Nobody knows how they come to be, but a city’s dive bars play the role as a second home for its inhabitants who just don’t wanna’ be at home, but want to be amongst a crowd and an atmosphere that understands them. Vienna has numerous bars that tick all of the features that make a dive bar – an interior decorator has never touched the place, but rather the dive bar look of the place just kinda’…happened.
The booze is cheap, the lights are dim, and the bar staff have a knack for making you feel like a regular, even if it’s your first time. Here are 8 of Vienna’s best dive bars that are packed with character and grungy, gritty charm:
Grungy factor: The overall dark layout of the bar with the black-stained floor and walls and the low-lit dancing area make it hard to see the person next to you. But hey, most of the people are wearing black hoodies in here, anyway. But this is the kind of dive where you go to stay low-key and escape your daily grind, anyway.
Besides people trying to stay low-key, there’s also another type of the typical Fluc-ster – those that are half-naked dancing around to some local or international band, or DJ on stage. You can catch a live music act regularly happening in the upstairs, or downstairs, bar at the Fluc.
Good for… nights out through the week, catching a crazy story at the bar from some stranger that is probably tripping or making it up, dancing with people of all age groups, catching live music and DJ acts on stage.
Opening times DAILY: open 24 hours (according to Google and their website)
Grungy factor: If you don’t know the Arena, you haven’t been partying enough in Vienna. This event venue / bar lived its former life as a slaughter house. Today, having been taken over by a group of punks many years back, it’s got an awesome summer concert stage, a couple of indoor concert spaces, and a dive bar of a beisl attached. You will meet all kinds of characters, here. In the so-called Arena Beisl, there’s a Foosball table and a whole lot of character. Their Facebook page reads, ‘love music, hate racism,’ so you can guess the theme of this place. The music acts that pass through here are top grade. This is like a grungy playground for leather jacket wearing, free-thinking people that live life differently.
Good for… concerts, a go-to place that you always know will be open, meeting characters that are well worth a conversation
Grungy Factor: The Chelsea puts the ‘wild’ into your ‘wild nights at the Gürtel’! It’s located under the rails of the U6, and even though it’s on the same level as the street, the further you go into the Chelsea, the more it feels like you are deeper underground. The bathroom walls are covered in thousands of stickers, (which you can scan in order to distract yourself from your grungy toilet thoughts), that make you wonder whether it’s possible catching STIs from the toilets you’re sitting on.
The later it gets, the more bizarre the scenery seems to get. But all the grungy factors of the Chelsea add to the care-free atmosphere that’s going on in there. You could show up in your pyjamas and nobody would give a damn, because everyone is just here to have a good time.
But don’t be mistaken that the Chelsea is just a simple bar. It’s also a concert venue, and regularly turns into a sports barstreaming football matches.
Good for… dancing shamelessly, concerts, going out without feeling obligated to spend hours on your appearance, having a wild night out, being surrounded by chilled people, learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the barkeeper (or else she will yell at you 🙁 )
Grungy factor: Open late afternoon to late the next morning, Bukowski possesses all the stalwarts of a dive bar and is claimed as a local pub by many. If you know the writer it’s named after, Charles Bukowski, you’ll know what to expect here. Let’s just say he was a big fan of dive bars, and this bar just of the seventh district’s Siebensterngasse does the cult figure poet justice. There are pictures of Bukowski on the wall, you can be pretty sure the bar will be sticky with old beer when you pull up a stall at it, and it’s got some quality bar staff that know how to make you feel at home. The booze is also at dive bar prices.
Good for… drinks through the week with friends, meeting like-minded people…as in, people that love writing and writers like Bukowski
Grungy factor: even though it’s prettied itself up with a bit of a makeover in recent years, it’s still managed to maintain its grungy, come as you are vibe. The legendary Schikaneder. It’s your winter residence if you’re a fan of grit and honest places that are made for people that like to feel that they belong in the bars that they hang out in. Dusty couches and high stools make up the sitting arrangement, while the best seats in the house are in the window enclave at the front. If you score this spot, you’ll be envied by the whole pub.
Oh yeah, and the toilets are a sight to be seen – years (and layers) of stickers and graffiti have made it into, somehow, a piece of urban art.
Good for… nights out when feeling lonely, snuggling up to the stranger next to you on the super comfy 4-meter long couch in the cinema and crying in their arms, catching a film and a drink with friends, nights out when you want to passionately rip apart a political discussion and solve the world’s problems
Grungy Factor: Situated on the canal amidst graffiti-ridden concrete walls, you’ll find the legend that is the Flex. With all the bright colours and flashy lights on its exterior, it might look like something you’d find at the Prater, but inside, it’s a whole different story. This is a unused U-Bahn tunnel turned into a club – now that’s what we call grungy! Black walls, a bunker-like atmosphere and an overall pretty run-down vibe are all part of the charm of this institution of the underground scene.
It’s often rumoured to be a drug hotspot, which we (for legal reasons) can’t confirm, but what we can confirm is that it’s actually more than just another dirty club that makes you wanna sanitise your whole body when returning home. It’s especially famous for its wild techno and drum and bass nights, and it also regularly features different live music acts.
The Flex cafe upstairs is also a gloriously dive-y bar to hang out in any given night of the week.
Good for… a wild, trippy night out. Immerse yourself in the whole underground flair and see where you end up. Just stay safe and don’t do anything we wouldn’t do. Or do it anyway, it’s not like we can stop you.
Grungy factor: Its dark rooms, the intimate atmosphere, the terrible lighting, as well as the walls full of artsy posters and drawings, make this one hell of a grungy outfit. Since the smoking ban got introduced, the atmosphere of the bar has definitely changed up, considering that you can now actually breathe inside. Nevertheless, Electronic music mixed with the trippy visuals being screened on the walls is a thing no bar does better. And did we mention that this place was an actual electricians workshop before it became the bar it is today?
Good for… nights out, on weekdays, at the weekend, at Christmas eve – always.
Opening times SUN–THU: 6pm–2am FRI–SAT: 6pm–4am smoking/non-smoking
Grungy factor: From the street, it looks like a jungle’s inside, with plants crowding the windows. Inside, it looks like a character that has lived some kind of rock and roll, or writer life a thousand times, with plenty of booze and drugs. The black and white striped bar reminds us of the tail from the dope-smoking cat in Alice in Wonderland. The stools at the bar are wobbly and on the verge of collapsing. One could say the same about the characters sitting on them.
It ticks all the dive bar boxes – the menu is simple – beer, wine and a few spirits, and it has a Foosball table. And thanks to the bar staff, it has that familiar feeling of home that can only be created by having the right people behind the bar.
Good for… drinks with friends through the week, catching the irregular reading happening in the back.