What to do in Vienna when it’s cold | outdoor edition.

There is no such thing as being too cold outside (unless you live someplace where it’s really really cold) if you ask me, it’s only a matter of how prepared you are and how many layers of clothes you’re actually wearing. However, I get it, not all of you out there are lovers of the cold season and some of you are really looking forward to the warmer seasons. But there’s always a few things one can do to enjoy oneself in winter, especially in Vienna. And we all just need to make the most out of the situation we’re in, right?. Plus, you can’t just stay indoors all day long, you gotta leave your warm flat or house to get some fresh air!

Here’s my go-to list that that will give you an idea how I usually “endure” the cold in winter. I hope it’ll help you enjoy your winter stay in this lovely city.

|| 1 || Go ice skating

This is such a fun activity to try out during the cold season. Admittedly, it can be a bit expensive because entrance fees and shoe rental prices are usually high, but if you’re really into it, it’s definitely worth getting yourself a pair of skates. And for a one-time-thing, it’s worth the money if you ask me. The most popular (and sometimes very overcrowded) ice skating rink is definitely the Wiener Eistraum in front of the city hall on the Rathausplatz. It’s a very lovely place to go ice skating on, and I’d recommend having at least tried it once. If you want to find out more about it, read my post this fun winter activity.

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|| 2 || Venture into the small alleys of the first district

In Vienna, wind will be your all-time companion, and small alleys are the perfect hideaway for avoiding the strongest winds. Not only that, but they’re just amazing, especially in the first district of Vienna. You can walk past beautiful buildings with a rich history, or walk through the passages, or just do some window shopping. If you avoid the typical tourist roads, you might only encounter a few people and not the typical tourist crowd. And apparently I don’t even have a picture to prove that I actually do this from time to time. Shame on me. Just wanna be honest here. haha

|| 3 || Take a tram ride past historical buildings on the Ring

Some might argue this is wouldn’t count as outside activity, but you’re not really inside either. And by playing tourist for a while you’ll be able to escape the cold for a bit (even though this might be cheating then). If you’re lucky and the tram is heated, you can warm up for a bit, before you venture out into the cold again. My favourite routes are 1, D or 71. They’ll all take you past all the important historical buildings of the city.

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|| 4 || Go to the Prater…

…and hop on one of the rides and your heartbeat will pick up a notch. While feeling the adrenaline in your blood you’ll forget the cold temperatures around you. Or at least imagine that you’re on one of the rides because the Wiener Prater has its main season from March 15 until October 31, and during winter most of the rides are closed. However, on a sunny day, some of them might be open. And if not, you’ll have the whole Prater for you. (Trust me, on a weekday there’s hardly anyone there, it feels a bit like you’re in an abandoned amusement park from one of those dystopian movies). And while you’re at the Prater, you should definitely take a turn with the Wiener Riesenrad, the Giant Ferris Wheel, if you’ve never done that before. For me, this definitely counts as an outdoor activity because the wagons are not heated (as far as I remember).

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|| 5 || Go to the Donaukanal for some street art watching

The area along the Donaukanal is some kind of an open-air museum because of the amazing street art and sculptures you’ll find there. Major parts of the walls along the canale are part of the Wienerwand project, so artists are actually allowed to use the walls as their canvas. Just look out for their official sign, the WienerTaube (a pigeon) marks the area where spraying/painting is allowed. With 120 meters, this is the biggest wall for such art that you’ll find in Vienna.

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|| 6 || Go to a local market

Buying local produce and supporting local farmers is a good thing anyways, so you can do something for both yourself and others! Another beneficial factor of a local market is that you’ll get (mostly) everything without being wrapped in plastic. Plus, looking at all the colourful veggies and thinking of what delicious food I could make out of them is always very heartwarming for me.

Naschmarkt, probably the biggest market that we have here in Vienna, is one very good example for this. As opposed to other markets, you’ll get fresh veggies (and lots of other things there) every day (except on Sundays as far as I know) and not just on Saturdays like most other markets. In addition, you can also stop for a bite to eat in one of the cafés and restaurants that are located there, or just buy a piece of Baklava.

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|| 7 || Take a walk on the palace grounds in Schönbrunn or any other lovely park

Suck it up, pack a thermos and take a long walk. Summer will come soon enough, and it will stay forever anyways. Why not make the most out the current temperature, and enjoy how the city looks like when it’s freezingly cold. Have you ever noticed how calm a city can get when the temperature is below zero? Hardly anyone is outside anyways and there’s always the joy of complaining about the weather with a friendly (and not weird at all) stranger you met outside.

