Where to Drink With The Locals: 19 of The Best Bars in Vienna

A good way to get to know locals in any city? 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 Monic

One of the hidden gems of Mariahilf (District 6), 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 and cozy 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.

#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 famous social democratic Chancellor, Bruno Kreisky. It’s the type of grungy, graffitied-over drinking joint that’s also cozy and inviting and lively. No matter whether you order a coke-and-wine combo (“cola rot” – tastes better than it sounds) or a glass of prosecco, the kind bartenders won’t turn up their noses at you. The crowd is heavy on alternative Millennials.

#3 Schadekgasse12 / Liebling 2

Schadekgasse 12 is a fashionable cafe and bar in District 6 which comes into its own in the evenings, when soft electronic music streams from the background and the hip 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 can feel less effortless.

#4 Bar Campari

Curious where the Viennese upper crust winds down? Head to the 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.

#5 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. 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.

#6 Espresso Burggasse

Part cafe, part breakfast restaurant, part bar, Espresso is an effortlessly cool establishment in Vienna's fashionable Neubau neighborhood (District 7). Opened in 2004, Espresso will take you back in time to the 1960s: neon sign, red leather banquettes, small plastic-topped tables, mid-century chairs (the ceiling shows leftover frescoes from the bakery once here). The coffee is distinctly old school, but the breakfast dishes are excellent. Evenings are most lively, when locals with a bohemian flair – most of them in their 30s, others well past that – consume beers and natural wines in generous quantities. Note that Espresso is closed on the weekends.

#7 Cafe Anno

Cafe Anno is a longstanding drinking joint along Vienna’s Lerchenfelder Straße. Despite its location between 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, alternative intellectuals with beers in hand, weekly literary events. It’s easy to love this place. The soft background music leans ‘80s rock: Nancy Sinatra, Chris Isaac, Patti Smith, and more. Fans of foosball and darts can appropriate the designated side room.

#8 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, famously outraged the Habsburg Court with his Looshaus (1910-12), a department store with a provocatively simple facade located right across the home of the royal couple. With the American Bar (1907), hidden on a downtown side street off Kärntner Straße, Loos used expensive marble, mahogany, and alabaster fittings. The cocktail bar is tiny, the impact is striking. The crowd is usually 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.

#9 Schikadener Bar

Located along the lively Margaretenstraße in Vienna’s District 4, Schikaneder is a grungy bar attached to the neighboring art cinema, Schikadener Kino. 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.

To remain unbiased, I visit all places incognito and pay for my own meals and drinks. I never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this means I must rely on readers to support my work. If you're enjoying this article, please consider making a one-time payment (PayPal, Venmo) or becoming an Offbeat Patron.

#10 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.

#11 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, but it’s a lot more cozy and intimate than that. 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.

#12 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.

#13 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, it’s filled to capacity.

#14 Futuregarden

Dim space, disco lights, ear-catching electronic music drifting from the background – what else can you wish for on a Saturday 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.

#15 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 lovable drinking joint, the crowd is eclectic and colorful. The music, heavy on rock and roll, is consistently excellent.

#16 Cafe Frame

Located away from the city center, near Augarten, Frame is a true 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.

#17 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.

#18 Schmauswaberl

If you think Vienna is too wealthy and civilized for grungy, 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. in a city that goes to sleep early.

#19 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.