After Dark: Beach Bar Boozing

Strandbar Herrmann Brings Beach Feeling to Landlocked Austria

The sand is still cold and a little wet, but it feels good to curl the toes into it. Comfortably leaning back in one of the red deck chairs, people chat away as they enjoy drinking cocktails or long drinks on a beach in the center of Vienna. If it weren’t for the hundreds of cars passing by, you would probably feel tempted to believe you were on holiday in the Mediterranean.

Strandbar Herrmann, Vienna’s first beach club on the Donaukanal behind the Urania, has attracted Viennese and tourists alike since construction was finished in 2005, and was even voted 2nd Best Bar in the World by Conde Nast Traveller in 2006, that wrote that “even though the coast of the sea is 300 miles away, you can still drink a cocktail, eat Schnitzel, and curl your toes into the sand.”

On the occasion of the EURO2008, the Swiss embassy, in cooperation with the Swiss host cantons and the EURO2008 government project, brought the Swiss Beach project into being. For one more month, people will have the opportunity to experience Swiss culture and culinary diversity. During the championships, all games will be shown on a gigantic LED screen.

“I like the atmosphere. The beach is in the middle of the city,” gushed one regular visitor, possibly slightly tipsy as it was getting on in the evening. He seemed to have come from work and was still in his business suit, having rolled up the pant legs and taken off his socks and shoes to enjoy the sand. His jacket he had tossed over the back of the chair.

“It becomes really interesting when the chicks come over from the Badeschiff dressed only in bikinis,” he went on dreamily. “Unfortunately, they come for the cocktails – not because of me.” He blushed. I pretended not to notice.

There are two bars at the Strandbar: one big one in the middle serves long drinks, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, while at a smaller one, closer to the beach, you can buy cocktails. Both have taken on the “identity” of Swiss Beach, in honor of Austria’s co-host of the EURO 2008, with primarily red colors, and a huge red umbrella-like roof over the bigger bar. For each glass or bottle, there is a 50 cents deposit, which you get back if you return them in one piece. You can also eat traditional Swiss dishes like raclette and rösti, as well as the usual Austrian delicacies. On weekends, breakfast is served from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

While the two bars are closer to the road, the beach itself extends to the water. The expanse of sand is equipped with light wooden deck chairs with red fabric surface, each with the name of one of the four Swiss host cantons written on them: Basel, Berne, Geneva, and Zurich. For your drink there is a low black table. The Swiss flag, along with the flags of the host cantons, dance in the light breeze.

The bar seems to attract everyone: You can spot teenagers, students in their twenties, tourists, ordinary Viennese, as well as elegantly dressed professionals.

“My colleagues and I decided to come here to relax after a long and exhausting day,” said a businessman from South Africa who works for a company with offices near the Donaukanal.

While asking for the closest U-Bahn, an additional man dressed in a suit explained: “I went to Kabarett Simpl with friends, and no other bar was open after 11pm. Somebody told us that the Strandbar was still open, so we came here. The atmosphere – all these people relaxing on the beach – impressed me immediately.”

By midnight, visitors were trying to dance on the small tables, lovers were kissing, and the business types were deeply immersed in conversations about god knows what. All in all, everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying one of the first warm days this year. Ships passed by on the canal, and the atmosphere was magical, with the grandeur of the buildings and the eccentric pleasure of city beach bar casting a spell on each other. Serenity was in the air. But with the kick-off of the EURO 2008, the sand will surely heat up… Perhaps that was its special appeal, to wander happily into the calm before…


Strandbar Herrmann

On the Donaukanal behind the Urania

At the Aspernbrücke

10am- 2am, on the weekends,

Breakfast from 10am-2pm

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