Shisha, hookah, narguile – these water pipes from the Near East go by many names. For centuries they have been used to smoke “flavored” tobacco (or, in some cultures, hashish or opium). Here, cafes combining oriental dining with smoking pleasure have become a staple of the Viennese night life scene. Around 250 are to be found in the capital alone – half of all those in Austria. But a recent decision by Parliament to ban smoking indoors for restaurants means they have to give up their core business in November, when the ruling goes into effect.
Until then, here are our seven favorite shisha bars. Enjoy before they float off on the last curling puff of smoke, into the cloud of history.
For those looking for an ultra-casual shisha smoking experience, Schesch Besch has you covered. The name refers to a variation on the popular board game backgammon; the restaurant’s concept is to offer Middle Eastern snacks like haloumi and hummus to be enjoyed over a game. And afterwards, a wide range of tobacco flavors are on offer. Contemplating a cunning move while puffing on a huge water-pipe puts you into the Zen-like state that only a shisha bar can provide.
1., Schwarzenbergstrasse 4
If board game sessions are not your cup of tea, then the trendy bar Deuces may be up your alley. The interior features bright neon accents, thumping bass rhythms and a selection of pricy cocktails. Deuces is a far cry from the traditional carpeted Moroccan shisha spot, preferring a hipster feel. People don’t come here to unwind, they come to get ready for a party – and if there’s nowhere to go, stay and Deuces becomes the party.
1., Krugerstraße 6
In a similar vein, Feria ditches the traditional shisha bar aesthetic. Located beside Schwedenplatz, Feria has been a go-to shisha bar staple for generations of young adults and students. Its two stories are bathed in vibrant neon lights and speakers pump out the latest pop songs. A wide array of tobacco flavors are on offer, so guests can get creative with taste combinations. Be warned: This place gets very full on Saturday nights.
1., Franz-Josefs-Kai 11
Only a couple minutes from Praterstern (U4, U2) by foot, Duzis is the perfect spot to lounge with friends after work. The modernized Moroccan interior and menu give off an oriental vibe that feels utterly genuine, allowing an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, even if for just a moment. This is one of the best-known cafes in Vienna and will surely be missed.
2., Praterstraße 25
If you just can’t decide between laid-back and on trend, the 2Lounge offers a neutral balance. For extroverts, there’s a back room featuring a DJ and a wide selection of alcohol at the bar. But for more reserved hookah enthusiasts, there are quieter seating arrangements available where backgammon, chess and cards are all available.
2., Praterstraße 54
The uninitiated might miss this hammam-cum-restaurant, located in Rahlgasse at the foot of the wide stone stairs up to Mariahilfer Strasse. This is the 5-star heart of Vienna’s shisha scene, featuring delicious Moroccan cuisine and its own hammam – a traditional oriental steam bath and spa. A dancefloor at the back can be booked for private parties. Oh, and it also has shishas.
6., Rahlgasse 5
The last one on this list is the most unadulterated shisha establishment of all. No gimmicks, no distractions, just pure hookah smoking in a super casual space. Leaning toward a more Turkish aesthetic (rather than Arab or Persian), it comes with all the perks: decent köfte (grilled minced meat balls) and baklava galore. The furniture is not trying to impress anybody; low-set seats wrapped in atmospheric Middle Eastern cloth drive the point home: You are here to sit, relax, and converse between puffs on a soothing waterpipe.
7., Siebensterngasse 46