Many visitors of Vienna spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the beautiful palaces (Schönbrunn, Hofburg, The Belvedere), churches and the great museums that Vienna has to offer. Nothing wrong with that of course, but you will spend much of your time queuing with fellow tourists.
Wouldn’t you like to spend at least part of your city trip away from the tourist trail, and go where the locals go? Our locals created the Spotted by Locals Vienna blog & app to help you experience our city like we locals do. In this article we picked some local gems in Vienna, discovered by our very own team of Spotters.
It is a well-known fact that the Viennese are obsessed with death. Passing on to the other side is not merely acknowledged, it is celebrated. So it quite rightly follows that Vienna should have one of the most extravagant cemeteries anywhere.
Zentralfriedhof is so huge that it has its own internal bus route. Some of Europe’s most famous, er, dead people are lying here and its enormous size ensures a chance for quiet reflection.
One of Vienna’s nicest Jugendstil churches stands proudly at the center. Expect to spend upwards of two hours exploring! — David Titcumb
The ’60s style by the lake
The first time I came across Donaupark, I was not too sure whether to like it or not. Part of it seemed very “out of date” and the flower beds and the style in which many plants were arranged, looked a bit old-fashioned.
Set up in 1964, more than 40 years ago, on a once huge dump, it all started with a big international garden exhibition. And artifacts of those days can still be found. One of it is the very special Korea Kulturhaus, beside the pretty Iris-Lake.
The glass and concrete house in 60’s style architecture used to be a lake restaurant, now you can dive into Korean culture. — Linda Nepicks
Tower of fools
The tower called Narrenturm was built in 1784 and back then it was the first psychiatric hospital in the world. The Narrenturm is part of the area that had once been the general hospital of Vienna, and since 1998 it’s the campus of the main university.
Nowadays the tower is home to Vienna’s Pathologic-anatomical Museum. One can have a look at human and animal exhibits. This museum is definitely something one doesn’t get the chance to see in every city!
The only drawback one could find is the very limited opening hours, but this way the visit is just more of an exclusive one. — Julia Heiligenbrunner
At a mad tea party
For me, the trend of the hour is definitely pottery. Pottery’s everywhere. Whether it’s Instagram or Pinterest or any other internet platform. Not to say that pottery is not beautiful, which is why I decided to write about Feine Dinge Manufaktur.
What you’ll find there are all sorts of pottery, from tableware, home accessories to illuminating objects. Every item is unique and produced locally, within their own property, with the oven only a few meters away from the final products.
Once you have entered, you might truly believe that you are about to drink tea at a mad tea party! — Tina Haselbacher
Priceless music for free
There’s this one great thing to do while being in Vienna, enabling you to enjoy a concert without spending a dime. At the Music University, students get to present their artistic and creative progress in public in their class presentations.
Going beyond, there’s a great variety of acoustic matinees, vocals soirees and music brunches being communicated over their website. And as it is situated right next to Belvedere you’re likely to have a great view from the showroom as well.
Music within magnificent yesteryear architecture, with excerpts of Vienna’s bright musical future? Sold. — Sabrina Grohsebner
Οld-school game bar
They do not get much more interesting and authentic than Cafe Sperlhof! Anyone looking for a place completely frozen in the Viennese past, while also looking for a leisure-time activity, need look no further.
The yellowed walls and wood paneling are the first indications of the character, but the truly unique aspect of Sperlhof is the giant stacks of board games, puzzles, and chess boards piling up. The columns are free to peruse and play, but you are also welcome to bring your own.
The beer is cheap and the owner is as Viennese as a Sachertorte, gruff and friendly, with a heart of gold. — Christopher Taylor
Breathing life into bikes
No good bikes should be consigned to the scrapheap, according to the mantra of joint owners of Reanimated Bikes Pete and Rich. It is literally unbelievable how many bikes are given in for these guys to fix up.
Bikes that have been rescued from cellars, bikes that have been left forlornly locked to poles, bikes that are donated by those who have no space for them any longer. They get stripped down, pimped up and eventually ridden off.
They are the perfect duo to resuscitate your old steel steed and get it back on the road. — David Titcumb
Craft beer & music venue in a train factory
The WUK (Werkstätten- und Kulturhaus) in the 9th district is a stellar locale for all bohemian types looking not only for a place to grab a beer, but to find an entire community center full of open-minded, creative & warm people.
Situated only two tram stops from Schottentor (in the direction of the 18th and 19th districts), the WUK is a unique cross between gastropub, beer garden, cultural center, and music venue. — Christopher Taylor
Where the wild pigs roam
Want to leave the city and go for a walk, combined with a little thrill? Lainzer Tiergarten, a huge forest, part of the Wiener Wald, on the outskirts of Vienna, might be the right thing.
Here you can walk for hours and – depending on which gate you take to enter the park – on weekdays sometimes you won’t meet any human beings, but: wild pigs! But even if you don’t encounter any game, the forest is worth visiting at any time of the year.
Even the Empress Elisabeth of Austria quite often preferred the countryside to downtown Vienna and had a little villa out here. — Linda Nepicks
Antiques for you(r home)
This is a place where you either spend a lot of €uros (in any case: haggle!) or probably not a single cent. However, I do think it’s miraculous to just go there for a touch of the past.
One doesn’t refuse to go to a museum because they can’t buy & take home the art that is exposed there, right? Every time I’m bringing friends, they love it at Glasfabrik. It is special.
And what I like best about this free ‘museum’ of antiques and oddities is that it is constantly changing! — Julia Heiligenbrunner
Art Nouveau architecture
Being an architect, I’ve always been in love with the Art Nouveau scene of Vienna. It was back in 2008 (I had just started my studies in architecture at that time) when I first noticed the Majolika house on Wienzeile.
It’s like two things I absolutely love combined: architecture and nature. Allow yourself to take a broad look at the building. It’s like a gigantic flower! You’ll encounter the overall floral concept everywhere.
I am passionate about flowers and it might not come as a surprise to you that the Majolika house has stolen my heart! — Tina Haselbacher
Nostalgia in between
Viennese painter and sculptor Peter Strudel founded the ‘Strudlhof’, a private painting school and later Imperial Painting Academy in 1690. Some years after his death Strudlhofstiege was built right next to the Academy’s location.
It’s situated right in between two main roads of Alsergrund. I can’t help but love this place. Just think about it! Year after year, generation after generation, this staircase watched Vienna’s city life passing by.
Within all this time this spot was lucky to share so many moments, so many stories to tell! — Sabrina Grohsebner