CREDIT: GONZALO AZUMENDI/GONZALO AZUMENDI
It’s worth travelling to Vienna for its legendary classical music scene alone – evenings are a sumptuous saturnalia of operas, operettas, symphony concerts and world-class chamber orchestras in gilded, velvet-curtained music halls. But those in search of something a little different – perhaps a quirky bar or a sophisticated club – won’t be disappointed either. Telegraph Travel experts Diane Naar-Elphee and Barbara Cação round up the best nocturnal entertainment on offer in the Austrian capital, from Art Deco-style rooftop bars and lavish operas, to secret tunnel bars and psychedelic Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired drinking dens.
City Centre (1st district)
Staatsoper (State Opera House)
The Staatsoper regularly vibrates to the tunes of Donizetti, Mozart, Rossini, Strauss and Verdi, with the world-class conductors leading the resident Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The auditorium, completely rebuilt after the Second World War, drips with classical cornicing shimmers with gold leaf. Subtitles in five different languages, including English, are accessible from each seat. Most performances sell out quickly. Last-minute deals are rare, but not unheard of: try your luck inside the house 30 minutes before the curtain goes up. Standing tickets (under €6/£5) go on sale 80 minutes before the performance.
Contact: 00 43 514 44; wiener-staatsoper.at
Opening times: The box office is open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm; Sat 9am-1pm; performances from early September to end of June
Getting in: No formal dress code, dress smart casual
This music hall is a Greek Renaissance sensation boasting a glittering Byzantine foyer and magnificent gilded main vestibule, the glamorous backdrop to the country’s annual New Year’s concert broadcast. For decades, music connoisseurs from across the world have been flocking to Musikverein to hear the Vienna Philharmonic’s unparalleled sound, skilfully coaxed from 18th-century instruments. Visitors with passion and knowledge of classical music bend over backwards to get tickets to a reputable concert. Available tickets to non Musikverein members sell out fast. Avoid the tourist recitals.
Contact: 00 43 505 8190; musikverein.at
Opening times: Box office open Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm; Sat, 9am-1pm
Getting in: No formal dress code except for the New Year’s Concert; dress smart-casual
If you only have time to check out one bar in Vienna, make it this pioneering Art Deco joint close to St. Stephen’s. Four young restaurateurs opened this Thirties-inspired ‘Kleinod’ (‘little treasure’) exuding old Viennese charm, with dark wood panels, crystal chandeliers and shiny brass. Twenties jazz tunes, early soul and electro swing tunes float melodiously in the background; drinks here tend to be clever re-interpretations of classics, or a zany mixture of flavours. Try the Pauls Punsch with mandarin-infused gin and jasmin tea, or the outlandish Warhol daiquiri, a Bloody Mary with with banana liqueur.
Bar Kleinod (which means ‘treasure’) is a festoon of dark wood panels, crystal chandeliers, shiny brass, marble and leather.
Contact: 00 43 512 03 25; kleinod.wien
Opening times: Mon-Sat, from 3.30pm
Getting in: Reservations only by telephone
Porgy & Bess
Formerly a disreputable cinema, today this first-rate music and jazz venue offers an ambitious programme of events with live gigs almost every night. The main stage is framed by a striking oval-shaped gallery and lined with plush velvety red seats that are so comfy you might be in danger of falling asleep in them – though more likely, you’ll be wide-eyed at the excellent music acts. The place can be jam-packed, especially if some local or international star is playing. If dining at the club, request a table away from the sound system – it gets loud.
This first-rate music and jazz venue offers an ambitious programme of events with live gigs almost every night.
Contact: 00 43 512 8811; porgy.at
Opening times: Daily, from 7.30pm
Getting in: The inofficial dress code is smart casual
Loos American Bar
A long-established architectural gem. Boldly designed by Viennese modernist Adolf Loos in 1908, this tiny box of a bar is one of his signature early works. The vodka cocktails and Manhattans are considered to be among the best in Vienna, but since the drinking spot attracts lots of sightseers, sassy barmen get frosty with those who are ‘just looking’. You sort of can’t blame people who want to come in just for a nosey: the interior shimmers with squares of warm orange and yellow, set against dark wood panelling and a coffered ceiling. Mirrors cleverly enlarge the space – though it’s not the best place for claustrophobics.
Contact: 00 43 512 32 83; loosbar.at
Opening times: Daily, midnight-4am. ‘Champagne Time’: Daily, from 12pm-4pm
Getting in: Arrive early to secure a seat because the place is popular and the perfect spot for night-owls. Regulars and celebrities get preferential treatment
Sexy purple-hued lighting accentuates the sleek, soft cream and magenta interiors at this elegant and swanky club just next to the Vienna State Opera. It’s hard to believe that this trendy night spot was once a murky old passageway underneath Ringstrasse. Dinner-meets-bar-meets-club spaces are surprisingly low on the ground in Vienna, which makes this place a bit of a find if you’re looking to just go with the flow without having to traipse from venue to venue, especially on a cold winter night. Sip creative cocktails at the bar and then order steak cooked on a charcoal grill. Later, party to live jazz, soul or bossa Nova beats.
