Walking the streets of Vienna is almost like walking through a kind of real life fairy tale, with its winding cobbled lanes and stunning architecture. Widely regarded as the City of Music, Baroque influence is clearly evident in this city, with the Viennese not being ones to shy away from opulent luxury in everything they do.
As home of some of the world’s greatest minds like Sigmund Freud, as well as being the birthplace of Marie Antoinette, you get a strong sense that these are not people who just adhere to the status quo. There is an ingrained sense of tradition here, and an equally ingrained desire to be at the cutting edge of all things art and design. These stores are great examples of how the Viennese embrace their past while heading in unexpected new directions.
Housed in a former glass factory, Die Glasfabrik is a shrine to ensuring the past stays alive. Its two warehouses are full of antique treasures and, while it has a warehouse look and feel with its scratched concrete floors and exposed brick, there is nothing cold about this place. Each piece of furniture has been picked for its charm, its story, and its ability to captivate a true lover of all things antique. You won’t hear terms like shabby chic or industrial here; these items are the real deal, and the shop truly represents the story of Vienna from 1670-1970. If you can tear yourself away from the treasure trove indoors, a sunny courtyard awaits, complete with dining tables and mismatched Persian rugs – the perfect place to refuel.
Die Glasfabrik Address: Lorenz Mandlgasse 25, Ottakring, +43 1 4943490, glasfabrik.at/en
The Volta Shop
Volta is a concept store specializing in contemporary, minimalist, interior design, accessories, arts and crafts. They need a description that long because it really is a palace of minimalism – an ode to simplicity and great design. Each item has that serene quality that only the best design can possess. Perfect proportions pleasing to the eye as well as just the right amount of detail and interest to intrigue any design lover, all without ever looking cluttered or overdone. The light bulbs alone are worth visiting the store for. With such a vast array of settings, filaments and filters, you’ll leave wondering how you ever thought light bulbs could be uninteresting or dull.
The Volta Shop Address: Siebensterngasse 28, 1070, +43 650 9701159, thevoltashop.com
As any good design lover knows, stores in museums are often where you uncover the best finds, discover local artists, and generally get an overall feel for how a city appreciates design. The store in MUMOK is a perfect example of this, with a particular devotion to accessories. They describe their store as having “the right accessory for city dwellers or those who want to become one” – appropriate for a museum store in a city that regularly tops global lists for quality of life. The museum itself is also worth a look, assuming you can handle the mouthful of a name: MUMOK stands for Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien. Fortunately, they’re much better at art than matching their full name to the acronym – the place is decked out with pop art and photorealist works, and is a truly outstanding example of a contemporary art gallery.
MUMOK Address: Museumsplatz 1, 1070, +43 1 525000, mumok.at/en/shop-0
If you can, head to Vintagerie on a weekday morning and try and avoid weekends, as this place is beloved by the Viennese. Of course, if you’d rather have the true blue local experience, there’s nothing quite like turning up on a Sunday morning to join the discerning design eyes of the Viennese locals, fresh and vibrant after a visit to their local kaffeehaus. Vintagerie is a mid-century modernist lover’s paradise. While you can find the quintessential clean-lined pieces of furniture just about anywhere these days, Vintagerie has managed to curate a unique store full of interest and imagination. Look out for the table bases, in particular, for a great example of how modernism can embrace the old without compromising the new.
Vintagerie Address: Nelkengasse 4, 1060, +43 1 5812850, vintagerie.at
While not technically a store in the truest sense, the Figlmüller restaurant is still a must-see for any design lover (and we do need to eat, after all). There are actually three Figlmüller restaurants to choose from, each with a different aesthetic. There’s the incredibly chic Lugeck restaurant, a warm and contemporary atmosphere with slick black chairs and impressive lighting, though my personal preference is for the original Figlmüller, where they honor the traditional Viennese style with plenty of wood and pew-like seating. The restaurant’s most famous dish is the traditional Austrian schnitzel, and the chefs at Figlmüller are serious about adhering to tradition when it comes to their schnitzel. Go with an appetite: the schnitzel is generally bigger than a dinner plate, and very, very worth it.
Figlmüller Address: Wollzeile 5, 1010, +43 1 512 61 77, figlmueller.at/en
The key to experiencing great Viennese design is to embrace the fact that this is a city steeped in history. Though you may be able to get a few items from Amazon that you won’t find at these shops, the sheer novelty of seeing them and their eccentricities firsthand makes these five spots well worth an afternoon. I hope that this list helps you to experience the wide range of art, design and interiors found in Vienna, from contemporary to vintage and everything in between.
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