Where to Drink With The Locals: 24 of The Best Bars in Vienna

A good way to get to know locals in Vienna? Head to a neighborhood bar. The list below includes everything from grungy dives to slick downtown cocktail dens, so you can pick what suits your fancy.

#1 Cafe Anno

Cafe Anno is a popular drinking joint for Viennese alternatives. Despite its location between bougie District 7 and upscale District 8, this is a dive bar of the best kind: low lights, wooden floors, maroon walls covered in posters, lots of intellectual types. It’s easy to love this place. Draft beers are notably delicious and affordable. Fans of foosball and darts can appropriate the designated room in the back. The music selections lean 1980s pop.

#2 Kreisky

District 7, Neubau, is the bougie part of Vienna, but you can occasionally stumble into places that don’t try so hard to be cool. One of my favorite bars around here is Kreisky, named after Austria's seminal social democratic Chancellor, Bruno Kreisky. It’s the type of grungy, graffitied-over drinking joint that’s cozy, lively, and inviting (except the bathroom). No matter whether you order a coke-and-wine combo (“cola rot” – tastes better than it sounds) or a glass of prosecco, the bartenders won’t turn up their noses at you. Daily specials include "free shots for true tears."

#3 Cafe Monic

One of the hidden jewels of Vienna's District 6 (Mariahilf), Cafe Monic is an updated dive bar, one that makes no attempt to bring attention to itself. While the outside of the building is covered in graffiti, the inside is dim with plenty of nooks and crannies. It’s the kind of bar where neither a Campari soda, nor the house lager feels out of place. The crowd consists of alternative-leaning locals in their twenties and thirties who come here for date nights and weekday drinks. Open until 4 a.m. every day.

#4 Schikadener Bar

Named after Emanuel Schikadener, who wrote the libretto for Mozart's The Magic Flute, this is a positively grungy bar along the fashionable Margaretenstraße in Vienna’s District 4. It’s all about the crowd here, which is young and cool and artistic and alternative. Friday and Saturday nights are especially fun. Also: Cheap booze and toasted sandwiches served with a generous side of ketchup. Enough said. (The premises is attached to the neighboring art cinema, Schikadener Kino. )

#5 Espresso Burggasse

Part cafe, part breakfast restaurant, part bar, Espresso is an effortlessly cool establishment in Vienna's fashionable District 7 (Neubau). Although it opened in 2004, Espresso will take you back in time to the 1960s: neon sign, red leather banquettes, small plastic-topped tables, midcentury chairs (the ceiling shows leftover frescoes from the bakery once here).

#6 Bar Campari

Curious where the Viennese upper crust winds down? Head to Campari Bar, tucked away in the city center amid Louis Vuitton, Hermés, and Prada stores. As its better known sister location around the corner, Zum Schwarzen Cameel, Campari Bar is a see-and-be-seen destination for the well-to-do. Lots of high heels, slicked-back hair, and champagne popping. The drinks menu is focused on Campari based cocktails, of which the Negroni Sbagliato – campari, vermouth, prosecco – is what the white-suited servers tend to deliver most of. The wine list leans Italian.

#7 Cafe Bendl

One of the most idiosyncratic bars of Vienna, Bendl is a lively student hangout near the City Hall (Rathaus). I haven’t been able to ascertain why so many of the young clientele sport a suit and a tie, but it surely makes for a merry sight under the yellowed walls covered in worn wall panels.

#8 Wunder-Bar

An alternative-leaning bar right in Vienna’s historic city center otherwise known for its Baroque palaces and five-star hotels? Wunder-Bar – a play on the German word for “wonderful” – hides on a small, obscure medieval street. The inside is dark and quirky, showing the strange postmodern touches of architect Hermann Czech: fading leather banquettes, decorative ribbed vaulting, inlaid marbles, space-swelling mirrors (Mr. Czech left a similar mark on the nearby Kleines Café).

#9 Kleines Cafe

Places near Vienna’s #1 attraction, the Stephansdom, must be taken with a grain of salt, but the Kleines Café is no tourist trap. During the warmer months, sit by the outdoor tables overlooking the charming Franziskanerplatz, but be sure to also take a peek inside. The truly small – kleines – cafe was designed in 1970 by the prominent Austrian architect Hermann Czech, who used inventive solutions to maximize space, such as the mirror panels behind the leather booths separated by vertical marble partitions. It's dim, cozy, and positively strange.

#10 Loos American Bar

For fans of architecture, the Loos Bar is a must while in Vienna. Adolf Loos, one of the first modern architects in history, is best-known for his infamous Looshaus (1910-12). The building, made for a high-end tailor shop, has a provocatively simple upper facade that outraged the Habsburg royal court living across the street from it.

#11 Schadekgasse12 / Liebling 2

Schadekgasse 12, a fashionable cafe and bar in Vienna's District 6, comes into its own in the evenings when soft electronic music streams from the background and the Millennial crowd pours out to the sidewalk. This is mainly a sit-down bar and a see-and-be-seen venue for chic Viennese alternative types. I prefer this location to its sister institution just up the street, Liebling, where the hipster vibes feel less effortless.

#12 Cafe Weidinger

Weidinger is a very special cafe in Vienna, but – warning! – it may not be for everyone. This unpretentious establishment is located along the Gürtel in District 16, well away from downtown and its tourist and bourgeois-heavy crowds. Some decades ago, the brown walls had to have been yellow, the gray upholstery blue, the formica tables unblemished. Here, you’ll be with regular Viennese: mid-level office workers, community organizers, foreign workers, daydreamers, students.

