Vienna Travel Guide

Vienna Travel Guide

On Alpine horizons, where century-old Kaffeehäuses and nudist bathing sites nestle within grand imperial surroundings, you’ll find the magical and unpredictable, Austrian capital Vienna. A city break like no other, with heaps of art, music, fashion and hearty cuisine to dig into, sexually liberal Vienna is also home to some of history’s homosexual trailblazers, from composers to emperors, who worked to overthrow Viennese orthodoxy from within. As well as annual events such as the Viennese Rainbow Ball, Pride Parade and the ‘Wien ist Andersrum’ (Vienna is Different) Festival, the city bursts with LGBT pride all year long, playing host to pop-up gay parties, gay saunas and even gay balls. At no loss for cultural sites, Vienna’s skyline is filled with grand palaces, museum complexes and a contagion of hipster art and café districts to explore. Read Mr Hudson’s definitive Vienna gay travel guide for the best of what to do in Vienna.

The best hotels in Vienna

Let’s kick-start our Vienna travel guide with a roundup of the best places to stay in Vienna. At the edge of Neubau, one of Vienna’s most vibrant districts, you’ll find Sans Souci, one of Vienna’s newest and finest boutique hotels. Somewhat of a museum itself, guests here can admire the owner’s art collection throughout the whole building, from Roy Lichtenstein to Steve Kaufman. Whether in the morning before breakfast or after a long day discovering the city, you might want to swim some lengths in the hotel’s indoor sports pool or enjoy the big spa area featuring all the facilities and treatments you can think of. Handpicked antiques, modern exclusive furniture and the attention to detail create a luxurious opulence while retaining a casual and easy atmosphere.

Right in the heart of the city centre, next to the best of Vienna points of interest, including the State Opera and Albertina Museum, lies The Guesthouse Vienna. British designer Sir Terence Conran is responsible for the interior here, creating an ambience of cosiness that allows people to unfold in the most relaxing way imaginable. Meticulously designed with straight lines and a touch of extravagance, the concept runs like a golden thread through the whole hotel. As well as having its own bakery, smelling of freshly baked buns and croissants throughout the day, The Guesthouse’s philosophy strikes just the right balance between homely and intriguing, bringing Viennese and Austrian culture alive.

Sans Souci | Photo: Stefan Gergly

Sans Souci | Photo: Stefan Gergly

Located on the famous Ring Boulevard that encircles the inner district, alongside a number of centuries-old hotels established during the reign of the Habsburg family, lies the Grand Ferdinand. A distinguishing feature of this hotel is the way it combines tradition with modernism, bringing beauty from the past together with modern amenities to form the base of the hotel’s design and atmosphere. Treading a fine line between the opulence of past decades and elegant modern design, one of the hotel’s highlights is the rooftop pool, where you can take a dip high above Vienna’s roofs and enjoy the skyline. If you’re new to the concept of a ‘vinophile philosophy’, then a stay at the Hotel Rathaus – Wein & Design will be a unique, one-time experience. Run by the Fleischhaker family, this hotel is every wine lover’s dream, combining personalised service and organised wine excursions with a warm welcome.

Grand Ferdinand

Grand Ferdinand

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After a walk through the old city, take a load off by visiting a Viennese coffee house, a traditional activity that UNESCO has listed as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’

Things to do in Vienna

While the best of what to do in Vienna refuses to be confined to a single page, the good thing is there are numerous options, all of which is relatively affordable! In fact, one of the best things to do in Vienna is completely free; a casual walk around the inner city and the Ring Boulevard can allow a glimpse at most major architectural sights such as the parliament, town hall and state opera house and give you a great overview over the city’s oldest and most prominent district. Vienna is not only the political and cultural capital of Austria but also the culinary one. In addition to great restaurants serving amazing food, a more hands-on experience is to take a cooking course, perhaps at the Grand Ferdinand Hotel’s restaurant Meissl & Schadn, where you’ll learn how to cook mouth-watering Viennese specialities such as Schnitzel or Apfelstrudel.

After a walk through the old city, take a load off by visiting a Viennese coffee house, a traditional activity that UNESCO has listed as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. Existing for hundreds of years, and still popular among locals and visitors, is the famous Café Sacher offering the original Sachertorte, a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam and served with whipped cream. A bit more off the beaten track meanwhile is the Café Savoy, probably Vienna’s oldest gay coffee house. With a progressive mindset, the owners and patrons here embrace diversity, welcoming all orientations and peoples. The architecture, however, designed by gay Vienna State Opera architect von Neumann, along with the old-style interiors comprised of huge ornate mirrors, remains firmly in the past.

When summer comes along, Vienna sparkles with a new opportunity. One such activity confined to warmer days is a trip to Schönbrunnerbad, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a popular cooling-off spot for young locals and open-minded gays. While the main pool has an (expected) dress code, to dip your toes into the local nudist culture, try Toter Grund on Danube Island or Gänsehäufl on the old Danube.

Photo: Gabriele Diwald

Photo: Gabriele Diwald

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What to see in Vienna

In addition to its curious nudist spots, the 21-kilometre Danube Island is an ideal day trip for families, couples, singletons and everyone in between. Easily accessible from the city centre via subway, this island is one of the most favoured recreational spots among locals and residents no doubt due to the sheer range of activities on offer. As well as bathing and hanging out on the water-edge promenade with a picnic, visitors can also take on water-skiing, cycling or hiking along the island’s expansive maze of trails and walkways.