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I may have missed other things one can do when it’s cold outside, but those are my main outdoor activities. Can you think of any others?


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Christmas markets in Vienna: part III.

The time has come, Christmas is around the corner, and everyone’s getting ready for the big holidays. I’m staying with my family over the holidays, and I’m really looking forward to some – hopefully – quiet time at home. Especially in the past few days, the city has been crazy – people on the hunt for their last Christmas gifts or just leisurely strolling around. Both can be pretty annoying to someone who has to go to meetings and zig-zag through the crowd. But I totally get it and I wish every single one a joyful day in Vienna.

This post will be part III and thus the final one of the mini-series on Viennese Christmas markets. I’ll show you two of my favourites, the Art Advent at Karlsplatz, and the Christmas Market Schloss Schönbrunn. If you’re interested in more – check out the previous parts here and here :)

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Christmas market in Vienna: part II.

In my last post I already showed you the most popular and the most famous Christmas market of Vienna – the Viennese Christmas Market in front of the city hall. In this episode of the mini series of Christmas markets in Vienna I will show you two other markets of Vienna. One is almost equally popular to the one in front of the city hall but smaller and more romantic – the Christmas market at Spittelberg. And the second is even smaller, but situated right between two grand, old buildings (museums to be precise) – the Christmas Village Maria-Theresien-Platz.

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Christmas market at Spittelberg

The Spittelberg Christmas market has a very unique atmosphere because it is set in the charming Biedermeier lanes of the 7th district. The market has an arts and crafts focus, and you can buy many delicious treats from there which are sometimes sold by the local cafés. And of course, you’ll also find your mulled wine and punch there!

This market is definitely one of my favourite ones. Because of the lanes it exudes a romantic feeling, and I just love walking through the streets while looking at all the things that are offered there and stopping for a bite to eat once in a while. Unfortunately, the narrow lanes are prone to be quite crowded as well, especially on weekends, so I actually hardly ever go to this one.

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Where to find it
At the Spittelberg, in the 7th district of Vienna

Opening times
Mon–Thu 14:00–21:00 | Fri 14:00–21:30 | Sat 10:00–9:30 | Sun 10:00–21:00

Duration
November 17 until December 23

For more information – check the website


Christmas Village Maria-Theresien-Platz

This market at the Maria-Theresien-Platz is one out of four Christmas Villages that can be found in other locations in Vienna as well. There’s the usual Christmas market knick knack that you’ll find at any other market, so the Christmas Village isn’t that special when it comes to market stalls. However, the location of the village make the market especially unique in my opinion.

This cosy little village (in German it’s Weihnachtsdorf) is situated in an imperial setting right between the museum of art history and the museum of natural history, and you’ll also get a glimpse of the Hofburg imperial palace through the Äußere Burgtor on the Ring side (the Ring is an important street in Vienna), and at the Museums Quarter on the other. So the visitors of this little village are surrounded by some great pieces of architecture.

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Where to find it
At the Maria-Theresien-Platz between the KHM & NHM (museums of art history & natural history)

Opening times
Sun–Thu 11:00–21:00 | Fri–Sat 11:00–22:00 | special opening times December 24–26

Duration
November 22 until December 26

For more information – check the website

There will also be a Silvesterdorf there from December 27–31! Check here fore more information

Christmas markets in Vienna: part I.

It’s that wonderful time of the year again: Christmas time! I’ve been in a very Christmassy, festive spirit for quite some time now, and it’s the first time in 3 years that I can actually enjoy the Christmas spirit here in Vienna. So I took my chances and went straight to all of the bigger Christmas markets, or Christkindlmärkte in German, already shortly after they opened at the end of November.

So for the sake of this year’s Christmas spirits I will show you some of the Christmas markets of Vienna. The first episode of this mini series brings us to one of the classics when it comes to Christmas markets in Vienna: the Viennese Christmas Dream in front of the City Hall.

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Viennese Christmas Dream

The Christmas market at the Rathausplatz in front of the City Hall, also called Viennese Christmas Dream, is probably the biggest one in Vienna, and also the one with the most kitsch. The surrounding of the market – the trees and the park – are lavishly decorated, and there is even some kind of fun fair at one part of the park and an ice skating rink at the other.

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You’ll find all sorts of stalls there where you can buy the typical like wooden kids toys, beeswax candles, knitwear, Christmas tree decorations, and all other sort of knick knack. There are plenty of food stalls, and there are many different varieties of punch and mulled wine.

