It’s easy to imagine Mozart and Schubert whiling away an afternoon on the red velvet banquettes at Café Frauenhuber, the oldest coffee shop in Vienna, established in 1788. Not so much at Café Phil, a short walk away. Here, patrons chat at vintage tables by shelves filled with a thoughtful selection of interior design tomes and Frida Kahlo biographies, sipping espressos served by cute baristas.

Vienna is, of course, a meticulously preserved time capsule of imperial history, with its baroque palaces, Gothic cathedrals, and storied fine-art museums. But beyond the gilded cupolas and apple strudel slices most travelers come for, the Austrian capital is effortlessly cool, a place where locals take inspiration from the history around them and layer it with their own contemporary marks. The farther travelers venture away from the Ringstrasse – the 3.3-mile loop that encircles Old Town – the more modern Vienna becomes, with minimalist art galleries in the fourth district, the seventh’s indie boutiques and airy brunch spots, and buzzy speakeasies in the ninth.

We asked four Vienna-based creative types to share what they love about their city. Here, their favorite shops, restaurants, and hidden gems – both old-school and new.

The Artist: Frau Isa

Artist Frau Isa in her studio.
Frau Isa in her Vienna studio. (Nanna Dís)

Murals by Frau Isa, a graphic designer, illustrator, and street artist, adorn buildings and park walls throughout Vienna and around the globe. Her whimsical portraits feel straight out of a Wes Anderson-endorsed fairy tale. “You have the feeling that you have to be creative here,” Isa says. “It’s in the city’s air. The art hanging everywhere is so inspiring, and there’s so much more inspiration in the streets. Young artists are taking the old and making it new.”

Museum-Hopping: “My favorite museums are the city’s most popular ones, but that’s because they’re really good: The Kunsthistorisches and the Imperial Treasury at the Hofburg are amazing, and so is the Albertina and its Dürer collections. If you’re a fan of Gustav Klimt, visit the Belvedere. It’s awesome.”

New Wave Art: “I’m a part of the Rabbit Eye Movement collective, and its gallery displays great artists. Bäckerstrasse4 is another great place to see established young artists.”

A Frau Isa mural in Vienna's Josef Strauss Park.
A Frau Isa mural in the seventh district’s Josef Strauss Park. (Nanna Dís)

Don’t Miss: “The Naschmarkt, an open-air market in the sixth district, with a lot of cafés and a flea market on Saturdays. Even more than the market, the views of the surrounding art nouveau buildings are so nice. My favorite coffee shop, Café Jelinek, is nearby.”

Perfect Saturday Night: “The Birdyard Eatery and Bar is a cocktail bar and restaurant in the eighth, and the ground floor is designed by a street artist I know – it’s beautiful, super-dark, and moody.”

The Fashion Designers: Franziska Fürpass-Kermani and Sia Kermani 

Femme Maison Vienna designers.

“Vienna is classic, timeless, and elegant; old-school but still chic,” says Franziska Fürpass-Kermani. “Viennese women are practical – they want something elegant, but they want it to be wearable. We’re kind of minimalists.” She met her husband, Sia, after graduating from Vienna’s University of Applied Arts, and the pair launched Femme Maison, inspired by classic 1970s French silhouettes and lifestyle. They’ve shown at Paris Fashion Week and been stocked in high-end boutiques around the globe, but the duo prefer to keep their pieces bespoke, working out of a bohemian atelier and boutique (it’s open to clients on Thursday afternoons and otherwise by appointment only) in the ninth district, just around the corner from their home.

Dinner Plans: “Speakeasies are becoming more popular in Vienna,” Sia says. “Pramerl & the Wolf used to be a very small restaurant with just five tables inside. They remade it in a modern way, with very good high-end cooking.”

High Fashion: “Concept shop Park in the seventh has a great selection of clothing,” Franziska says.

Liechtenstein Park in Vienna, Austria.
Vienna’s Liechtenstein Park. (Nanna Dís)

Sugar Rush:CaffèCouture is a great place to grab coffee and then walk around the first district and admire the architecture,” Franziska says. “And in the thirteenth district, Café Dommayer has amazing sweets. You can’t come to Vienna and not eat sweets.”

Worth the Crowds: “The castles, especially Schönbrunn Palace. It’s so beautiful, and when you know the story behind it, it’s really magical,” Franziska says of the UNESCO-recognized castle, the former summer home of the Habsburg royal family.

Ninth District Gem: “There’s a lot of outdoor space to enjoy when the weather is fine,” Sia says. “Liechtenstein Park is two blocks away from us. We like to work there a lot.”

The Contemporary-Art Consultant: Nathalie Halgand

Nathalie Halgand in Vienna, Austria.

Art is Nathalie Halgand’s life: The lifelong Vienna resident believes it’s possible to attend a new gallery-exhibit opening in the city every night, and art aficionados would likely run into her at plenty of them. The stylish former gallery owner now runs Young Collectors Circle, a club that encourages locals to collect contemporary art. “The quality of life here is very good, and the art scene can be navigated easily – it’s not like a London or New York City,” Halgand says. “It’s cozy, and the city’s support for the arts is very good.”

Don’t Miss: “The Secession was an association and movement founded in 1897 by a group of avant-garde artists, including Gustav Klimt. The Secession Building is beautiful, run today by young artists who decide the program. The shows are really progressive, and full of amazing contemporary art.”

The Gallery List: “The program at Gianni Manhattan is daring and unusual; the Croy Nielsen gallery moved here from Berlin and is very progressive and contemporary.”

Seasonal Sips: “From April to October, you can visit the vineyards and wineries on the outskirts of Vienna. Many of the wine taverns – including my favorite, Wieninger am Nussberg – have great Brettljause, which is a snack of cheese and charcuterie on a wooden board, plus beautiful views looking down on Vienna and the Danube.”

Desserts and candies from Altmann & Kuhne.
Sweets from Altmann & Kühne. (Nanna Dís)

To Bring Home: “A bottle of Gemischter Satz wine, beautifully packaged chocolates from Altmann & Kühne, a handmade hat from Mühlbauer, or, if you want to splurge, a pair of tailor-made shoes from Ludwig Reiter. They’re traditional Vienna.”

Top Photo: unclepodger/Getty Images 


  1. So many excitable places and people to get to know! We will be there at the end of September and showing some of these beautiful Viennese places to our son, who was actually born in this wonderful city, albeit a long time ago…

  2. What an interesting article. For a similar experience you should consider visiting Shkodra in Albania too. An old but amazing city with so much to offer. The castle of it has an amazing tale behind which makes its history even more interesting. Walking around the city and also the food and friendly people make this city truly astonishing.

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