The U.S. has Craig’s List. Brits adore Gumtree. But Austria has Willhaben, the country’s biggest peer-to-peer marketplace for secondhand goods.

But it’s more than just an online flea market – it’s a wonderful way to see Vienna’s nooks and crannies.

So, you’re new in Vienna and you’ve finally got your paws on a coveted set of apartment keys. Next stop IKEA, right? No! Don’t be boring! There’s another way to fill all that empty space, and you just might get to know a bit more about your new environs in the process.

Consider furnishings with character. Enjoy seeing parts of town to which you might never otherwise venture. Catch voyeuristic thrills by peeking  into random Viennese homes. Boost your sustainability cred. Come home with a fatter wallet, a slimmer waistline and a tale to tell. Yes, I’m an unabashed Willhaben fan…

An example of one of the thousands of ads posted on Willhaben every day

Grinzing – Lounge Suite

Somehow, I coordinated a mute man-with-van to meet me at a nice Iranian couple’s apartment in the 19th, where they were giving away a generous sofa and armchair (hint for the cash-strapped: when surfing Willhaben’s wares, click the “Zu Verschenken” option). As we tried to maneuver the sofa through their narrow hallway, we proceeded to knock a picture off the wall No damage done, to our immense relief, and the couple kept smiling politely. On the ride back home, I learned that you can see several Beethoven houses in Grinzing – a nugget of music history to go with my free lounge suite.

Brigittenau – Armchair

Confident that my car could take this cargo, I cautiously nosed over the Danube canal into an obscure, northerly corner of the 20th district. After making several laps of one-way streets with impatient locals on my tail, I understood parking near my destination was hopeless. Leaving my car illegally near some recycling bins, I then realized the bloke hadn’t given me a door number. And that my phone was suddenly playing up – as usual. Which left me trying to borrow a mobile off someone. On a dark, freezing Sunday night in January. I had to wait several minutes in the cold, cursing our over-reliance on phones, until a kindly but curious Brigittenauerin lent me hers. I got my armchair.

Favoriten – Rug

Irony: turns out the 10th district is a great part of Vienna to get your phone fixed on a Sunday night. But this time everything went smoothly: it was a swift in-and-out. The Serbian woman who took my 10 Euros had the look of someone who was about to spend the money on something you might get addicted to. If only that red rug could speak…

Oberdöbling – Hangers

A nervous young man with a slight stutter opened the door. Despite his freshly ironed shirt, he didn’t strike me as somebody who was actually about to go anywhere. Glancing over his shoulder into the living room, I noticed frightening levels of order and tidiness befitting the sort of man you’d expect to be selling hangers for 30 cents apiece on a Tuesday morning. On the way home, I learned that there’s a cute little produce market (Sonnbergmarkt) at the bottom of Weinberggasse here in the 19th district. And that there’s a pleasant charm about the stations on the suburban S45 rail line.

Hietzing – Dish Rack

My pickup was a bit of a walk from the U4’s Unter St Veit station. I stumbled across the Klimt Villa I never knew existed. Then across a strange thing called Verbindungsbahn (the tracks connecting Vienna’s southern and western railroads), where you have an excellent chance of getting flattened by a tram or a train (the lines blur here, if you’ll pardon the pun – go there and you’ll see). Two interesting discoveries in what struck me as an upmarket, pleasingly functional part of town – the 13th district. And my double-decker drying-up rack is a wonder!

Penzing – Footstool

Who knew Vienna stretched this far west? Having traversed the interesting sounds and sights of Penzing and Hütteldorfer Strasse, I reached the address – bang on the Niederösterreich sign indicating the official end of the city – only to find a police car parked in the street. Scared to leave my own vehicle lest I was parking illegally (how do you ever know in Vienna, really?), I had to summon seller guy outside with his cylindrical burgundy footrest. Having gone so far, I’m grateful it really can double as a seat, too.

The scattergun treasures on Willhaben may not be ideal for those hung up on a coordinated look to their home. But the second-hand experience is a delight if you prefer to fight wastefulness (China has made enough ironing boards to last us all several lifetimes – do you really need a new one?) and get out of your usual hood. Moreover, I’ve found it an excellent study in Austrian politeness and respect for appointments. People are formal to a tee and a pleasure to deal with – and nobody’s gone AWOL on a pickup yet!


Tips for using Willhaben:

You can find just about anything at bargain prices among the 4 million+ searchable ads (tens of thousands are added daily) on Willhaben’s website and smartphone app.

  1. For household furniture listings, click first on “Marktplatz” then on “Wohnen/Haushalt/Gastronomie.”
  2. Filter the database listings first by location (“Wien”) then even more specifically by the districts you prefer. If you’re near the edge of town, a quick Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) search might also yield something nearby.
  3. Though some sellers are nice enough to help you carry larger items out to your transport, don’t count on this and be sure to bring along some muscle of your own.
  4. Registering isn’t required  to view and buy listed items, but it will enable you save a “Merkliste” of products or sellers you’re interested in and also set up a “Suchagent” that notifies you as soon as a new ad is posted for a desired product or category.
  5. If you make an online inquiry on a listed item, the seller will not see your e-mail address and any back-and-forth communication goes through proxy e-mail addresses via Willhaben. But if you choose to call the seller, you might consider deactivating your phone’s caller ID for anonymity.
  6. As long as you’re making the trip, check if the seller is offering anything else worthwhile. On the ad, click on “Weitere Anzeigen von diesem User.”  This is also a good way to get a sense of who the seller is before you make contact.

A Willhaben Glossary

Anzeige: advert for an item

Selbstabholung: pick it up yourself — this ain’t Amazon or eBay

Suchergebnis: results of your online search

Zustand: condition of the sale item (as assessed by the seller). Neu=New, neuwertig=newish, gebraucht=used, defekt=flawed.

Some of Willhaben’s staff display items for sale on their platform. (photo © Willhaben)

Facts About Willhaben

Since its founding in 2006, Willhaben has attracted more than a million registered users and its website and app receive nearly 7 million unique visits and 1.6 billion page impressions per month. In January, there were 4.3 millions listings online, displaying real estate, automobiles, jobs, pets and diverse secondhand wares.

Beyond the millions of flea market items listed, the site also lists real estate for sale and rent, as well as some unique and high-value objects. In March 2017, bedroom furniture which belonged to Austria’s last emperor, Karl I, at his Villa Wartholz in Reichenau an der Rax was listed for sale on Willhaben for €125,000. Other high-end items listed have included: one of Wolfgang Ambros’s gold records (€37,000); the 11th century castle Burg Greifenstein; Austrian music legend Hansi Hinterseer’s Porsche Cayenne (€20,000); and the 4.74 km long Pannoniaring race track (€25 million).