Small-Town Schlossquadrat

It may be the cobblestones, or just the fact that houses here are narrower than in the city centre, but at Margaretenplatz in the 5th District, Vienna suddenly feels like a small town. Here it is not unusual for a shop owner to leave her store to ask suspicious passers-by – i.e., journalists taking notes – what they are up to.

But don’t underestimate the small-town attitude, because the picturesque setting has more to offer than just prying neighbours. The schlossquadrat, a Margaretenplatz landmark, unites vivid history with culinary innovation. Home to four restaurants – the Silberwirt, Gergely’s, Margareta and Cuadro, the former Schloss Margareten dates from the 1400s, and proudly bears the scars from the two Turkish occupations in 1529 and 1683. Later, the City of Vienna bought the complex and rented it out, establishing it as a culinary hotspot for some 200 years.


People dine, shop, stroll and even live within the walls of this rustic sanctuary | Photo: Veronika Zoidl

People dine, shop, stroll and even live within the walls of this rustic sanctuary | Photo: Veronika Zoidl

Indulgence inside

A small hallway called the Genussgang takes visitors off the busy Margaretenplatz into a hidden world of interlocking ivy-covered courtyards. The narrow path leads to cuadro, a hip restaurant known for its square-shaped burgers and breakfast served until 16:00. Its outdoor seating is an ideal place for a more intimate date or for just escaping the hectic urban summer. The place is especially popular for after-work drinks and fills up quickly after 18:00 on weekdays.

On their way to silberwirt in the neighbouring courtyard, visitors pass an installation, which, like a carnival hall of mirrors warps your reflection – and may easily make you think twice about what you had for dinner! As a background noise, jokes and random exclamations in broad Viennese dialect blare out of loudspeakers over the mirrors, startling the uninitiated.

The oldest of the four restaurants, the Silberwirt is equally popular with the after-work crowd. The rustic wooden tables and chairs of the Beisl are squeezed into the space, making the walk to one of the only free tables an obstacle course.

Here, even the waiters have adopted a small-town attitude, and instead of the typical Viennese grumpiness, heartily invite us to “stay at the Schlossquadrat for as long as you like”. The offer is tempting, if only to admire the herbs lining the Gastgarten, philosophise about what scenes the shady chestnut trees may have seen, or just imagine what it might have been like to live in this rustic sanctuary.

This is easy to answer, because people do in fact live here. The apartments are fully furnished and can be rented for a minimum of three months – rather upscale, but worth it: After all, who can say that they live in an actual Schloss in downtown Vienna?

A green vintage tractor, parked outside the Gastgarten of the Silberwirt, is the culmination of the rustic atmosphere in this downtown oasis – perhaps a bit much, but somehow it fits.  At the other side of the courtyard is gergely’s, which is more posh and is worth a visit even in winter, located as it is in the vault of the 14th century castle stocked with a large selection of steaks and wines.

The fourth restaurant of the Schlossquadrat is margareta, an affordable Italian trattoria with yet another beautiful courtyard shaded by olive trees. And if you don’t want to miss out on the street life, there is also a Schanigarten right on Margaretenstraße.


In the neighbourhood

But cuisine is only part of the story: The former castle is also home to a division of the Polycollege, the 5th District branch of the Wiener Volkshochschulen. It is the oldest, founded in 1887, and their arts & crafts, language and skills courses are advertised in the Schlossgasse windows. In fact, it’s lucky the Schlossquadrat has signs outside, because it’s not the only castle-like building in the area. Right across the street is the Margarethenhof, for instance, with gables and intricate cast-iron frivolities above the windows, facing another building across Margaretenplatz with columns and mounted urns, looking almost Greek.

Margaretenplatz itself resembles a rural market place, with the busy gelateria marcello, next to the self-serve sb-waschsalon, one of the rare laundromats in the city. The mix of innovative new places next to more traditional locations is a common combination at the heart of Margareten. A great tip for special occasions, dieses & jenes is an ideal shop for thoughtful and creative gift giving or treating oneself, selling old-school toys, small wooden boxes and retro-coloured dishes.

Opposite is the eye-catching mirrored façade with vintage red letters of the filmcasino, a cult cinema showing independent movies in original languages first opened in 1911. And just recently, snackberry arrived on the scene, offering “coffee – takeaway – wine” and a wide selection of bagels. Next door is the haas beisl, a cosy neighbourhood tavern that lives up to its “history of Austrian Geselligkeit”. 

In Margareten, tradition and invention can go hand in hand.

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