make it this one. It’s not hip or arty, but it has some dinosaurs and enough padded beasts to reassure taxidermists that skinning an animal and stuffing some rags in it is a worthwhile way to pass the time. Its architecture is dope and it has a nice park in front, too.
Martin Scorsese once called it the most beautiful cinema there is. And, while I don’t know for certain, you’ve got to imagine that Martin Scorsese has good taste in cinemas.
If it’s summer and you need to cool off, get on the subway U1 to visit Arbeiterstrandbad, a nice strip of “beach” right at the Danube. If you have a whole afternoon to play with, you can even go to Kritzendorf, which is probably 45 minutes outside of town, but great if you want to float away in natural waters and meet the head of Vienna’s Esperanto Society who has a stand there where he sells melons.
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
HOW TO AVOID GETTING RIPPED OFF AND BEATEN UP
Despite the odd story about iPods being snatched in broad daylight, Vienna is pretty much as safe as a European city can get, it's basically a creche with some palaces in it. Generally speaking, the worst we have to worry about is bicycles being stolen or just rendered unusable by taking the tyre or seat. Which has always seemed more like assholery than theft to me but what do I know, perhaps someone somewhere is very happy with the massive collection of bike seats they've managed to amass.
If you go out along the Gürtel belt of bars and venues, be wary of pickpockets. Especially in the rhiz, one of the area’s most popular bars where people will definitely take your jacket, purse and phone while you’re trying your best to look cool dancing to – sad trombone – German indie rock.
I once thought I'd been mugged while drunk after waking up with a smashed-up face, but then retraced my steps and found everything I thought I’d lost. In Vienna, we drink so much we’re as much a danger to ourselves as anyone else is.
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
HOW NOT TO BE A SHITTY TOURIST
There are two predominant types of tourists in Vienna and they’re equally horrible. The first are Japanese millionaires who visit Austria with their ridiculously well dressed families because they are huge fans of classical music and horses and fervently wish they could have lived in 19th century Europe.
The second are Americans who’ve watched Before Sunrise (probably after they’ve watched Before Midnight) and thus want to experience for themselves the magic of those culturally infused Old-European all-nighters by hanging around in cemeteries and hoping that some French girls and an old Gypsy fortune teller happen to walk past.
Both are bound to end up disappointed, because the “real Vienna” they’re looking for doesn’t actually exist. Whatever you do, make sure not to overdo it with your cultural ambitions because in our eyes that just makes you a pretentious arse.
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
PEOPLE AND PLACES TO AVOID
Fake Mozarts at Landmarks
If you’re visiting Vienna, people will assume you love horses, classical music and opera. They believe this because that’s what they have to sell to you around landmarks like Stephansdom (our famous church that’s almost 700 years old). All the vendors dress up like Disney versions of Mozart, and when they return to their homes in the evening, all their neighbours throw eggs at them.
Market Criers at Naschmarkt
Naschmarkt has some pretty decent food parlours and market stands, but most of the booths actually all share the same suppliers. Don’t be lured in by the guy with the loudest voice, find the booths occupied by the old ladies who rarely speak and buy their better stuff.
The Lugner City Crowd
Mall rats who think of Burger King as the epitome of high-end gastronomy. To avoid the Lugner City crowd, simply avoid Lugner City.
Austrian Christmas markets are like Waiting for Godot, if Waiting for Godot was to be rewritten by an uninspired glogg seller and reenacted by 1,000 hobos who were actually just waiting for another charge of glogg. (Glogg is mulled wine, you uncultured hog).
Others may rave about it but let’s face it: it’s an ancient palace, it’s yellow and it has a huge garden. I know you don't have one in Middleborough, or Brooklyn or wherever you live but still, can we please move on now?
(Photo by Stefanie Katzinger)
TIPPING AND HANDY PHRASES
In Austria, people get paid decently and healthcare and education are basically free. So tip 10 percent max. Tip 20 percent and the waitress will probably try to sue you for sexual harassment.
Budan? – This is the most primitive way to ask for a fuck, which, as we all know, sometimes is just the perfect way to ask for a fuck.
Geh scheißen – Fuck off
Krügerl vs. Halbe – Both are synonyms for “a pint of beer”, so you’ll definitely be needing them. However, the first one is used in Vienna and the second one pretty much everywhere else in Austria. Paradoxically, “Krügerl” translates to “tiny jar” although it’s actually not that small a beer, while “Halbe” means “Half” and refers to “half a litre of beer”.
Oida – Youth slang for “dude”, most common among mall rats and wankers. Translates to “old guy”, means the opposite and is used for emphasis at the end of pretty much every single sentence.
Tschick – Austrian dialect word for “smoke” as in “cigarette”. Sounds just like “chick” and is often used by men to attract the latter.
Ur – Means “ancient” in German, but “very” in Austrian; puts emphasis on everything it precedes and is best used as a prefix to every single adjective you can imagine: urcool (very cool), urgut (very good), urnett (very nice). Only to be used in Vienna, though – everywhere else, people will hate you for using it, as they hate the Viennese.
Wappler – Austrian dialect for douche. You’ll probably hear this one thrown at you a lot more than you’ll use it actively.
A YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF QUESTIONABLE LOCAL MUSIC
It's not 100 percent local music, but this is what you'll hear in the Viennese bars this summer. Also – I know: We're into Sam Smith. Nobody's perfect.
VICE CITY MAP
So there you go. Please come and visit, but don't be a Wappler when you do.