Now Reading
The 8 coolest places to take a date in Vienna

The 8 coolest places to take a date in Vienna

The romantic Schönbrunn Palace, an icon of Vienna

Vienna’s status as one of the leading European LGBTI destinations didn’t peak with the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, you know.

Yes, the fierce and fabulous bearded lady Conchita Wurst put her hometown on the map when she won it in 2014.

vienna_austria
Photo: Pixabay

And yes, the Austrian capital did a fantastically camp job of hosting the following year. (Followed by Stockholm last year and, erm, Kiev this year).

But the reverberations of Vienna’s moment in the gay sun can still be felt today. This city of roughly 1.7 million is wonderfully, truly LGBTI-friendly. Even the traffic lights are gay.

But, in its way, it’s friendly towards everyone. Perhaps because the people who live here are really, really happy. Vienna topped Mercer’s 2016 Quality of Living Ranking, measuring the happiness of city-dwellers around the world.

In the country proper, things aren’t perfect. A far-right political trend is gaining momentum, and same-sex marriage is still not legal, although Austria introduced civil partnerships in 2010.

schloss-schoenbrunn
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud

But Austria comes in at a respectable number 13 (64%) on ILGA-Europe’s ranking of 49 European countries in order of LGBTI human rights, ahead of Iceland, Greece and Germany.

And I for one would feel safer expressing gay love in Vienna than I would certain cities where I actually can wed. (I’m looking at you, London.)

Sweetness and light hangs in the air in this peaceful, beautiful metropolis. Just look at Disney-esque Schönbrunn Palace [above], built in 1699.

So here, we look at seven ways to romance your lover in a city that rivals Paris with its amorous credentials…

Wien Tourismus, Shopping, Wien, 2013, copyright www.peterrigaud.com
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud

1 Treat them to something special in one of Vienna’s many boutique stores

Vienna reminds me of Stockholm and Reykjavik in that it’s crammed with independently-owned stores, selling tasteful knick-knacks and clothes by local designers.

A classic example is the charming phil, near Vienna’s Naschmarkt [below]. It’s so much more than a bookshop – quite literally in fact.

Sorry Gotta get my theme rollinnnnn #bookshop #dontevenread

A photo posted by Chloe Tabberer (@c.hlo) on

It’s also a cafe, bar and hipster hideout, and looks like somebody’s impeccably-decorated front room. It’s the kind of place where you stop by for a coffee and cake (more on which later), and involuntarily leave with a feng shui manual.

Also worth checking out is famous food market Naschmarkt, and the Saturday flea market therein.

Leopoldmusum, Wien, 2015 copyright www.peterrigaud.com
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud

2 Take in some culture in the MuseumsQuartier

You could easily spend an entire weekend in the MuseumsQuartier. Covering 60,000 square meters, it’s the eighth largest cultural quarter in the world.

Your first stop should be the Leopold Museum, dedicated to modern Austrian art. The raw power and bizarre sexuality of Egon Schiele’s portraits [pictured above] are engrained on my memory forever.

Leopoldmusum, Wien, 2015 copyright www.peterrigaud.com
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud

We also loved the modern art museum mumok, with its arresting cubic exterior, coated in grey basalt-lava stone. Inside, you’ll find works by Andy Warhol and Alberto Giacometti.

Then, if it’s warm enough, sit and chill in the courtyard’s huge blue chairs while enjoying the Baroque surroundings.

3 The great Viennese tradition of coffee and cake (perhaps served by grandmas)

Coffee culture is ubiquitous in 2017. Coffee shops are even replacing the trusty pub as the social space of choice in Britain. But Austria is one of the places where it all started.

Forget chaotic mega chains. In Vienna, it’s all about elegant interiors, mountains of handmade cake and pastry, and exquisite, perfect coffee. And in many cases, absurd hipster concepts gone horribly right.

One such place is vollpension (full pension), where elaborate cake is served almost exclusively by adorable older ladies. It’s hands down one of the loveliest coffee shops I’ve ever visited, anywhere. Seriously.

And in case you’re wondering, it’s not at all exploitative. The women working when we stopped by seemed were incredibly cheerful and welcoming, and clearly enjoyed their work.

ringstrasse-naturhistorisches-museum-kunsthistorisches-museum-volksgarten-parlament-palais-epstein-40711-19to1
© WienTourismus/Christian Stemper

4 Cycle the Ringstrasse

Weather permitting, a once around Vienna’s famous ring road – formally a wall protecting the oldest part of the city – is a must. This fairly flat boulevard takes in some of Vienna’s most famous sights and architectural wonders.

