Vienna – Fact Check
The cool, the hip and the ugly
Shadowed by industrial buildings, defaced by graffiti, Vienna’s Donaukanal is hardly its most picturesque sight. But it’s definitely its coolest.
“In Vienna,” my friend Hans tells me, “everything is beautiful. Well, almost everything.”
In a city of Hapsburg palaces and Gothic cathedrals, there are few outright ugly spots. But the Danube Canal – separating the hectic traffic junction of Schwedenzplatz from the dull office buildings that line the southern end of Leopoldstadt – might come close. Yet in spite of – or perhaps because of – its mildly gritty character, the Donaukanal is home to some of Vienna’s most riotous nightlife.
On the Badeschiff (bathing ship), revelers can swim and sunbathe by the pool all day, rave to electronic music all night. On the Leopoldstadt side of the canal, bland high-rises have reconfigured their roofs as panoramic cocktail bars. The hyper-modern Sofitel Hotel has transformed its roof into a neon glass box, shooting different colors into the glassy night sky. And on the canal itself, several patches of sand have been transformed into chilly “Beach Bars”: one, the “Tel-Aviv,” offers Israeli pop beats and “chillout culture” on the southern outskirts of Vienna’s historic Jewish area.
Not that many locals welcome the change. Graffiti scrawled on the canal banks includes several colorful obscenities launched at the wave of “hipster” developers, and recent canalside developments – among them the SEG building – have been “paint-bombed”.
“Against gentrification!” the protest graffiti reads. “Our city remains dirty!”