When one thinks of Vienna, clichéd images come to mind: Society balls, Johann Strauss, perhaps even Freud. Indeed, Austria remains close to its traditions, but in the last few years Vienna has seen a growth in new stylish neighbourhoods and contemporary buildings. The 7th district is the most dynamic, and you can easily reach the following places there on a leisurely walk, which is the best way to take in the city.
Modern art explodes
The flagship of this new dynamism, the MuseumsQuartier, is one of the 10 largest cultural complexes in the world, and offers more than 50 facilities for modern art in 60,000 square metres of space. The 1723 façades house the big grey building of the Museum of Modern Art (MuMok), which is currently exhibiting a retrospective of Austrian painter Maria Lassnig and violent photographs by Nam June Paik.
The Leopold Museum houses paintings by Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka, whereas the beautiful Kunsthalle programs concerts, conferences and performing arts. The Kultur Schock is a sort of festival with dance, electronic music and theatre, held here every summer, mqw.at.
Near to the MuseumsQuartier you will find the Quartier21, an area that’s home to showrooms, cafés, and shops dedicated to vintage video games, local designers, and one dedicated to the Lomo, the brand of cult, ultra-simple cameras that’s based here in Vienna.
There’s even a music shop where you can burn your own compilation of Austrian modern music — including Cheap Records and G Stone labels, for electro fans — on CD, legally, musiktank.at.
Cafés like home
Vienna’s cafés deserve their homely, cosy reputation. Every generation goes there to drink a tasty melange (local coffee with milk), in a historic setting. Make no mistake: there’s nothing stiff or old-fashioned here. You can order your coffee, borrow the papers and sit all day long, and nobody will ask you to leave.
To return to the XXIth century, have a rest at Café Phil, in front of traditional Café Sperl. Vintage armchairs, books, vinyl records and DVDs make you feel like you’re hanging out in a friend’s living room. Another popular must-see is Das Möbel (10, Burggasse), part-café, part furniture showroom, where you can have a good brunch sitting at tables and chairs that you can also buy. To purchase brand new versions, go to the Das Möbel shop, 11, Gumperdorfestrasse.
Vienna is fond of multifunctional places that reunite useful with attractive. The Saint Charles company, for example, offers a shop with bio-cosmetics, healthy products and shiatsu massages with all-natural ingredients. Stylish and minimalist this ex-pharmacy still houses the antique cabinets from its former life; 33, Gumpendorferstrasse, saint.info.
Gabarage is into useful design: The company salvages old materials from factories and recycle them into furniture, bags, and home decor. The designers are ex-drug addicts or ex-convicts, giving them a job and a way to reintegrate into society. Not only are the products worthy, they’re also fun; 6, Schleifmühlgasse, gabarage.at.
Next door, gourmets will enjoy Babette’s, a nice cookbook shop and a kitchen where you can have a quick lunch or take cookery lessons; 17, Schleifmühlgasse.
The sound of Vienna
If you’re planning a night out, the Flex remains the club of the city, a place to get your fill of new tunes, near the canal (Donaukanal/Augartenbrücke). If you prefer wandering from one place to another, hit the Gürtel district, which has lost its previous reputation as a no-go area.
Wondering where to eat when you’ve spent all your cash on clubs and galleries? Step back in time at Trzesniewski (1, Dorotheegasse) near to the Albertina Museum, which offers thousands of different types of sandwiches. Near the Staatsoper, Bettelstent Student is a hit with students, a wood-panelled pub with Austrian dishes and beer at affordable prices. For a quick snack, you’ll find are hundreds of sausage sellers all over the city. Night and day, during all seasons of the year, a smoky bratwurst with sweet mustard and rye bread will get you back on your feet.