Where to Drink With The Locals: 29 of The Best Bars in Vienna

A good way to assess a city's vibes? 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.

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 brainy types. Draft beers are notably delicious and affordable. Fans of foosball and darts can appropriate the designated room in the back. The music selections lean catchy 1980s pop.

District 7 is the fashionable part of Vienna, but you can stumble into places that don’t try so hard. One of my favorite dive bars around here is Kreisky, named after Austria's seminal social democratic Chancellor, Bruno Kreisky. It’s a grungy, graffitied-over drinking joint that’s also lively and inviting (except for its 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."

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. 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.

This positively grungy dive bar lining the fashionable Margaretenstraße in Vienna’s District 4 is named after Emanuel Schikaneder for good reason. Schikaneder, a comic actor, playwright, and theater entrepreneur, wrote the libretto to Mozart's Magic Flute, which was premiered at the nearby Freihaustheater in 1791.

It’s all about the crowd, which is young and cool and artistic and alternative. Friday and Saturday nights are especially lively. Also here: cheap booze and toasted sandwiches buried in ketchup. (The bar is attached to the neighboring art cinema, Schikaneder Kino.)

Vienna’s Klemo delivers that combination so rare with wine bars: a top wine program and a pretense-free ambiance. Here, no one will expect you to know the difference in soil between Bordeaux and Burgundy, but you won't be alone if that sort of thing gets you going. Around seventy wines are served by the glass, mainly Austrian, French, and Italian, in addition to daily tasting lineups such as "6 Rieslings of Wachau," "6 Reds from the Northern Rhone," or "6 Austrian Sweets."

The food also merits attention: the Päpstliche Platte, a collection of cold cuts, cheeses, and pickles; homemade pappardelle with pesto or chorizo and dressed with parmesan; crème brulée – they have been mainstays on the menu since the opening in 2006. If a wine has caught your attention, you can buy it at Klemo’s spacious wine store located across the street.

Part cafe, part breakfast restaurant, part bar, Espresso is an effortlessly cool establishment in Vienna's fashionable District 7. 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).

The breakfast dishes and the lunch specials are delicious, the coffee distinctly old school. Evenings also get lively, when the place transforms into a natural wine-forward bar. Both the servers and the crowd are trend-conscious, but not in a pretentious way. Closed on Sunday.

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 deliver most of. The wine list leans Italian.

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 strangely merry sight under the yellowed walls covered in worn wall panels.

As the night unfolds, the energy level rises, beer coasters fly (keep the tradition alive and join the coaster battle!), and Austrian evergreens stream from the jukebox. €1 will buy you not one, but three songs. Cleanliness doesn't seem to be a priority here, but Bendl makes up for it in good spirit and character.

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).

The crowd is young and relatively bohemian (this is swanky land, after all). The excellent musical selections include contemporary indie hits anywhere from Russia to South America. Depending on the bartender, the service can be kind or less so.

Places near Vienna’s #1 attraction, the Stephansdom, must be taken with a grain of salt, but the Kleines Café is no tourist trap. The outdoor tables overlooking the charming Franziskanerplatz are predictably nice, but be sure to also glimpse the inside. The truly small – kleines – cafe was designed in 1970 by the prominent Austrian architect Hermann Czech. In the vein of his idol, Adolf Loos, he used inventive solutions to maximize space, such as the mirror panels behind the leather booths split by vertical marble partitions. Dim, cozy, and positively strange.

The Kleines Cafe is packed at all times, but try to score a seat from which you can observe the crowd. In the evenings, when tourists have retired, it becomes a locals' spot with many of the stylish, longtime regulars. Price points reflect the central location.

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), a provocatively undecorated building that outraged the Habsburg royal court living across the street from it on Michaelerplatz.

The American Bar (1907), hidden on a downtown side street off Kärntner Straße, embodies the stylistic philosophy of Loos: exquisite materials marble, mahogany, alabaster without superfluous decorations. The dim cocktail bar is tiny, the impact is striking (lots of mirrors are meant to enlarge the space). That portrait hanging on the wall: he's Peter Altenberg, a close friend of Loos and a famous Viennese coffeehouse poet.

The crowd is heavy on tourists and scoring one of the few precious seats is nearly impossible, but a visit is worth it for a peek at least. Try going during off-hours.

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.

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. Here, you’ll be with regular Viennese: mid-level office workers, community organizers, foreign workers, daydreamers, students. The low price points and all-inviting atmosphere bring together this eclectic group.

Some decades ago, the brown walls must have been yellow, the gray upholstery blue, the formica tables unblemished. Oh well. Apart from alcohol and surprisingly good coffee, they also serve some basic dishes – goulash soup, scrambled eggs, toasted sandwiches. The evenings draw Viennese hipsters, as well as card, pool, and bowling players (the bowling alley is below-ground).

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

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.

I like to warm up to my Carina visit with drinks and some grub at Weinhaus Sittl, an old-school, traditional Austrian restaurant across the street. Be sure to check the concert schedule before you go as things are slow on off days.