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This market is usually bustling with people (mostly tourists), and trying to find your way through the market can be a dreadful undertaking, especially during the weekend.

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With this one I definitely have a love-hate relationship. I mostly avoid this one, as it’s just too busy with people, and the trade stalls don’t attract me that much. However, I like walking or driving past it, the gloomy looking city hall with the beautiful lights of the market are looking really beautiful. And in general, I just like the scenery with all the grand, old buildings located next to the market. So there’s definitely always something to look at, be it the bits and bobs on the stalls, the beautiful architecture, or the many people walking around. It never gets boring.

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Where to find it
Directly in front of the City Hall on the Rathausplatz

Opening times
Sun–Thu 10:00–9:30 | Fri–Sat 10:00–22:00 | special opening times on December 24 & 25!

Duration
17th November to 26th December 2017

For more information – check the website

Liechtensteinpark in Autumn.

A rather small park (but not as petite as the Japanese Setagayapark) in the heart of the 9th district of Vienna is the Liechtensteinpark. It is not the perfect picnic-park (stepping on the grass is forbidden), but it’s great for taking a brief exit from the stressful city life. And during autumn it’s magnificent in there! The foliage is amazing, taking a walk on a sunny autumn day is a great exercise to get your mind off things.

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A Prince of Liechtenstein acquired a garden in Vienna in the 1687 and had the grand palace built in the south of the park (Fürstengasse 9). The Palais Liechtenstein, a mix between country house and townhouse in Roman style, used to hold the art collection of the Principality of Liechtenstein which was transferred to Liechtenstein during WWII and was thus not damaged. In the years thereafter the palace was used as a museum until 2012. Now, there is still a part of the private art collection of the Prince from the early Renaissance to the High Baroque era which can be viewed as part of a guided tour. The palace can also be hired as an exclusive venue for certain events.

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At the North side of the park (Alserbachstraße 14-16) there is another grand building, a former “Belvedere” (a pavilion) erected in 1700 that was demolished and rebuilt as a garden/summer palace for the widow of a prince in the late 19th century. As far as I know it is home to various companies.

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The former baroque garden with its 5 hectares used to have many statues and vases, which were mostly sold in the 18th century, and was later transformed into a landscape garden. A part of the park is left almost untouched and there are even beehives there, so it’s a good mix between a cultivated park and wild-growing nature (I am fairly sure that it’s not 100% wild-growing, but whatever :D ).

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I live quite close to the park, so I thought I knew the ins and outs of the park, but turns out: I don’t (or didn’t). On my hunt for ivy leaves for the homemade all-natural detergent the other day I stumbled upon the wild-growing part of the park and found the beehives (my bf was like – duh, I knew about this all along *eye-roll* ). It’s always great to discover new things in your neighbourhood, if you ask me!

General information

The grounds still belong to the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation, but this green oasis in the 9th district is open to the public during the day.

Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in this park, so no dog-stalking for me :(

 

Autumn recipe: easy DIY all-natural detergent.

Autumn isn’t only great for taking long walks while enjoying the beautiful colours of the trees or the many autumnal pumpkin food recipes. It is also great for various DIY projects. I’m not talking about decorating your home with pumpkins, chestnut figures or other things like that, but DIY things that you can actually use throughout the year: your own homemade all-natural detergent made from things found in your garden or your local park!

This sounds super boring, very housewifey, and not fun at all, I get it! However, it’s a nice activity that includes a walk in the nature, it is a great idea for a homemade Christmas gift, and it’s good for the environment. Plus, think of the money that you might be saving throughout the year (as you won’t be spending money on buying detergent). Win-win situation.

Many things in nature contain Saponins – a soap-like chemical compound. Because like soap, the plants containing this chemical form a lather when combined with water. Saponins can be found in various veggie plants like soy beans, peas, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, or in various herbs. In horse chestnuts and ivy there is a higher saponin concentration, and thus  they are more favourable for detergents. In the following I will show you how to make your own detergent out of chestnuts and ivy leaves.

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How to make & use: chestnut detergent

Supply for 1 year for 1-2x laundry per week
  • Collect around 4-5kg (11lbs) of horse chestnuts and wash off the dirt
  • Cut them into quarters and shred them in a blender to a fine mix
  • Let the shredded chestnuts dry
    • on a piece of cloth or on a baking sheet
    • air dry in the sun or in the oven at the lowest heat possible (70°C for 2-3 hours)
  • Put the dry shredded chestnuts in several jars
  • Et voila! That’s it!

