Vienna′s Coolest Neighbourhoods - Part II

Spittelberg: A Baroque Fossil (7th District)

Let′s make a move from Medieval days to the Baroque boom period of Vienna: Cross the Ringstraße at the Naturhistorisches Museum and follow Burggasse until you get beyond the MuseumsQuartier. It is a common mistake to believe that Sigmund Freud lived in Burggasse 19 - in fact, he lived in B-E-rggasse 19, where you could visit the Freud Museum. However, B-U-rggasse 19 markes a good entry point to the Spittelberg neighbourhood.

Here you can experience what Vienna must have looked like in Baroque days, when the medieval buildings were often destroyed or refurbished and the city was dominated by two or three storey buildings with colourful facades, stucco-decorations and cobbled streets. The name "Spittelberg" refers to a hospital ("Spital") in the area (long gone). The neighbourhood is often called "a village in the centre of Vienna", which hits the nail on the head. You wouldn′t guess that you are surrounded by a city with almost two million residents.

Note the massive concrete tower that overshadows the district: You can′t see it from everywhere, but this is one of the many Flak Towers that were built under Nazi rule to defend Vienna against air strikes. They usually came in sets of two - the one nearby Spittelberg is twinned with the one that now houses the "Haus des Meeres" aquarium.

Back to the neighbourhood itself: Almost all buildings were erected in the 18th century and were refurbished in the last couple of years. They are home to several dozen of (mostly traditional) restaurants, health food stores, art galleries and craft stores. There is a small back-yard theatre well-known for cabaret, live music and comedy in the spirit of the 1980ies (meaning: not too hippie, but not really mainstream either). The Spittelberg was highly popular once with young artists - now the rents are so high that it is ways too trendy for "authentic" art and most of the galleries sell works of the rather commercial kind.

Nonetheless, the somewhat arty-village-with-good-food spirit and the vicinity to the MuseumsQuartier make the Spittelberg a great place. Note that most of Vienna′s city centre must have looked similar before Imperial Madness saw the rise of historicism in the 19th century - when entire districts like this one were flattened to erect representative, neo-Something courts. A good example for that is the Graben, where only one Baroque building survived.

Between Gumpendorferstraße & Naschmarkt (6th District)

To experience where young people with a bit of brain hang out for good food and a good atmosphere, try the area between Gumpendorferstraße and the Naschmarkt. This is mostly located in the sixth district. It is a very important feature of Vienna that there are no real "social ghettos" - no real Little Italy, not real office-only towers, no area purely residential. But as far as it gets, the areas branching off the Wienzeile (where the Naschmarkt is held) are popular with young artists, Chinese and homosexuals. This gave rise to an interesting mix of galleries, East-Asian restaurants and shops for interior design.

Once you leave the Naschmarkt itself, you will get to streets that are by no means touristy. Shops and bars are not as concentrated as they are in the two neighbourhoods described above, but those that you find are at least non-yuppie and non-tourist-oriented. With some good will to walk around, you can find real gems, like authentic bars, backyard theatres, really cool comic stores, all sorts of ethnic foods, second-hand bookshops and stores alike.

In terms of architecture, this area consists mostly of the neo-Classical stuff that I condemned in the paragraph above. However, bomb damages of WWII allowed at least some change and even the odd little park.

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Vienna by District

District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten)- 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) -  Ringstraße - Surroundings

Further Reading

Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information