The Naschmarkt – Hipster Market Mentality

Grätzl (Viennese dialect) a neighbourhood in Vienna contained by subjective boundaries and a coherent identity

Modsters, families, tourists and tradesmen give this eclectic market its charm | Photo: David Reali

On Saturdays, useless paraphernalia and rare treasures await at the Flohmarkt | Photo: David Reali

market scene

Modsters, families, tourists and tradesmen give this eclectic market its charm | Photo: David Reali

“Kebab, kebab”, the young Turkish man shouts while cutting thin slices from an enormous skewer of meat. Its smell mixes with the odour of exotic spices, cheese, grilled fish and the sweat of thousands of visitors, who – especially now that summer has embraced Vienna – are enjoying the city’s most famous farmers’ market.

Originally the Kärntnertormarkt, the market was founded in 1780 on the right side of the Wienfluss, between Wiedner Hauptstraße and Operngasse. All fruits and vegetables that were delivered into the city by wagon had to be sold here. The name “Naschmarkt” began being used around 1820 and probably refers to the snacking on exotic sweets and nibbles like sugar pickled orange peels and dates that were sold at many of the booths. In 1902 the market was moved to today’s location between Getreidemarkt and Kettenbrückengasse and Rechte and Linke Wienzeile.

Until 2009, the Naschmarkt was split between two districts (Mariahilf and Wieden), when jurisdiction was conveyed entirely to the 6th District, to make administration easier – however those who have tried to get a permit for a stand there know that it can still be quite a challenge.

 

From Turkish breakfast to Japanese pizza

The market today is about 1.5 kilometres long and is a unique microcosm of bobos, hipsters, families and old folks, tourists and tradesmen from all over the world. For many Viennese, the Naschmarkt is a kind of love-hate thing: While there are great restaurants, bars and stores to be discovered amidst the lively and international atmosphere, you also fight the feeling of getting ripped off when going grocery shopping: €5 for a spoonful of hummus, €10 for a handful of olives – the same stuff at the nearby Billa would be far less. Of course it would also have less flavour… But that’s another story.

There is no way to prepare to discover the Naschmarkt, but we can look at some of the hotspots in and around this culinary oasis. On a sunny day, getting a table at Deli is almost impossible because all the cool kids of Vienna seem to have gathered here to enjoy a veggie-wok for €10 or an equally popular Turkish breakfast. Fortunately, the epicentre of hipness has spawned a couple of clones such as Do-An or Neni that look identical and serve the same bobo-cuisine together with a cool, copper-coloured glass of Apérol-Spritzer. While there is excellent Balkan fare, sea food specialities and Turkish delights, don’t expect haute cuisine or epicurean experiments here: This is a seller’s market and most customers will go to anywhere with a spare seat.

 

market scene

On Saturdays, useless paraphernalia and rare treasures await at the Flohmarkt | Photo: David Reali

Outside, looking in

While people-watching is nowhere as enjoyable as right inside of the market, the more interesting gastronomic institutions are lined up on the Wienzeile: Café Drechsler, for example, is one of Vienna’s oldest Kaffeehäuser and reopened in 2007. The interior designers got rid of the dirt and decay of decades of shady characters. And while it isn’t as charmingly down at the heels anymore, it still is one of the few places in Vienna where you can get a full warm meal after midnight. And legend has it that the original Engelbert Drechsler was the first to serve the now commonly available “coffee to go” in Vienna, by providing take-away brew for the Naschmarkt vendors.

Right next to the metro station Kettenbrückengasse may be the most charming Japanese restaurant of the city: Kuishimbo is little more than a hole in the wall, but serves authentic Japanese cuisine (see Restaurant Review here). With the vast number of sushi joints in Vienna you’d think that the Japanese eat nothing but raw fish. In fact, they more often enjoy a pot of hot noodle soup instead. Kuishimbo gives you a taste of that, and the adventurous can try Japanese pizza – where the ingredients still move around on the plate!

 

Save it for Saturday

The most exciting day to visit the Naschmarkt is Saturday, when the flea market takes over in the outer section at Kettenbrückengasse. If you really plan on buying something, ignore your Friday night hangover and come early because the good stuff is definitely gone by noon. For all who just want to soak in the atmosphere of hundreds of onlookers walking between decades-old telephones, videocassettes and dusty dishes, this is the perfect place at any time of day.

When the dusk slowly envelopes the market on a slow and hot Viennese summer day, when the vendors start to pack away the fake football shirts and shisha-tobacco, and dozens of different languages – of visitors and vendors – bubble over the heads of the crowd, and as people storm the bars and bistros, even the Viennese are reminded once again why they are in love with their city.

Deli
Naschmarkt 421-436
(01) 5850823

Kuishimbo
Linke Wienzeile 40
0699 171 923 55 (no reservations)

Café Drechsler
Linke Wienzeile 22 / Girardigasse 1
(01) 581 20 44

Naschmarkt Flohmarkt Area
Do-An
Naschmarkt 412-415
(01) 58 58 253

Neni
Naschmarkt 510
(01) 585 20 20

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