Plenty of people will tell you Vienna’s no fun. That it’s a beautiful, but boring old city full of buildings that look like a wedding cake, that it’s living off its old past glories of Strauss’ waltzes and Mozart’s awesome hairstyle. Well, we just happen to know that this is as far from the truth as saying that Mozart had an awesome hairstyle.
So we asked our community for their insider tips, combined it with our know-how, and teamed up with Mastercard to create the #ThisIsVienna quest in which we invited a bunch of international bloggers to town for a weekend that would be part of our elaborate experiment to prove all those haters wrong. We showed @handluggageonly, @urbanpixxels, @travelettes the real living and kicking Vienna! Yep, that’s right, no Schnitzel & absolutely NO expensive horsey and carriage rides! The quest had them fulfilling challenges that led to them having authentic Viennese experiences and discovering the best and coolest things to do in Vienna that locals love and live.
Here’s how the weekend played out, and your very own alternative guide to a weekend in Vienna:
6pm: Dinner at Wratschko
Ahhh, Wratschko – the name may sound like an evil villain from some bad spy thriller film, but it’s actually a dark-wooded, candle-lit Gasthaus serving up not only some of the best takes on traditional Austrian dishes in town, but also some of the hardest to find.
We challenged our bloggers here to ask ask a local in the restaurant what they should order on the menu other than Schnitzel. The locals replied with enthusiasm – ‘Fleischlaberl!’ (translation: meatballs). Apparently it’s a signature dish at Wratschko.
9pm: Wine and Schmankerl at Zum Gschupftn Ferdl
The Heuriger are the home of Vienna’s rich wine culture, and Zum Gschupftn Ferdl is a modern take on the traditional wine taverns. Here, wine comes in a jug and the so-called ‘Schmankerl’ (translation: some kind of Austrian-style antipasti) comes on a wooden board plonked in the middle of the table.
Oh, and have you heard about the Austrian’s infamous Spritzer – some kind of weird adult soft drink in which wine is mixed with sparkling water? WTF?! Oh, it’s goooood and damn refreshing.
10am: Morning coffee and exploring at the market, Karmelitermarkt
The Karmelitermarkt is a local market square in the city’s 2nd district. Packed with cafes and eateries, the square also comes alive every Saturday morning with a farmer’s market (until 1am).
It’s a great spot to catch a glimpse of the locals in their natural habitat (said like David Attenborough) for people-watching and tasting some of the awesome regional artisan food products Vienna has to offer.
12:30pm: Vienna Hot Rod City Tours
It really shouldn’t be legal, but we’re so glad it is. How does zooming around Vienna’s streets, taking in the sights of the city in a mini go-kart sound? Vienna’s relaxed road rules allow for this unique two-hour tour, which combines a bit of sightseeing with the chance to live out your Grand Prix fantasy and go, ‘WEEEEEEEEE!’ on wheels.
The little go-karts have grunt, capable of reaching up to 60kph.The rumble of the steering wheel isn’t the only reason the bloggers were shaking when driving on Vienna’s city streets a couple of inches from the ground in a miniature hot rod, with a tram bearing down on them. This experience can be summed up in one, high-pitched – GOD DAMN WHAT A RUSH!
2pm: A quick lunch at Schachtelwirt
After a quick lunch at Schachtelwirt – a funky place located in the city center where you can get your tasty traditional Austrian food fix, cooked up by a bunch of handsome Austrian guys, and served up in a takeaway Chinese box (yep, you heard right, and yep, it’s delicious)…
3pm: Vienna city bike ring ride
… we had our bloggers jump onto their next set of wheels: one of the free city bikes at a nearby city bike station. To use one of these two-wheeled stallions, you just need to register yourself with your Mastercard… Ok, they accept other bank and credit cards, but than it only let’s you use the broken bike with the squeaky back wheel that could fall off at any moment (Fake news warning: this may, or may not (but most probably not) be factually true).
A bike ride along the pretty (said in funny, high-pitched voice) boulevard known by the locals as ‘The Ring’, that encircles the city center is a must during any Vienna stay.
4:30pm: Pick an outfit for your night out at Burggasse24
This former wheelchair store, turned second-hand vintage fashion store/café cannot be put into a category, and neither can the clothes on its racks. And we figure this may be why it’s so loved. It’s a unique place for those who like to dress to express, to drape themselves in the outlandish, the bold and beautiful.
We challenged our bloggers to find amongst the racks of vibrant retro shirts, furs, and oversized ’80s sweaters and sassy vintage dresses, their outfit for dinner.
8pm: Dinner at Miznon
Smack bang in the heart of good ol’ Vienna, where the well-behaved Austrian tradition is kept at its finest… and the city goes to sleep after 7pm, lively scenes are playing out in the Israeli eatery/bar, Miznon.
You won’t know whether to dance to the loud music or eat, the dishes that are a hand-held street food kind of deal.
10pm: cocktails at If Dogs Run Free
Deeper into the night we go to the curiously named cocktail bar, ‘If Dogs Run Free’. This fantastical, intimate bar will have you wondering if you’ve drank too much before you’ve even sat down and had a drop to drink.
From the jagged roof, which plays as a main feature of the bar, to the random, hairy… mummy figure above the stairs, this place serving up creative cocktails is fun and freeeaky. It invites fantasy, like the name.
Think of it as a kind of dark corner of your subconscious in which hard liquor is served.
12am: Würstelstand visit at Zum scharfen Rene
No trip to Vienna is complete without a late night visit to a Würstelstand. There should even be a law on this – no tourist to leaves city limits without a Würstel stamp in their passport!
Like a lighthouse, not far from the city center at Schwarzenbergplatz is Zum Scharfe Rene, a sausage stand that’s respected and adored by many locals who frequent these institutions of the city.
The mighty Würstelstand is important to Vienna’s identity, so be sure to stop in at one and pay your respects. They are a place where everybody, no matter who you are, meets and chats over a can of beer and a sausage with bread.
And Zum Scharfen Rene is special not only thanks to it’s friendly owner, Rene, but because he also has a fetish for messing with chili in his sausage creations.
9am: Breakfast at Rien
Our final stop on the #ThisIsVienna quest – a breakfast at the born-again Viennese coffeehouse, Rien. You’ll hear everybody mention coffeehouses when they mention what to do in Vienna, and this place is a fresh, new version of one.
This geriatric coffeehouse was named Griensteidl before a young bunch of creatives got their hands on the place, fitted it with an updated and hipper vibe-fuelled pace maker, painted a huuuuuuge whale motif along its arched ceiling, and renamed it Rien. While they still serve the Viennese-style tapas found at such places, they’ve sexed them up a bit.
So did our little experiment prove what we set out to prove – that Vienna is one fun city? Well, we’ll let you judge for yourself…
Yes, that’s right, this city that everybody takes for being sweet and pretty has shook off its Habsburg hangover – Vienna is FUN!!!
Mastercard help us help you make the most out of Vienna and life (and keep our lights on and beer in our fridge) by sponsoring the awesome alternative weekend to Vienna that in history books, came to be known as (insert drum roll, here) the #ThisIsVienna quest.
You see, these providers of the plastic fantastic are big at the moment on giving Mastercard owner’s extras when they travel (discounts etc.) so they helped us create this alternative guide to our glorious city not only to give those that come across it a special experience of the city, but also to let ze’ Welt know about their special travel treatment for their card users. It’s a win-win for all! Woot woot!