Those interested in getting to know lesser-known Vienna points of interest should head back into town to Hundertwasshaus. This could be Vienna’s most eccentric landmark, from the mind of  Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a 1950s artist turned architect and activist who worked across Europe designing colourful structures and churning out political manifestos and essays. Now, his former residence has been partially turned into a museum, displaying his pioneering ideas on forested roofs, tree lodgings and eye-slit houses.

Heldentor | Photo: Bernhard Melzer

Heldentor | Photo: Bernhard Melzer

An institution both within and outside Vienna’s gay scene is the Motto. The Motto’s menu offers both Austrian and International classics

Where to eat in Vienna

Earlier in this travel guide, we already worshipped the Austrian and Viennese cuisine. Due to Austria’s location in the heart of Europe, the local cuisine is influenced by so many regions and cultural circles such as Hungary or Bohemia. Also, being a melting pot of cultures from all over the world, Vienna boasts a vast culinary offering.

A cute little restaurant with the nicest staff is the Woracziczky. The restaurant offers great typical Austrian dishes using regional and local goods which give the food an even more distinct Viennese touch. The setting within an old tavern, including panelled walls and small séparées, will guarantee an unforgettable evening.

An institution both within and outside Vienna’s gay scene is the Motto. The Motto’s menu offers both Austrian and International classics. Therefore you can enjoy the Wiener Schnitzel without having to take a pass on your beloved Beef Tartar. The Motto’s interior always provides enough topics for conversation. I am not going to spoil at this point, you will see for yourself. The green velvet, the used look of the walls and the black marble – it all fits perfectly together to create an atmosphere taking you back to a dinner club in the 1960s. Since the Motto also has its own bar, you don’t even need to switch location for your cocktails afterwards.

Whether you want to have breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a drink, the Palmenhaus caters you all day long. Its location in the city centre right next to the Albertina Museum and the Imperial Palace is perfect for a break from discovering Vienna. The Palmenhaus owes its name to its location within an old imperial greenhouse in the art nouveau style. Especially in the winter the Palmenhaus is a haven from cold and grey weather and manages to take you somewhere exotic.

Just in case you feel like having something Asian, you need to go to Market. This restaurant right next to the Naschmarkt serves fantastic Asian fusion food.

Palmenhaus | Photo: Gregor Lechner

Palmenhaus | Photo: Gregor Lechner

Local cuisine is influenced by so many regions and cultural circles such as Hungary or Bohemia

Shopping in Vienna

No matter whether you just want to buy souvenirs for your loved ones or add the latest trends to your wardrobe, Vienna has some old established places as well as hidden gems when it comes to shopping.

A place that is probably featured in every travel guide about Vienna is the Naschmarkt. Nevertheless, you should not miss a stroll through this vast open-air market area. The Naschmarkt welcomes visitors Monday to Saturday regardless of the weather. Stroll in-between the market stalls, enjoy samples from the friendly merchants offering food and goods from all over the world or have a coffee in one of the numerous restaurants. In addition to the regular market that is mainly about food, spices and delicacies the parking space next to the Naschmarkt turns into a flea market every Saturday. If you take some time to browse the antiques, paintings and curiosities, you will no doubt be rewarded with some unique souvenirs.

Not far from the Naschmarkt you will find Mariahilfer Strasse, which is one of the most prominent shopping streets in Vienna. However, if you are looking for a more off the beaten track shopping experience you want to make a turn from Mariahilfer Strasse into the Neubau district. Neubau, Vienna’s 7th district, is known for its vast array of artisanal shops and independent brands. From young Viennese fashion designers to aspiring artists – Neubau really is a vibrant area, catering to those who appreciate quality and avoid off-the-rack goods.

Naschmarkt | Photo: Bernhard Melzer

Naschmarkt | Photo: Bernhard Melzer

A city of timeless class deserves a gay nightlife scene on the same level

Vienna nightlife

For those used to the nightlife in other major European cities, Vienna’s nightlife might seem a bit more modest in scale. Despite this, you are guaranteed to have a blast if you know where to go… that’s where Mr Hudson’s Vienna gay scene guide comes in! We recommend you start your night out with a drink at Krypt Bar. Mostly known to insiders, the Krypt Bar welcomes guests in a surprisingly airy, high-ceilinged basement offering exquisite cocktails. The red brick walls and the prominent green painting behind the bar will catch your attention. With some luck and eyelash batting, you may even get a free shot!

A city of timeless class deserves a gay nightlife scene on the same level. One such classy establishment is Café Felixx, found on the lower Gumpendorfer Strasse. A cosmopolitan gay bar, Café Felixx serves fine Austrian wine, well-balanced cocktails and fashionable décor to its sophisticated gay clientele. Equally classy but more party oriented is the glam ONYX Bar, located on the 6th floor of the DO & CO Hotel. In addition to its cosy pink lounge area ideal for leisurely liquid lunches, at night the place morphs into a social hotspot for well-assorted drinks, cocktails and good tunes.

When it gets to that time of night when clubbing seems a good idea, dress up and dance among the bold and the beautiful at Volksgarten. The centrally located Volksgarten tends to cover two floors (both outdoor and indoor) and plays everything from House to RnB. Make sure to check their website for upcoming events. If you are looking for something more alternative and off the beaten track you could go to Club U right at Karlsplatz. Club U hosts all kinds of different parties and events from Kibbutz Klub (a queer party playing Israeli trash among other genres) to Rhinoplasty (very special, very alternative, very fun). And finally, Club Auslage is another corker for queer parties and events.

Krypt

Krypt Bar

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