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Vienna is usually associated with classical music and imperial history, but it is so much more than that. From the vast green space of the Danube Island to the up-and-coming clubs, pubs and cafés in Neubau, every corner of Vienna has something different to offer.
Vienna sprawls out like a star around Innere Stadt, the first and oldest district in the city. Over the last 150 years, the city has grown around this historic old town, and a total of 23 districts have been added to the area that is now known as Vienna, each of them bringing their own personality to the capital of Austria. From classic Viennese cafés decorated with chandeliers and red-velvet carpeting in Josefstadt to the multicultural cuisine served in Ottakring or the bustling food market in Naschmarkt, Culture Trip has picked out the coolest Vienna neighbourhoods.
Once the centre of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna’s Innere Stadt is still as elegant and impressive today as it was centuries ago. Walking through the winding alleyways lined with classic Viennese architecture, it isn’t hard to imagine a time when Sisi (Empress Elizabeth of Austria) vacationed in the Hofburg Palace, still a major landmark in the area. Horse-drawn carriages will pass you along Innere Stadt’s cobblestone roads, and buskers playing classical music will entertain you while you window shop at some of Vienna’s most luxurious boutiques. Extravagant churches and monuments plated in gold seem to decorate every corner, meaning the neighbourhood never ceases to amaze, but unless you can afford a penthouse apartment overlooking St Stephen’s Cathedral, this isn’t the best place to look for somewhere to stay.
Neubau is to Innere Stadt what craft beer is to champagne: the younger, hipper brother. Filled with dimly lit bars and cafés serving artisanal coffee and cocktails, this neighbourhood is popular with young students and creatives. You’ll find some of the best second-hand and vintage shops in Vienna on the streets of Neubau, and the juxtaposition of modern boutiques in ancient, Baroque-style buildings gives the district the unique flair it’s known for. The former home of Gustav Klimt, this neighbourhood has been a muse for many famous artists who have long clustered in its coffee houses.
Right next to Neubau, Mariahilf is a little more residential than its neighbour, but still in the middle of the action. Densely populated with a diverse population, this neighbourhood is full of cultural activities, with everything from theatres putting on critically-acclaimed shows to bookstore-cafés and low-lit bars open well into the early morning hours. Also known as the 6th district, this neighbourhood is a hotspot for the LGBTQ community. Spreading all the way from Westbahnhof down to the Museumsquartier, you’ll find everything you’re looking for here, including Vienna’s main shopping street.
The contagious energy of the world-famous Naschmarkt food market is unmissable. The large market is filled with more than 120 different stalls and restaurants and has been around since the 16th century. The chaotic and bustling main thoroughfare of the market is filled with food stands and vendors loudly proclaiming their goods, which include local cheese, fruits and freshly baked goods. The wafting scent of hearty Austrian food suffuses the entire space. And not only is the market filled with delicious finds, but the surrounding side streets are also overflowing with charming cafés and bars. Make your way along the Gumpendorferstraße or the side streets of Planquadrat Park for wonderful Sunday morning brunches or to find cocktail bars perfect to sit outside on a warm summer evening.
This up-and-coming area is located in the old Jewish quarter of Vienna, which sprawls across an island surrounded by the Danube. The former home of Sigmund Freud, this neighbourhood has been around since the 1670s and features many historical monuments, including a Buddhist temple that was built in the 1980s by Japanese monks as a symbol for peace, and the sprawling Augarten with its flower gardens and French Baroque-style palace. The neighbourhood is centred around Karmelitermarkt, a market selling international and Viennese cuisine. Quieter and more spacious than the buzzing 6th and 7th districts, this area is a great alternative to the busier central areas.
On warm summer evenings in Vienna, locals often choose to dangle their feet over the edge of the Danube rather than sit inside. It’s a great place to have an al fresco drink, as people with backpacks full of ice and beer will pass you every two minutes selling refreshing beverages. Beach bars and cafés line the waterfront, so you’ll be spoilt for choice with places to hangout. Surrounded by friendly chatter and live music from buskers, this area is full of life.
Josefstadt is the smallest of Vienna’s 23 districts and was named after the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I. This area oozes class and sophistication and is home to a number of former Austrian presidents. It’s also one of Vienna’s most architecturally impressive districts, and at almost every turn you’ll pass another impressive building. Walk along the small streets of Josefstadt to find yourself among both new-age vegan and organic grocery stores and traditional Viennese cafés that have been around for more than a century. Josefstadt also has its fair share of specialty wine bars, and you’re likely to find plenty of yoga studios and breakfast cafés here. This area is great for families and individuals looking for a quiet neighbourhood that’s still close to the action.
Less hipster and gentrified than other areas of Vienna, in Ottakring, instead of the city’s usual collection of bars, there are markets filled with pallets and industrial lighting, as well as authentic Viennese wineries. It’s a multicultural neighbourhood with a high immigrant population, contributing to a diverse selection of international cuisine. Hit up the classic Yugoslavian cafés on the so-called ‘Balkan Mile’ or try something new at one of the many Asian restaurants scattered throughout the 16th district. Only a short tram ride into Vienna’s natural surroundings, you can also check out the wineries in Ottakring, which are surrounded by rolling green hills and look down with panoramic views over Vienna.
There’s no shortage of parks and gardens in Vienna, and over half of the city is green space. A big chunk of that comes from an island in the middle of the city – the Danube Island. On sunny days, this area is filled with people riding their bikes, speeding around on inline skates or just strolling along the waterfront. The island is is 21 kilometres (13 miles) long, with the Danube River on one side and the New Danube Canal on the other, so there are plenty of possibilities for swimming. The summer months are perfect for barbecues next to the water, and there are barbecue pits with seating set up along the island’s length. Every year in June, Danube Island transforms for the Donauinselfest (Danube Island Festival), a free open-air festival visited by more than 3 million people every year.