Established time and again as the World's most liveable city*, there is nowhere better than Vienna to enjoy at local pace. Although I was only there for a week, I'm passing on to you the experience of my friend Ailsa who's been lucky enough to spend the best part of this year studying there. Below you will find offbeat drinking holes, invaluable tips on where to eat (especially for vegans) and an eclectic selection of ways to spice up your stay.
^Restaurant map (zoom in and click on markers for names)^
Ailsa's vegan, as are a lot of people who read this generally eco-friendly blog of mine, so hopefully you will find her carefully collected list of eating options useful. Though not all vegan, my readers are undoubtedly united in their thirst for a bargain.
You'll be glad to know I've only listed affordable options...
Der Wien Deewan: A Pakistani restaurant where you pay whatever you like. Mostly frequented by students, I love the idea behind this business and think Europe would be a better place if every city had a one.
Gasthaus Wickerl: A reliable choice for trying traditional (very non-vegan) Austrian food.
[V] Swing Kitchen: Ethical in every way- no animal products, no plastic, fair trade, but most importantly serving delicious burgers. I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed this bean burger more than most regular beef ones, dripping with fat. The atmosphere is casual making it a perfect stop for lunch and though I'm quite a big eater, the burger without chips was enough to keep me going until the evening.
[V] Veganista: Vegan icecream! Set up just like any good gelateria, there's an overwhelming choice of flavours; some classics and a few artistic additions, just without the milk. There were roadworks outside when we visited, but it would usually be idyllic to sit and cool down at one of their little tables.
[V] Vegan: ...or at least we thought that was it's name? On the edge of the Donau Canal, near Schottenring u bahn station, this is an affordable place to grab a falafel wrap and watch the sun go down over the water.
[V] Yamm: A vegan buffet where you pay by the weight of your plate. It comes highly recommended by Ailsa, but knowing our mutual gluttony, we were too scared to visit this time.
Cafe Gagarin: Perfect for speciality beers in a relaxed atmosphere that's a little arty and just grimy enough to be cool.
Tel Aviv Beach: To feel like you're at a beach party without leaving the city centre, try a cocktail with your toes in the sand at Tel Aviv. On the bank of the Donau Canal, near the Vegan food place I mentioned earlier, this bar is set up with palm trees and even giant umbrellas to hide under if the weather is less than tropical.
Bendle: The pub that locals don't want you to know about. With affordable beers and a friendly atmosphere, it's already getting too popular for its seating, so try to visit away from busy weekends.
What to do with yourself.
Have a look for art down by the canal. It's mostly a cacophony of tags, but you'll come across the odd gem like the butterflies at the top of this post and some wonderfully detailed deformities like the one below...
- Donauinsel is a long, thin island which separates the famous river Danube from the newly excavated flood defence channel, Neue Donau. In keeping with Vienna's most liveable city status, the island and new waterway are used almost exclusively for water sports, sunbathing and swimming. Watching out for the "swan mafia", you can safely doggy-paddle across the width of the new channel, clamber out and relax in the festival style atmosphere on the bank.
- Badeschiff am Donaukanal: an enclosed, outdoor swimming pool on the canal. This place isn't free to swim, but there's a bar!
Museumsquartier: This huge cultural complex is home to exhibition spaces, festivals and art galleries, such as the modern MUMOK and the Leopold Museum.
- Wiener Festwochen: This summer festival began as a post-war celebration of Austria's will to survive and culturally flourish after its horrors. It has continued along a path of innovation and growing international interest for over half a century and now offers an expansive programme of exciting theatre productions, orchestra concerts, recitals and musical performances.
- The Museumsquartier also has extensive grounds and many places to get coffee, eat or drink in the evening. Ailsa recommend Kantine.
ImPulsTanz: Running strong for the last thirty years, ImPulsTanz is now one of the largest dance festivals in the world. A hub for thousands of dancers, choreographers and artists, the celebration has just finished this year, but will be on again for 2016. From 10pm you can find music for free in Burgtheater (on Universitätsring).
Programmes for the dance performance and other information here.
Nachsmarket: explore this massive flea-market, stop for breakfast or a coffee and sift through the jumble of vintage bric-a-brac. The perfect place to find unusual presents for your family and friends.
Belvedere: This stunning Baroque style palace complex is home to a carefully selected art collection including some breathtaking paintings from one of my favourites Klimt. His use of texture and gold leaf means it's impossible to get a true feeling for his work without seeing it in person. I was dazzled.
Gustav Klimt- Kiss, 1907/08 Fritza Riedler, 1906 Avenue to Schloss Kammer, c. 1912
Images from the Belvedere's website.
To get into the beautiful garden you don't even need a ticket, so I admired the creativity of those runners who'd chosen to twist their after work route around the flower beds.
Getting from place to place in the city is a pleasure due to Vienna's extensive network of uncrowded public transport options. There are a combination of trams, buses and u bahn* routes connecting the city; tickets are also inexpensive and rarely checked. The u bahn is 24 hours over weekends and bank holidays and only costs 11 Euros for a weekly ticket or 16 including all forms of public transport.
For the slightly more energetic there city bikes which you can borrow for the first hour free or afterwards rent by the hour.
As a sign of their open-mindedness, the Austrian capital has changed the lights at over one-hundred crossings in the city centre. Celebrating this year's Eurovision Song Contest, they now depict a mixture of gay and heterosexual couples instead of the usual lonely male figure.
Pavements are wide and walking is enjoyable, but remember that crossing a road without waiting for the green light is illegal here.
Other interesting cities which might suit people who don't often like them...
Melbourne, its street-art and why it would
be cool to live there.
Seven big Italian cities, three
weeks and an almost non-existent budget.
The friendly city of Chiclayo, Peru.
- Architectural details of Cusco.
- Weird and wonderful things to do if you find yourself in Exeter (part 1).
Ten photos that remind me why I have to go
back to Portugal...