In the very least least, follow the road from Museumsquartier to the Maria-Theresien-Platz, Vienna’s stunning public square. Here, you’ll find two grand, near-identical buildings standing opposite each other: the Naturhistorisches Museum  and the Kunsthistorisches Museum [above].

Other buildings to look out for include the Vienna State Opera, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the Palace of Justice.

Stop off at the Volksgarten [above], one of Vienna’s many perfectly-manicured green spaces, for a spot of people-watching with your beau.

Riesenrad_vienna
Photo: Pixabay

5 A ride on the the Riesenrad

At almost 65m tall, this famous ferris wheel is a great vantage point for panoramic views of the city. Despite the throwback charm of its appearance – it was originally opened 126 years ago, before being severely damaged in the Second World War – it feels entirely modern and safe once you’re inside.

The Crystalline Luxury Cabin can be reserved for proposals, and other special occasions. Celebrate (or commiserate) afterwards with a delicious snack at sausage stand Bitzinger, next to the Riesenrad.

Photo: Wikimedia
Photo: Wikimedia

The wheel is the jewel in the crown of the greater Wurstelprater amusement park, which is free to visit. It’s found in the sprawling Prater Park (also worth cycling around).

It’s not the most cutting edge fairground in the world. But if you’re a fan of charming, tried-and-tested favourites – bumper cars, ghost trains, swing carousels – you’ll be in your element.

6 Enjoy a romantic dinner at Motto

For a perfect Viennese meal, our motto is Motto. Expect refined, updated versions of various local Austrian dishes, that combine traditional and trendy ingredients.

The current menu boasts potato and baked apple fritters with stewed red cabbage and chestnut; freshwater char with juniper berry and sauerkraut; venison; plus celery soup and sweet potato dumplings, among other dishes.

Welcome 2017! Our team will be here for you 365 days without a break #mottowien #2017smellsgoooood

A photo posted by Motto (@mottowien) on

The majority of the service staff are gay guys, and it’s perfectly-located for exploring the clutch of gay bars in the area afterwards.

For a reputable Wiener schnitzel popular with locals, try Huth Gastwirtschaft. The beloved national dish of breaded veal cutlet is everywhere in Vienna. If you have issues with veal, do your research before you dine.

cafe_savoy

7 Go for a drink in the gay neighborhood

Vienna is a medium-sized city with a pleasantly surprising number of LGBTI venues. These include, for cocktail lovers, Mango; for fetishists, Hard On; and for women, Frauenzentrum Bar. Furthermore, I loved the chic art nouveau stylings of queer cafe/pub/bar Cafe Savoy. For other needs, try Romersauna. Scope them all out on an LGBTI walking tour with the tourist board (request Niki König, who is excellent).

I can’t stop raving about the fantastic Why Not Clubdisco, which at first glance is tiny, but is in fact deceptively big, boasting three bars across multiple levels. It’s good clean fun with an unabashedly poppy soundtrack. I met a Viennese guy who was studying miles away from the city, but still ventured back most weekends to hang out with his friends there.

vienna_hotel
Photo by Stephan Lemke for 25hours Hotels

8 A stay in a gorgeous boutique hotel

The four star 25hours Hotel beim MuseumsQuartier proved the perfect base for exploring many of the activities on this list, and is a virtual stone’s throw from its namesake.

I loved the eccentricity of the rooms, the view from the rooftop bar and the extensive continental breakfast buffet.


I also loved the friendly staff and free wi-fi. But my favourite thing about the hotel was the free access to their bicycle collection.

It should be obligatory for all hotels to offer this. Renting bikes is usually an ordeal. This was painless to arrange. You’ll be creating cherished memories on the Ringstrasse, with or without a better half, in no time.

For more information about LGBTI Vienna, visit the official tourist board website, which has a very comprehensive queer sectionFor more information on exploring Vienna generally, visit www.vienna.info 

25hours Vienna offers double rooms (on a room only basis) from €89 ($107, €102) per night.

Gay Star News traveled to Gatwick Airport on the Gatwick Express: get 10% when you book online. Trains run every 15 minutes from Victoria and Gatwick Airport.