Make sure that your food processor or blender is strong enough! In case it isn’t, just take your time and give your blender a well-deserved break from time to time. If you don’t have a decent blender or food processor, you can also try it with a hammer or just cut the chestnuts into very small pieces with your kitchen knife. This might take a while though.

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How to use the detergent:
  • Put 2 tablespoons of (dry) shredded chestnuts in a jar and add 250-300ml hot water
  • Let it soak for around 15-20 minutes (10 if it’s boiling water), the water will turn milk-like
  • Filter the chestnuts-water mix by using a strainer and put it in the machine where you’d put any other liquid detergent
  • To get a certain scent you can add a few drops of any essential oil of your liking
  • For a white load or for hard water you can add 1 tsp. of washing soda
  • Turn on the machine!

If you want to try it with fresh chestnuts, you can just take 5-8 chestnuts, cut them into quarters, soak them in 250ml hot water for about 8 hours, filter it, and use it.

Good to know

The smaller you shred the chestnuts, the quicker the saponins will dissolve into the water. So if you don’t have a blender and only cut the nuts with a knife it might take longer than 15 minutes.

Some people say that you should peel the chestnuts if you want to use it for a white load. However, this is such a tedious process and many people who have been using this homemade natural detergent for years say that it makes no difference at all. So you can skip the peeling! For a white load you can just add a bit of washing soda.

Leftover chestnuts can be composted or re-used for a second or even third time if you plan on washing another load.

NEVER PUT THE SOAKED SHREDDED CHESTNUTS IN YOUR MACHINE, this will ruin your machine! Only use the milk-like water!

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How to make & use: ivy detergent

Option 1 – the one with the sock:

  • Take a handful of fresh ivy leaves (with the stem) and tear them apart in the middle
  • Put them in a sock (or a mesh laundry bag), tie it off, and throw it into the machine with your laundry
  • Start the machine!

Option 2 – the one with the blender:

  • Take a handful of fresh ivy leaves (with the stem) and blend them in a food processor with 500ml water (not Smoothie-like blending – use the pulse function instead)
  • Put the water-ivy mix in a pot and let it come to a boil, remove it from the stove and let it cool completely.
  • Strain the mixture through a sieve and pour the green liquid into the detergent compartment of your machine.
  • Turn on the machine!
Good to know

Add a bit of vinegar – this will make the hard water softer, remove the grayness of your whites, enhance the colours, and get rid off the lime scale in the machine

Add a bit of washing soda – this improves the cleaning effect and also softens the water. Don’t use it for wool or delicates though, this can destroy the fabric.

Don’t use the young, light-green ivy leaves. Use older ones that have a rich, darker colour. This will maximise the cleaning effect!

Ivy is poisonous, but only if you eat a lot of it! So don’t worry too much about it, just don’t drink the water, don’t eat the leaves, and wash your hands afterwards.

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My experience with it

The whole process of collecting, shredding and drying them might sound like a tedious job. My boyfriend and I combined it with a walk in the park, and an evening in front of a tv show that we liked. Fortunately, we were able to borrow my sister’s strong food processor/blender so it took us only one hour (drying not included) to produce our one-year-supply.

I’ve been using horse chestnuts for over a year now and I can say that they indeed do their cleaning job! Personally, I find chestnuts a bit more user-friendly than ivy as I can just store the nuts in a jar and they don’t need to be soaked for such a long time in comparison to the shredded ivy leaves. However, there’s an ivy plant growing on one side of the house we live in, so we can also get the handful without much effort, so we might be using more of it in the future.

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What I like best on the all-natural detergents is that I can use something that I made myself, that is for free, and that is beneficial for the environment. And it’s a nice autumnal activity in September or October (depending on the chestnut season of course).

Japanese Garden in Vienna: Setagayapark.

In the heart of the Vienna’s 19th district lies something beautiful and extraordinary, a park in a design that is not typical for this region. Setagayapark – a japanese-style garden situated in Döbling, Vienna.

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The 4,000m² garden was built according to plans of Japanese garden planner Ken Nakajima. The name Setagaya derives from one of the 23 districts of Tokyo. Setagaya and Döbling have a twinning arrangement, a cultural and friendship agreement. Because of that the idea emerged to create a park that represents Japanese landscapes and culture in the middle of Austria’s capital.

There are a lot of symbols in the garden that one usually thinks of when talking about a Japanese garden: trees with pink blossoms, water running over cascades, a pond with fish, and of course a typical tea house.

