With its grandiose palaces, exquisite art museums, sophisticated cafe culture, and Imperial past, you’d be forgiven for thinking Vienna is beautiful, but a little bit stuffy. The reality of this European capital, however, is a lot more interesting. While 18th-century pomp continues to make its mark in the form of baroque architecture, delicate pastries, and over-the-top balls, 21st-century Vienna is also incredibly cool.
Trendy cafes, restaurants, bars, and art galleries mingle easily with old-fashioned opulence, creating a city that is both traditional and cutting-edge. The people reflect this, with a youthful, liberal population that loves to make the most of both sides of their city’s culture. This has led to an exceptionally varied and progressive LGBT scene that has something to offer for literally everyone.
There is not a concentrated gayborhood, but gay and gay-friendly venues can be found throughout town. Most of them are in the central neighborhoods of Innere Stadt, Neubau, Mariahilf, and Margareten. This is convenient for visitors, since there are also the best areas for sightseeing and shopping.
The gay nightlife in Vienna is active and diverse – it is, in fact, one of the best in Europe. Big, outrageous parties and club nights can be found across town, from long-standing institutions like Heaven and Why Not to the unforgettably gritty Kibbutz Klub, which blasts Eurotrash and Israeli hits in an old abandoned U-Bahn station.
There are also plenty of more niche options for a big night out: Pitbull for bears, BallCanCan for Balkan-inspired beats, Meat Market for an indie rock vibe, or KEN club for good old-fashioned ’80s and ’90s pop and dance.
The range of gay bars is equally dizzying, especially when you consider all the not-fully-gay-but-very-gay-friendly options. To name just a few, you have fashionable Felixx, large queer-mixed venue Red Carpet, pleasant and laid-back Augenblick, and the gorgeous Palmenhaus, housed in a former Emperor’s glasshouse.
As if that all weren’t enough, gay Vienna also has several awesome LGBT events throughout the year. These include Vienna Pride, Pink Wiener Wiesn-Festival (the gay section of Vienna’s answer to Oktoberfest), Eat Slay Love Voguing Ball, Vienna Fetish Week, and a whole calendar of LGBT balls during Vienna Ball season from November to February.
One of Vienna’s best and most famous aspects is its cafe culture, which has expanded to include gay and gay-friendly spaces. The most popular of these is Cafe Savoy, a beautiful 18th-century cafe right next to Naschmarkt, dripping in baroque decor and with a pleasant outside terrace. Fett + Zucker in Leopoldstadt is another LGBT hangout, with a modern hipster decor and first-rate coffee and pastries.
Vienna is a very gay-friendly city in general, but the most popular hotels with gay visitors tend to be the ones near the gay nightlife action in Neubau. The city’s design-forward ethos is visible throughout, with even the most budget hotels offering stylish rooms and facilities. There is something for everyone, ranging from large international chains with state-of-the-art facilities to wonderful boutique hotels filled with unique touches.
For most of history, Austria was a traditional country based on Roman Catholic values. While queer figures appear often in Austrian and particularly Viennese history, these tended to be powerful exceptions to the rule. However, the country has come a very long way in the past few decades and has not hesitated to bring its legislation and national attitude to LGBT issues into the 21st century.
Registered partnerships became legal in 2010, adoption was fully legalized in 2015, and gay marriage was brought in in January 2019. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been constitutionally illegal since 2004.
As a whole, the LGBT population throughout Austria still faces many of the challenges seen around the world. This is especially the case in rural communities and smaller cities. As the cosmopolitan capital, Vienna is by far the most gay-friendly destination in the country.
As such, Vienna is an exceptionally progressive city, and one with a long history of queer acceptance. Gay visitors don’t have to worry about holding hands or other public displays of affection, and all hotels in the city are gay-friendly.
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