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Vienna: explore the seventh district


Vienna’s Neubau district has become one of the most cutting- edge areas of the city, Stephen Doig discovers

Stephen Doig
Stephen Doig,

While undoubtedly a huge part of Vienna’s allure lies in its romance and history – this was, after all, Mozart’s home and boasts some sumptuous, fairy-tale architecture including Hofburg Palace and St Stephan’s Cathedral – in recent years an influx of creatives has remodelled sections of the city, introducing a quirky feel. This can clearly be seen in Vienna’s seventh district – also known as Neubau – which is now a hotbed of innovation and style.

New generation

A key part of Neubau’s regeneration is in the fashion sector, which is fitting for an area that once housed Vienna’s thriving silk factories. Mariahilferstrasse and Neubaugasse have been turned into sartorial enclaves, where former industrial buildings are now fashion boutiques and artists’ studios. The tiny Affaire de Coeur store stocks pretty, feminine designs by hard-to-find labels such as Parisian brand Cop Copine and Lilith alongside the hip accessories company Petra Dieler.

Bag it up

Viennese bag designer Ina Kent has also made Neubau her home. She set up business in 2007 creating beautifully hand-crafted pieces in soft leather, from gleaming metallics to soft pastel shades. The independent spirit of the area continues at Art Point where Russian fashion designer Lena Kvadrat sells her bold designs – Kvadrat’s swamping knits and intricately folded and re-worked jackets and coats aren’t for fashion wallflowers. An individualistic streak can also be seen at Wabisabi which celebrates avant-garde Japanese design, photography and art.

Fashion forum

Visitors to the area will also see international fashion names represented in some standout stores. The all-white Park stocks brands such as Ann Demeulemeester and Martin Margiela and nearby optical specialist Brillen Manufactur has glasses from Oliver Peoples and Paul Smith.

And when it’s time for a break, head to Podium restaurant which serves a range of meals and snacks, or visit one of the cafés for a cup of world-famous Viennese coffee.

Café culture

Coffee is engrained in Viennese history: it started to become popular in the 1500s when Polish soldiers stumbled upon the invading Turkish army’s sacks of coffee beans. Artists, actresses and political leaders, from Gustav Klimt to Marlene Dietrich and Leon Trotsky, have been part of Vienna’s intellectually charged coffee culture. The writer Mark Twain once made his feelings about Vienna’s hot drinks clear: ‘The best coffee in Europe is Vienna coffee, compared to which all other coffee is fluid poverty.’ He may well have taken a cup or two in Neubau. The bustling Aida café serves exquisitely crafted cakes to accompany your coffee and you don’t have to be penning your bestseller to soak up the unique atmosphere here.

Thanks to Neubau’s proximity to Vienna’s Museum Quarter, a range of cultural sights are nearby. Venture east of central Neubau to the paintings at the Leopold Museum or to Mumok (Museum of Modern Art), with its striking contemporary architecture. Whether you spend your time enjoying cutting-edge design or classic art, a few hours spent in these venues is the ideal way to round off a day in this bohemian and thriving district.

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