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Where it's at: trendy city districts

Hip haunts: the trendy districts of Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck.

Author: Michaela Schwarz

It’s hard to explain just what makes a district a byword for cool and trendy. In most cases it’s a successful combination of the right ideas at the right time, plenty of courage and lashings of creativity. The rest is word-of-mouth advertising. The result is definitely extremely inviting - and not just in Vienna.

Small shops with plenty of flair
Shady 'Schanigärten' (sidewalk cafés), green quiet areas and, above all, plenty of room for strolling, window-shopping and marvelling. The once so hotly debated pedestrian zone in Vienna’s Mariahilfer Straße has turned out to be a real hit with the public. However, if you really want to plunge into the 7th district, you’d do better to turn off into one of the many side streets - and then just wander as it takes your fancy. For in the dense network of streets, lanes and squares you’ll find what defines the character of the modern district of Neubau: vibrant life, trendy shops, original bars and bistros - and hidden between them all, the occasional old shop that looks as if it has been forgotten by time. And speaking of time, it’s easy to lose track of it when you fall out of one shop into the next. Many of the shops have carefully thought-out concepts in which everything fits together: Products, furniture and design objects, fashion and accessories. One of the best known is the PARK, which describes itself as “Vienna’s first concept store” and which sells books, magazines and shoes as well as clothing. Besides Austrian and international fashion labels, you’ll find everything from art to kitsch, vintage to avant-garde, Scandinavian interior design to French straw baskets and handmade pepper mills made in Austria. In addition, a lively bar and bistro scene has developed in recent years that can hardly be beaten in terms of diversity and creativity. The gourmand’s new favourite meeting place is the Goldfisch in Lerchenfelderstraße, where as well as buying the freshly caught delicacies, you can also sample them in the form of tasty dishes – provided, of course, that you’re lucky enough to get one of the few tables.

Vienna then and now

The second district buzzes too
The 2nd district of Vienna is just as trendy as the 7th, and is increasingly being discovered by the young pub, bar, and arts scene. The former Jewish quarter on the far side of the Danube Canal – especially the area around the lively Karmelitermarkt – stands out by virtue of its multi-cultural character and the diversity this brings. Many of the bistros and cafés offer a successful mix of cuisine and deli, and even if you’ve only got time for an aperitif or an espresso you’ll probably end up sitting in the sun a little longer in the comfortable little Schanigärten. The new hotspot in the Leopoldstadt is perhaps not so relaxing, but is all the more spectacular. The new campus of Vienna’s University of Economics that opened in 2011 near the Prater is roughly the size of twelve football pitches. It’s not just the place where students and professors, visitors and those who are out for a walk, cross paths, it’s also a place where eye-catching architecture – first and foremost, the Library and Learning Centre designed by Zaha Hadid – meets glorious parks and gardens.
Harbour area and grassroots district in new glory
Vienna is not the only city where certain districts are experiencing a veritable boom. In recent years the Danube promenade around the Brucknerhaus concert hall and the Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz has steadily developed into a meeting place for art lovers – right on the banks of the second-longest river in Europe. Over the next ten years, the industrial port area is to be spruced up and turned into a vibrant cultural district. Plans include the world’s biggest outdoor gallery and a green walkway on the roofs of the container storage facilities.

The Lend district in Graz is also a shining star of the arts and cultural scene – and yet again it’s the creative professions who have transformed the once seedy district with its unsavoury reputation into the latest hotspot in town. Large numbers of design shops have opened, turning the area around Lendplatz and Mariahilferstraße into an excellent place to look for original souvenirs and gifts. In addition, there are several impressive progressive projects such as the Tag.Werk initiated by the Catholic charity Caritas, in which young people create stylish bags and fashion items from advertising and tent tarpaulin - each one a unique work of art. Uniquely tasty on the other hand are the marvellous cakes, quiches and sweets at 'Süße Luise', and they always draw guests to this oasis of enjoyment.

The trendy districts

  • Die süße Luise in the Lendviertel, Graz © Harry Schiffer Die süße Luise in the Lendviertel, Graz © Harry Schiffer
  • The Lend district in Graz © Harry Schiffer The Lend district in Graz © Harry Schiffer
  • Graz, Lend district © Harry Schiffer Graz, Lend district © Harry Schiffer
  • Kunsthaus in Graz © Harry Schiffer Kunsthaus in Graz © Harry Schiffer
  • Naschmarkt in Vienna © Wien Tourismus / Peter Rigaud Naschmarkt in Vienna © Wien Tourismus / Peter Rigaud
  • Vienna University of Economics and Business © Wien Tourismus / Christian Stemper Vienna University of Economics and Business © Wien Tourismus / Christian Stemper
  • Pohľad z lida, Linec © Linz Tourismus / Johann  Steininger Pohľad z lida, Linec © Linz Tourismus / Johann Steininger
  • Cultural centre, Innsbruck © Die Bäckerei Cultural centre, Innsbruck © Die Bäckerei
Salzburg‘s fresh side
Speaking of sweets, if the only things that come to mind when you hear the word Salzburg are Mozartkugel, then it’s obviously been a long time since your last visit. For the city that is home to some 24,000 students is also proud of the colourful, creative side to its character. Contemporary dance in the Mirabell Gardens, boccia tournaments, afternoon picnics in the Kurpark and flea markets dominate the scene – especially in the St. Andrä district on the right bank of the Salzach, which is buzzing with life. The many bars and bistros are all so cool they wouldn’t look out of place in Berlin or London, and craftsmanship is thriving. Carpets and textiles are being knotted and woven following oriental tradition whilst exclusive belts and bags are being made from locally produced leather. On the Long Days of Creative Crafts, many of the workshops and manufacturers open their doors to invite anyone with an interest to take a peep behind the scenes.

Sometimes, however, it is precisely the old, abandoned trade premises that become hubs of new artistic activity and meeting places. In Innsbruck, for example, a former large bakery has been transformed into a vibrant arts and cultural centre, where organisers can develop and try out new projects. The philosophy behind it all: The purpose of an event should not be entertainment, but to bring together different groups and ideas. A lovely idea, but one which in Austria’s pulsating cities often succeeds quite spontaneously and by chance.

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Where it's at: trendy city districts

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