Vienna’s hilly north side may be cozy but not sleepy
The 19th district, Döbling, is one of Vienna’s “noble” districts: along with Hietzing (13th) or Währing (18th), among the most desired. Its name stems from an old Slavic word for a marsh or creek – probably a reference to the Krottenbach, a stream near the original 12th-century settlement.
Most people come for the abundant natural beauty: the vineyards and Heurigen (wine taverns) of Grinzing, Nußdorf and Neustift am Walde; the magnificent views from Kahlenberg and Cobenzl; and weekend walks through the Wienerwald. On their way to drink in the natural beauty and, of course, the wine, few visitors pay any notice to Oberdöbling – a mostly residential Grätzl nestled between Iglaseegasse, Krottenbachstraße, Silbergasse and Obkirchergasse.
Compared to its wealthy relatives – the elite enclaves of Grinzing, Sievering, Währing’s Cottageviertel and Nußdorf – Oberdöbling is a bourgeois second cousin. While certainly no slum, it is comfortable, with its jejune suburban-ness and better accessibility to public transportation. (If one owns a villa in Grinzing, one probably doesn’t bother with the Öffis). The Oberdöbling or Krottenbachstraße S-Bahn stations offer quick connections to the U4 or U3. The streetcar lines 37 and 38 take you directly to Schottentor in a half-hour, while bus lines fill the gaps
Visiting Oberdöbling might not be on most people’s bucket lists, but it is a lovely area to reside in – with the quiet comfort, good schools and green of the suburbs, but still within easy reach of urbanity. Behind the facades of most blocks are tree-filled gardens and courtyards, replete with avian song. At first glance, there is not a lot distinguishing Oberdöbling from other Außenbezirke. There are the typical supermarket, bakery and drug store chains; pharmacies, small grocers, and Trafikanten; and a preponderance of plumbers, electricians, realtors and medical practitioners – the latter a reflection of Döbling’s age demographic; Averaging 43.7, Döblingers are three years older than the average Viennese, with 28% of them retired.
Indeed, over the centuries, Viennese have repeatedly retired to Döbling. Its relatively high survival rate during the 1713 plague, perhaps, drew nobility and the bourgeoisie to build second residences here. The 19th century saw the area’s biggest growth – a time when Johann Strauss the Elder and Josef Lanner held concerts in the then popular “Finger” Casino, which closed in 1840.
Slanting through the residential area between Obkirchergasse and Silbergasse along the #38 tram line is Billrothstraße, named for the innovative 19th-century surgeon (and friend of Johannes Brahms) who founded the Rudolfinerhaus private clinic that now resides there.
At the Rudolfinerhaus(1), Billrothstraße veers off to the left, but to the right is Silbergasse, home to a minuscule French bistro and vinothèque called La Cuisine(2), offering superb coq au vin. Further down, past Saarplatz, is Daniel Moser’s Café Cottage(3), the uptown aunt to his hip downtown locales. You may not recognize it from its starring role in the TV series Vorstadtweiber, but you won’t forget its truly amazing Cottage Burger and gourmet coffee. Take a left on chestnut-lined Iglaseegasse and you’ll find the noble Hengl-Haslbrunner Buschenschank(4) with its lovely tree-shaded garden in the former orchard of the nearby Carmelite Convent.
Billrothstraße ends at the edge of Sievering, where Obkirchergasse begins. This high street boasts a branch of the trendy Joseph Brot bakery, the outstanding Italian ice cream parlor Gelati Da Salvo(5), the Schlatte family clothiers(6) (whose conservative offerings cater to its six decades of faithful neighborhood Stammkunden) and the outdoor Market on Sonnbergplatz(7), featuring the upscale Haug Delicatessen, Sonnberg Bio-Fleisch, and the friendly Georg Gutfleisch’s fish-and-game stand. This 500 meter-long street is also closed off twice a year for a beloved flea market that includes a section dedicated to kids to buy and sell their Kram (the next takes place on September 12).
The next time you are en route to Döbling’s wealthier pastures green, stop in for a taste of Oberdöbling’s simpler fare – a middle-class ghetto, perhaps, but fit for both prince and pauper.