5 ways to connect with the locals in Vienna

Vienna, Austria has created a luxury environment to travel back in time: sumptuous baroque palaces and Art Nouveau architecture, a cake and coffeehouse culture nurtured over centuries, an unparalleled classical music heritage and a well cultivated Imperial history. However, more modern travellers are ready to venture beyond stucco, sweets, and stories of the defunct. They want to catch up with the local zeitgeist. And the best way to do this is to connect with those who shape it: the locals.

Here are 5 opportunities:

Sausage stands

Vienna sausage stands are a local institution scattered across town that unites people from all walks of life and characters, from interesting to bizarre. As we say: ‘At the sausage stand we are all equal.’ The stands are a good opportunity to find out what is going on in everyday local life, including talking politics. The best of them, such as Bitzinger’s Würstelstand between the Vienna State Opera and the Albertina Museum, and the Würstelstand on Hoher Markt are open almost 24 hours and attract workers, pensioners, businessmen, party people, and travelers.

Ease of connecting: easy
Language barrier for English speakers: depends on location, number of English speakers is
highest in the city centre;
Average level of conversation: small talk

Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations

Vienna coffeehouses were known as social hubs in the 19th and early 20th century, where intellectuals like Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner and Stefan Zweig met acquaintances to exchange ideas and debate. The Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations, a monthly event series held in English, revives this culture by connecting travelers and local residents through 1:1 conversations, over Viennese food and coffee. A menu of questions helps participants share their views on travel, friendship, compassion, inspiration and more.

Ease of connecting: easy
Language barrier for English speakers: none
Average level of conversation: meaningful talks

Vienna balls

If you know basic ballroom dancing, this is your ticket to discreetly strike up a conversation with a local. Usually, gentlemen are free to ask a lady for a dance, following the opening ceremony and the master of ceremony’s call ‘Alles Walzer’ (‘All Waltz’). The usual parole is: ‘Darf ich bitten?’ (‘May I ask?’) Some balls, such as the Rudolfina Redoute, also allow the ladies to choose their dance partners at certain times, which is called ‘Damenwahl’ (‘Ladies’ choice’). Make sure you don’t pick a touristy ball.

Ease of connecting: middle
Language barrier for English speakers: easy to middle
Average level of conversation: small talk

Local cooking evenings

In the past years, a few cooking events for locals have sprung up. You can usually join these informal small groups by pre-registering. Guided by a professional chef, you cook in the team, then eat together and chat. Some of the best cooking evenings are arranged by Wrenkh’s Kochsalon, Babette’s cooking courses, das Kochatelier, and Gerstner’s cooking course at Todesco town palace.

Ease of connecting: easy
Language barrier for English speakers: middle; depends on language skills of local participants
Average level of conversation: small talk; expert talk about food


Cocktail bars are traditionally an easy way to get to know people, and Viennese cocktail bars are no different. Somehow, American-style bars have a reputation of being more social, perhaps because their bar counters are longer? In addition, you are more likely to meet locals there than in the traditional Viennese bars frequented by travelers. My favourite American bars in Vienna are Shultz American Bar, Reinberg, First Floor and the Planter’s Club.

Ease of connecting: middle
Language barrier for English speakers: easy to middle
Average level of conversation: small talk

Barbara Grüll-Cação is the Founder of Vienna Unwrapped.

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Comments (1)

  1. Sandy says:

    The best thing I could think of is the bars; indeed you get to know a lot of people in just a short time, and you’ll never know you’ll meet them again the next day but in a different situation and environment, maybe a peaceful one in a park. Vienna is really a great place to visit!

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