Eight of the best bars in Vienna

From an old-school family drinking den plastered with film posters to a chic rooftop bar with its own viewing platform, we take you through some of the Austrian capital's best spots to drink.

By Ellen Himelfarb
Published 4 Aug 2022, 06:05 BST
Kaffee Alt Wien, where the walls are adorned with classic posters; a redcurrant aperitif at Spelunke.

Kaffee Alt Wien, where the walls are adorned with classic posters; a redcurrant aperitif at Spelunke.

Photograph by Stefan Fuertbauer

1. Cafe Europa
Best for: A nightcap

Zollergasse, a side street in the 7th district, has blossomed with lively cafes after it was recently pedestrianised. Europa, one of the oldest and the overwhelming favourite, has modernist primary-colour seating and is so lively that residents overlooking it have been known to move their bedrooms to avoid the noise. Patrons — old teetotalers, young cocktail-swillers — all seem to know the friendly staff. Best of all, Europa stays open most nights until 5am.

2. Kaffee Alt Wien
Best for: A classic beer

This old-school, family business has smartened up since the days when cigarette smoke stained its walls brown. Today, those walls are plastered with film posters, much like a Parisian brasserie, though if you ask for a glass of French rosé, you’ll be deemed ‘fancy’. The menu is short and unpretentious, offering house reds, whites, brandy and a few beers on tap. You could do worse than a cold Schladminger lager, brewed in the mountains near Salzburg. 

3. Tür 7
Best for: Inventive cocktails

Find your way to the unsigned ‘door 7’ on nondescript Buchfeldgasse and ring for entry. It sounds like a pretentious way to start the night, yet this shoebox speakeasy provides a warm welcome. While the chummy doorman hangs up your coat, the bartender will strike up a conversation and design a bespoke cocktail based on what he learns about you (I got vodka, bitters, chartreuse and Corsican Escubac). Plus, you’ll enjoy free popcorn at your velvet banquette. 

4. MQ Libelle
Best for: Grand views

On the roof of the Leopold Museum, MQ Libelle is billed as a viewing platform and art venue, where a free lift will take you up to the panorama of domes and spires that make up central Vienna’s skyline. Stay for a glass of Austrian white wine at one of the outdoor tables, priced very reasonably at around €3.50 (£3). Time your visit for night, when Brigitte Kowanz’s permanent neon sculptures switch on and the whole place glows. 

A redcurrant aperitif at Spelunke.

Photograph by Stefan Fuertbauer

5. Motto am Fluss
Best for: Sundowners

Young Austrians refer to cocktail hour as AWB, or “after-work beer”. And one bend of the Danube Canal is rich in places to indulge — suave cocktail joints that reflect the water in their glassy facades. Motto — a riverside bar shaped like the catamarans in the water below that depart for Bratislava (“fluss” is German for “flow”) — is accessed by a shallow gangplank-like staircase. Hit the cafe, which is cheaper and more casual than the below-deck restaurant, and sip a Rhabarbara Ann gin and rhubarb cocktail. 

Best for: Bohemian vibes

By day there’s a laptop on every table; by night there’s a chilled drink, while everyone mills about, browses the bookshelves and admires the mid-century lamps (all for sale) that crowd the ceiling. The Austrian white wines are incredibly good value at €3 (£2.50), so the front terrace — kitted out with bistro tables in Bauhaus colours — fills up fast. If you’re feeling cramped, spill over into If Dogs Run Free, the slick cocktail joint next door. 

7. Cafe in Der Burggasse 24
Best for: People-watching

Vienna’s most popular vintage shop, Burggasse 24 is stocked with affordable works by Helmut Lang and Jil Sander. You’ll want to linger, so it’s nice to have an in-house café in the sunny, plant-festooned rear where you can pause with a drink and enjoy the house beats. The cafe stays open past store hours and is populated by effortlessly fashionable folks who look as if they were paid to model the wares. Try to snag the vintage elevator, converted into an intimate table for two.

8. Der Dachboden
Best for: Swingin’ hipsters

Der Dachboden might be set in a hotel, but all Vienna comes to party at its rooftop bar. The menu is stocked with sexy cocktails such as the one night stand (gin with balsamic and strawberry liqueur) and the look is a mishmash of neon art, retro knick-knacks and deep Italian sofas — though you’ll struggle to find a seat after dinner hours. But that’s OK: there’s space on the wraparound terrace within earshot of the booming electropop, rockabilly and swing. 

Published in the July/August 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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