Gumpendorf | Bohemian Rhapsody

As dawn breaks in Gumpendorf, you can observe two very different types of early morning creatures: You might catch bearded barroom revolutionaries stumbling out into the glaring sunlight – or you may see young parents carrying organic groceries in cotton bags in one hand and pushing a baby stroller with the other.

Each are very different, but both are very much native to the sixth district’s western part, stretching from Gürtel to Webgasse and between Mariahilfer Straße and the Linke Wienzeile. Just off of Vienna’s “bobo” (bohemian bourgeoisie) epicenter, Gumpendorf is often overlooked in favor of areas slightly closer to the MQ and Naschmarkt, but still retains an alternative feel, aided by (slightly) lower rents that attract many students and young families. Far from quiet, leading a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t prevent its inhabitants from enjoying the finer things – including drinking until sunrise.

Haydn’s Home

We’ll start our tour at the Haydnhaus, the former residence of Gumpendorf’s most famous celebrity, transformed into a museum in 1899. Joseph Haydn, the father of Viennese classicism, was 65 years old when he moved in with his parrot in 1797, which, as legend has it, called him “Papa Haydn.” He wrote several of his most important works here like The Creation and The Seasons; when Napoleon, who was quite the fan, stormed the city in 1809, he placed an honor guard at Haydn‘s door.

After the maestro passed away in 1809, his body was blessed just a stone’s throw away at the baroque church St. Ägyd, its simple neoclassical façade still the area’s most prominent landmark, visible all the way from Mariahilfer Straße. On a hot summer day, the square in front of the church has an almost Mediterranean flair, making it a great spot to enjoy sushi, jiaozi and wok dishes made by nearby Edo Sushi, a hole in the wall Asian restaurant and local favorite. For an authentic experience, get in line with the hungover hipsters queuing for a late takeout lunch there on Sunday afternoons.

© Catherine Margaret

Across from the church is Disco Volante, a spinoff of the famous Pizza Mari in the second district. Specializing in Neapolitan-style pies, it gets extra points for its oven: made from Vesuvian stone, it’s decorated to look like a mirror ball. To wrap up the foodie tour, there’s Bits and Bites: this eatery has brought contemporary French cuisine to Gumpendorf since 2015, exclusively using organic and seasonal ingredients – perfect for a relaxed Sunday brunch.

Dissident Dives

The best way to get around the neighborhood is on two wheels – and Cooperative Fahrrad has got you covered. Situated in a scenic courtyard, the small bike workshop and dealership is run by fifteen cycling nuts and provides outstanding service at very fair prices. Near Westbahnhof is the Raimund Theater, a popular 19th century theater that now specializes in original musicals, with successful productions often running for years – many surtitled in English.

Three minutes away you’ll find the Bauernbräu within a building designed by the famous Viennese painter Arik Brauer. Serving traditional Austrian fare using organic and local ingredients until midnight, it’s a popular spot for hungry theatergoers, as well as the occasional cast member.

© Catherine Margaret

Another popular hangout is the Känguruh Pub, a beer lover’s paradise boasting 160 Belgian and select British and Austrian brews. Many brave drinkers have tried to make their way through the whole list – but as they say, winning isn’t everything.

Finally, there’s the infamous Nachtasyl, a dank dive bar started by a Czechoslovakian dissident in the 1980s that has remained a hotbed for leftist freethinkers and artists ever since. Its storied reputation (and rock bottom prices) mean you never know whom you might run into: President Václav Havel made a point of having a beer there on his first state visit to Austria, taking a cab straight from the Hofburg; other notables who rubbed shoulders with the vagrants and intelligentsia over the years are writer Peter Handke and Czech avant-garde musician Iva Bittová.

Today, an anarchic spirit still lingers in the air, alongside stale cigarette smoke and decades of spilled Czech beer. The revolution may be cancelled, but you can still enjoy the motley crowd and dwell in the legends of the past – much like Gumpendorf itself.

Andreas Rainer
Andreas Rainer is a journalist and writer based in Vienna. He lived across the pond in the U.S. and Canada for three years which gave him a new love for Vienna from an outsider's perspective. He headed the Vienna branch of the San Francisco based food app Yelp for the past six years, making him a prime source of insider knowledge on new restaurants hidden bars. He authored the Guide Book Vienna for Germans (2017) and made the short list (2015) and long list (2016) for the "Wortlaut" short fiction contest, tweets at @an_rainer

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