The Albertina Passage emerged from an old passageway underneath Ringstrasse and is where the super-chic hang out.
Contact: 00 43 512 0813; albertinapassage.at
Opening times: Tue-Sat, 6pm-4am; closed Sun-Mon
Getting in: Reservation recommended, especially with the Friday Live Club; dress smart-casual
Leopoldstadt (2nd district)
Das Loft Bar & Lounge
For a truly scenic experience, head up to this 18th-floor bar and lounge, part of the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom. Sweeping glass windows deliver startling 360-degree views across the city, though a colourful artist-designed ceiling does try and compete commendably for guests’ attention; at sunset, the radiant painting seems to sail into the night sky, melting with the horizon. Go for a classical cocktail or non-alcoholic liquid apple strudel before dinner to enjoy sunset vistas – and later, to see the city’s lights. The bar and lounge gets busy at night. Seating is limited and drinks are pricey but it’s worth it for the view.
Contact:00 43 906 16 81 10; sofitel-vienna-stephansdom.com
Opening times: Daily, until 2am
Getting in: Dress code is strictly smart-casual, no trainers, sandals, sports clothes
A fishless aquarium, azure-blue plush seats, faded tapestries and mahogany wood panels: this seriously stylish bar attracts over-30s looking for a luxurious setting with cutting-edge interiors and a quirky twist. The list of cocktails dazzles even more than the mixologists’ theatrical moves behing the bar. Those with a taste for floral cocktails should try Flower Power with rum, apricot brandy and rose petals. Whiskey Business with bourbon rye, port and cocoa syrup makes a robust after-dinner aperitif. Guests sway to jazz tunes as the night gets underway, just like the aquarium’s water plants.
Expect dazzling cocktails, a fishless aquarium, azure-blue plush seats and a faded tapestry from bygone bar days.
Contact: 00 43 532 1165; firstfloorbar.at
Opening times: Daily, 8pm-4am
Getting in: Dress smart casual, reservation recommended
Escape down the proverbial rabbit hole at Vienna’s first themed club, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Expect surreal frescoes, grass growing from the ceiling, and revellers shaking to electro, hip hop, techno and r&b on the main ‘church’ floor under a neon cross. The mostly unpretentious crowd is not averse to dressing up and using glow sticks. Like Alice, take a ‘Drink Me’ cocktail or long cocktail to enhance your psychedelic experience. The ALICE shots, served in a tea mug, are particularly good fun. It makes a refreshing change that all of the staff are friendly throughout, from the bouncers to the bar mixers.
Like Alice, take a ‘Drink Me’ cocktail to enhance your psychedelic experience.
Contact: 00 43 664 120 70 00; facebook.com
Opening Times: Fri and Sat, 8pm-4am
Getting in: Not a problem, but party clothes preferred
Mariahilf (6th district)
This former brothel is cited among the best dance bars in the world, and most visitors aren’t disappointed. It’s a far cry from Vienna’s imperial ballroom glamour, with an outré retro vibe, deep red brocade wallpaper, gold mirrors, and boudoir lampshades. It’s popular with older Millennials, and Baby Boomers with live DJs playing a mix of retro vibes from jazz, soul to blaring swing. Fridays and Saturdays are pretty full on, with an emphasis on dance music. As in most local establishments, expect smoke (and mirrors) – Jenseits also offers a cigar menu.
Jenseits is one of Vienna’s most quirky retro dance bars.
Contact: 00 43 587 12 33; tanzcafe-jenseits.com
Opening times: Tues to Sat, 8pm-4am; closed Sun-Mon
Getting in: Not a problem
Alsergrund (9th district)
There is a whiff of intrigue about descending into this drinking lair, 40ft down a floating staircase to an 18th-century vault, former speakeasy and ‘semi-legal’ jazz bar. This up-and-coming establishment makes a fetching entertainment venue, with brick walls and glass vitrines packed with drinks bottles. Subtle lighting and imposing chandeliers complete the look. Take advantage of the largest mescal selection in town, or have (liquid) greens like beetroot, red pepper and carrots with a strong alcoholic ‘kick’. The music is a good blend of jazz, house and funk. No mobile phone coverage downstairs, either a curse or a blessing.
Opening times: Tue-Thur, 6pm-2am; Fri and Sat 8pm-4am
Getting in: No reservations possible, just ring door bell, arrive early on weekends