Welcome to Instinct’s three-part travel series giving you a peek into modern gay culture in Vienna, Munich and Cologne – three of Europe’s most amazing cities. Tomorrow and Friday we’ll delve into two of Germany’s hottest destinations for gay male travelers – but today it’s all about Austria’s capital, Vienna.
Along the banks of the Danube, The City of Music feels like a European Washington, DC, with wide avenues, city parks and “wedding cake” architecture to match. Chock full of diplomats, NGOs and English-speaking professionals from all over the world, a distinct Gay Village lies ensconced between the Mariahilf and Wieden neighborhoods, not far from the center of this gorgeous and sophisticated metropolis.
Using TravelGayEurope.com and the tourism office’s Gay & Lesbian Guide (on paper and as an app), I unsurprisingly had a host of bars, clubs, restaurants, and saunas to choose from. I visited the Eagle first. Featuring a retail counter selling t-shirts, poppers, and leather/BDSM accouterments (like cockrings), it’s marketed as a cruise bar. Men can drink and flirt before having sex in a dimly lit back room. Nowhere close to sanitary, it provides an effective taboo vibe patrons aged mid-20s to 60-plus clearly enjoy.
For a no less social, but definitely less sexual vibe, Village Bar is a great choice. Cozy, modern and welcoming, with little red glass lanterns hanging from the ceiling, I heard several Americans talking about their careers in the States. Handsome and friendly bartender Andrew (“That’s my artist name.”) speaks perfect English and will recommend you imbibe the local Viennese beer, Gösser, vom fass (on tap). Nearly every region in Austria and Germany has brewed its own signature beer for hundreds of years. When I travel I sample as many as I can – they are like cultural fingerprints.
One evening a fake Grindr profile lured me to Ken Club, a monthly LGBTQ dance party playing deep house. Perhaps best left for the young (I am 51), I found a dark, crowded, smoky bar with deafening music and a lot of rude, inebriated twenty-somethings stumbling down stairs leading to a packed dance floor. Not a lost cause, however. I found respite near the main bar when I kissed a cute Brazilian diplomat working on nuclear policy for the United Nations. Unable to walk since a young age, he confessed, “You wouldn’t believe how many guys buy me drinks just because they see this wheelchair.” Actually, I could; I had become one of them.
Finally, there are four saunas in Vienna, with the crown jewel being Kaiserbründl. Unlike the dank, unclean sex clubs found in American cities, saunas in Germany and Austria are highly social places where friends arrive in groups, particularly on Sunday afternoon, share a beer, coffee or cigarette before and after finding distraction. At Kaiserbründl you may choose a Jacuzzi surrounded by North African-themed arches decorated with mosaic tile, basic sauna or steam room, or a dramatic solarium dominated by a crystal chandelier hovering above you. They also have a large restaurant on the street level. Penne all’Arrabbiata was the special the day I was there.
If You Go – Vienna
WHERE TO STAY
Rent a great apartment for $100 per night or less; airbnb.com
WHERE TO EAT
WHAT TO DO
Eagle Vienna, Blümelgasse 1; +43 1 587 2661; eagle-vienna.com/index.php/en/
Village Bar, Stiegengasse 8; +43 676 358 4842; why-not.at/index.php?id=58&L=1
Kaiserbründl, Weihburggasse 18-20; +43 (0) 1 513 32 93; kaiserbruendl.at/eng/index.htm