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Vienna’s historic centre is the main stomping ground for tourists, but the 7th district, Neubau, is considered by many locals to be the true pulse of the metropolis.
Originally a poor working class suburb right next to the posh inner city, Neubau was incorporated into Vienna in 1849. Today, it’s one of the hottest and most expensive parts of town, with a seemingly endless selection of bars, cafés and shops, one hipper than the next. Neubau is also home to some of Vienna’s most famous museums, theatres and Christmas markets and is still predominantly inhabited by artists and people in the creative industries – in particular, Vienna’s film industry seems to have gathered around the main commercial drag, Neubaugasse. While it is the third-smallest district in size, you could easily spend a whole weekend in Neubau and never run out of things to do.
Planned as the middle-class counterpart to the imperial Burgtheater and built in 1889, the Volkstheater is dominated by a vast auditorium. With just a few exclusive boxes available, the idea was to make performances available to a wider audience and not just wealthy aristocrats. It has mostly staged classic and modern dramas ever since and is known for an outstanding repertoire. Considered one of the most important stages in the German-speaking world, the Volkstheater’s atmosphere is still more down-to-earth than its posh counterpart on the Ring.
One of the major centres for contemporary art in Vienna is within the scenic Museumsquartier: the Kunsthalle. It emphasizes creating a conversation about the artworks on display, accompanying exhibits with talks, workshops and lectures. Their current highlight is the exhibition Death to Pigs, curated by Canadian artist Ydessa Hendeles, as well as Kate Newbys’ I can’t nail the days down. If you like what you see, also check out the program of their second location on Karlsplatz.
Situated on the spectacular Sankt-Ulrichs-Platz, this restaurant has turned into one of the district’s hottest eateries, even nabbing a feature in the New York Times 36-hours-in-Vienna list. Thanks to the Austro-Adriatic-Asian menu, you’ll find something for every taste; on weekends, this might be the best spot in Neubau to enjoy a long brunch. Don’t even try coming without a reservation, but if they’re full you can try your luck at their spin-off venue Erich, located right around the corner.
It is safe to say that Café Europa was one of the first hipster venues in town. As the Viennese are fiercely loyal to their favourite bars and restaurants, it has managed to stay in business for decades, in part due to its long opening hours and warm meals until four am every single day, making it one of the very few places serving anything decent past midnight. A hybrid between café, restaurant, club and event venue, this local mainstay remains popular while occupying a very necessary niche – you’ll probably run into someone you know every time you visit.