#13 Cafe Habakuk

Habakuk is where hip and alternative Viennese Millennials from District 6 go to drink. At its core, Habakuk is an unfussy dive bar, just more cozy and intimate. The main room is dark and lined with small tables and a cushy banquette. Perfect for a date night. As it should, the music gets increasingly better and louder as the night progresses.

#14 Cafe Carina

Part bar, part concert venue, Carina is a longstanding drinking den in Vienna located along the Gürtel – the busy road connecting inner and outer city – and the crowd is accordingly mixed on most days. Notably, Carina occupies the ground floor of the grand Josefstädter Straße subway station, one of the 1895 masterpieces of architect Otto Wagner.

#15 Kaffee Alt-Wien

Kaffee Alt-Wien is different from your typical elegant Viennese coffeehouse: here film and museum posters blanket the seasoned walls and a distinctly bohemian vibe fills the dim interior. The place was best known as the hangout of painters and poets in the 1980s, many of whom still appear in the evenings when most of the action is, alongside beer-loving members of the Croatian and Hungarian communities. Being smack in the middle of the city center means that Alt-Wien gets its share of tourists during the day, but its native bohemian spirit is very much alive.

#16 Cafe Kafka

“Vienna is boring,” is something I often hear from Budapest friends. All the prosperity leaves little room for a bit of irreverence, they say. Too much melange, too little espresso, if you will. I like to point them to Cafe Kafka to prove this isn’t so. Opened in 2001, this edgy, alternative bar draws many art students who would seamlessly blend into Budapest’s bohemian scene (ironically, Kafka is just steps away from Mariahilfer Straße, the main shopping street). No matter whether you come here at 11 am or 11 pm, the place is filled to capacity.

#17 Cafe Europa

Compared with its self-consciously edgy neighbor, Liebling, Europa is a relaxed and mainstream bar and an institution in District 7. Clean-shaven guys in button–downs, mustache-and-beanie-wearing hipsters, and everyone in between appear here (please make the sartorial equivalent for women customers, too). Europa is big and popular and if you need a bar in Vienna that will deliver any day of the week, this is it.

#18 Futuregarden

Dim space, disco lights, ear-catching electronic music drifting from the background – what else can you wish for on a Saturday late night in Vienna? Affordable drinks and good company perhaps, and that too Futuregarden, a longtime atmospheric bar in the heart of Mariahilf (District 6), delivers. It’s a good place to meet people and even to move your feet as the night progresses. Weekdays tend to be slower.

#19 Xeno

Located on Schleifmühlgasse, the lively street in District 4 lined with art galleries and bars, Xeno is a special kind of neighborhood dive bar. This being the gallery district means that artpieces adorn the inside: a Jeff Koons-inspired lighting fixture, a Pollock-honoring abstract painting, a Fauvist contemporary piece, for example. As with any inviting drinking joint, the crowd is eclectic. The music, heavy on rock and roll, is consistently excellent.

#20 Bukowski The Pub

Located in the heart of District 7, Bukowski is a grungy, unpretentious bar mainly for Viennese students. Oversized prints of pop legends adorn the walls, those of Charles Bukowski of course, but also MLK, Che Guevara, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. Naturally, cheap booze is the focus here, mainly beer and wine spritzers, but cider fans won’t be disappointed either (apple! pear! strawberry!). Open until 6 a.m., every day.

#21 Jazzcafe SOFA

Young Viennese hipsters and middle-aged regulars stand elbow-to-elbow at this dim, austere, and not particularly charming drinking den that wouldn’t be wrong to characterize as a dive bar. But the loyal customers and the lively ambiance give soul to Jazzcafe and make it worth your attention. Drinks are low-priced, and the eclectic music selections include jazz, 1980s French pop, and everything in between. The neighborhood, Vienna’s District 7, is home to many bars, so you could drop in to nearby Kreisky, too.

#22 Schmauswaberl

If you think Vienna is too wealthy and civilized for grungy, run-down, alternative dive bars, please make your way to Schmauswaberl, located near the Naschmarkt. It’s the type of place where walls are graffitied over and cleanliness isn’t a priority, but where longtime regulars and young art students fill the space with energy. Open until 2 a.m. daily in a city that goes to sleep early.

#23 Cafe Frame

Located away from the city center, in the mainly working-class district of Brigittenau near Augarten, Frame is a neighborhood bar if there ever was one. The cheap midcentury interior – faux leather upholstery, formica tables – doesn’t seem to bother the mixed group of customers, almost all of whom are recurring faces. Some lean against the counter with paper in hand for hours on end, others play board games in the back, and yet others chat away animatedly with occasional interjections from other guests. Soups and sausages are available to mop up the alcohol. Cash only.

#24 Phil

Part specialty café, part bookstore, part bar, Phil is a neighborhood institution in Mariahilf (District 6), near the city center. No matter the time of day, a young and fashionable crowd fills the bright interior furnished with vintage chairs and lighting fixtures. While mainly a coffee shop and breakfast restaurant, beer and wine-lovers appear in the evenings. The book selections include many English titles by current and historical authors including Michelle Obama, Stephen King, and Philip Roth. A more traditional café, Sperl, is located just across the street. Note: laptops aren’t welcome!

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I also never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you've enjoyed this article, please consider making a one-time payment (PayPal) or becoming an Offbeat Patron.