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The park is situated near (or on) the Hohe Warte, a hill in one of the northernmost Viennese districts, Döbling. It is very easy to reach with public transport, but it is not really in the city centre – so if you ever want to journey there, it takes some time to get there. I assume that in spring – during (cherry) blossom time – one can see the park from its best side.

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These were definitely my favourite blossoms in the entire park – so pink and so huge! But I have to be honest – I have no idea what tree this one was, I am not really a tree / plant expert I must say. So if anyone could help me out on that one – please share your information with me ;)

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Even though there were quite a lot of people there it was really calm in the park. There were even a few photo shoots happening there. From couple’s pictures to real advertising shoots or even cosplay shootings – the park seems to be perfect for that during spring. Because of all the small lanes, hidden places, lots of trees and benches, you really do not feel overcrowded. It is a nice place to enjoy the nature, listen to chirping birds, or watch the fish and turtles in the pond.

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What to do in winter: ice skating!

Do you remember the time when you first stood on ice skates? Mine was when I was very young. Growing up on the countryside with a lot of space around the house we had our own small ice skating rink. I assume it was thanks to my brother and my dad; and yes, rink is too fancy a word. We (they?) just poured some water on an empty spot next to the house. Not big and far from perfect – it even had a small gap because of a mortar joint or something like that where we had to be really careful not to fall. Even ‘owning’ our own skating ground did not mean I was any good at it, but I enjoyed it at that time. Still, in my teens I hardly ever went on the ice, only when our gym teacher made us go. And only once during my student time in Vienna did I manage to go on the beautiful Eistraum in front of the city hall.

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Food Festival Vienna.

This week when I was having lunch at Banh Mi in Vienna, I stumbled across a flyer for a food festival that was about to take place in Vienna. The decision was made immediately: I had to go there ;)

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On Saturday my boyfriend, Julia (which you may remember from this blogpost) and I met there at lunchtime. The rush of visitors was okayish, the weather was quite nice as well – perfect day for a food festival that was held in the courtyard of one of the most noblest buildings in Vienna: the Town Hall.

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I think I’ve never been inside the town hall before, so this was the perfect opportunity to go and ‘explore’ it from the inside. Technically – just the courtyard and one small hall, but who cares… ;) It was still amazing to look at the picturesque facade and the small ‘park’ inside while enjoying the sun and delicious food!

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We also had a quick peek inside before the boy and I met up with my friend :D

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Food

Die Burgermacher
First, while waiting for Jules to arrive, the boy and I shared a goat-cheese burger from Die Burgermacher. I’ve heard of them before, but haven’t gotten around yet to go and visit the burger place at their restaurant in the 7th district, Burggasse 12.

Our opinion: very delicious, even though one of the ingredients of the sauce was olives, which I absolutely dislike.

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Wrapstars
Our next stop was Wrapstars, a food truck that specialises in…. wraps that are #realfood and #nobullshit ! :D Their base is organic couscous, organic black beans and kale. You can decide to have organic beef, organic pork or a veggie option. This is rounded up by different ‘flavours’.

Our opinion: we were very curious how couscous would taste like in a wrap. The combination of kale, couscous, black beans and their signature flavour of ‘Tasty by Nature’ made it a perfect wrap. I can wholeheartedly recommend it!

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Market Hall

There was also a market hall in the ‘Volkshalle’ of the town hall, where different market stalls provided visitors with information on various food-related subjects or you could also try a few things such as hip new drinks (e.g. Helga – made from algae) or Verjus (verjuice – a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes).

One of the things we tried (but also had to pay for of course) was one of the famous Pastel de Nata, a Portuguese egg tart pastry, from Nata Lisboa. It was the first time that I had one of those delicious treats, so I was super excited to try it.

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The Adamah BioHof also had a market stall there and we got to try a two organic juices and their concept of the ‘Biokistl’ was explained to us. Every week they deliver a box full of local, fresh, organic vegetables and/or fruits to your door. Very interesting concept and definitely something to think about when living in Vienna.

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However, there weren’t only stalls about food in the market hall. You could also see local upcycling design from ‘gabarage‘ – they had some of their “long-ton” designs, where they upcycled garbage cans into furniture. Again, very interesting concept and I’d love to see this furniture again somewhere.

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Our resume:
The food we tried was delicious yet a tiny bit expensive. But that’s just a given for food markets. Plus you get to try amazing food at a beautiful venue, so the prices were fine in my opinion.