Kaffee Alt-Wien isn't your typical Vienna coffeehouse: here film and museum posters blanket the seasoned walls and a distinctly bohemian vibe fills the dim interior. The place is best known as the hangout of painters and poets in the 1980s. Some of them 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, but its native spirit is very much alive.

“Vienna is boring.” 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 bar draws many people who would seamlessly blend into Budapest’s alternative scene (ironically, Kafka is just steps away from Mariahilfer Straße, the main shopping street). No matter whether you come here at 11 a.m. or 11 p.m., the place is filled to capacity.

Vintage film posters decorate the worn walls and vintage too is the wood-burning stove that provides heating in the cool months. Laptops are permitted and there’s wifi and electric outlets for lingerers. A few of the servers are known for their bad attitude, but I don't let them spoil the fun.

Wieninger am Nussberg is one of the growing number of Heurigers in Vienna that are located high up on the hillside. The panoramic views and a carefree environment right amid the vineyards draw young and chic – and sometimes rowdy – locals, who otherwise turn up their noses at the old-school Heurigers down in the city.

The wines come from Fritz Wieninger, the father of Viennese winemaking, who makes both excellent whites – Gemischter Satz, too, of course – and easy-drinking reds. The food comprises tasty Viennese classics. The best way to get here from the city center is taking tram #37 to the last stop (Hohe Warte), then walking the remainder of the way, about 30 minutes, the last section right through the vineyards. Open Thursday to Sunday in the outdoor season.

If the well-known Heurigers of Vienna’s District 19 in Grinzing and Nussdorf feel overly touristy, I suggest you head to Mauer on the other side of town. Here hides the charming Heuriger of Michael Edlmoser, a leading Viennese winemaker.

Edlmoser himself is among the servers who slalom through the crowd with tender pork belly slices, Liptauer and creamy egg spreads, or apple and cottage cheese strudels in hand. And of course wines. Start with his classic Wiener Gemischter Satz, then move on to the Rieslings, among the best in Austria. Be sure to check the opening hours – asg’steckt – as they’re open for two-week intervals at a time.

Heuriger Muth is the name if you'd like to experience a typical Heuriger in the center of Heurigerville, that is, the Grinzing neighborhood of Vienna's District 19. Enter through the barrel-vaulted courtyard, select some cold cuts and spreads – spicy Liptauer! – from the display case, then settle down under the soaring chestnut tree with a glass or two of easy-drinking Gemischter Satz, the local Viennese wine. Proprietor Michael Landrichter, also busy serving guests, gathered an especially kind group of servers. More good news: excellent warm dishes too and not overrun by tourists.

Heurigers are a Vienna specialty: charming wine taverns in the suburbs, near the city’s famed vineyards. But what if you don't have the time or energy to trek out to Grinzing and Nussberg in Heuriger-land? You find the best alternative in the city, which is Weinstube Josefstadt. It's a small drinking joint in the elegant District 8, with residential houses towering over its ivy-covered outdoor garden.

While technically not a Heuriger – they don't make their own wines – the place looks and feels like one. Meatballs, roast pork belly, egg and liptauer spreads, spinach, apple, and cottage-cheese strudels are stocked in the glass display. The wines: Gemischter Satz (Vienna's white), Blaufränkisch, and Zweigelt. Note that Weinstube Josefstadt shuts down for the winter, from November until February.

Walk into this downtown watering hole on a weekday, and you’ll glance a mellow and predictable bar crowd: students, construction workers, graying alcoholics, a few oldtimers in the back huddling over a chessboard. Come Saturday evening, and things turn very lively. An influx of young Viennese are drawn here by the old-school vibes (jukebox!), low prices, and central location. Needless to say: you're here for the atmosphere, not the quality of drinks. Cash only and open until 2 a.m. every night!

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 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.

Xeno is a reflection of its neighborhood, the art gallery-filled Schleifmühlgasse in Vienna's District 4. This dive bar is decorated with a Jeff Koons-inspired lighting fixture, a Pollock-honoring abstract painting, and 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.

If you’re like me and get a kick out of weathered neighborhood institutions with a beating heart, then be sure to mark up your map with Weinhaus Sittl. The patrons span Viennese young adults, senior citizens, and everyone in between. What draws them here? The friendly price points, surely, but also the surprisingly tasty dishes: cold cuts, schnitzel, meatballs, and even the Kaiserschmarrn can hold its own. And the server-proprietor sisters: Leila and Anna.

They represent the fourth generation at Sittl and treat everyone with the same no-nonsense kindness, whether you're a cool hipster or a downtrodden senior in for a nightcap. Sittl is located on a not particularly pretty part of Vienna by the Gürtel, a car-heavy three-lane road. But once you step inside, the venerable patina of the place, which opened in 1914, will make you forget the noisy traffic outside. In nice weather, try the outdoor garden too. Weekdays only!

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.

If you think Vienna is too wealthy and civilized for truly 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 at least until 2 a.m. daily in a city that goes to sleep early.

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.

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 the 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. Also here: soups and sausages. Cash only!