The Biedermeier Epoch

The common life

 Wall lantern at home

Biedermeier”: that brings to mind floral-print wallpaper and landscapes, salon music, ball societies and afternoon-tea, summer retreats, visits to Heuriger taverns, and facades like dolls’ houses. In the first half of the nineteenth century this ostensibly perfect idyll was the bourgeoisie’s answer to an authoritarian state system: the Viennese used almost any means of distraction and fled into domestic bliss.

The architect Joseph Kornhäusl left his mark on the cityscape and created Biedermeier jewels like the Theater in der Josefstadt, or the Mechitaristenkloster in the 7th district.

“He who discovers the preciousness of the moment finds happiness in the everyday.” Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868), major Austrian writer of the Biedermeier era.

A few steps on, just behind the MuseumsQuartier, in the narrow alleys between Siebensterngasse, Stiftgasse, Burggasse and Breitengasse, the picturesque Biedermeier houses, the huge linden trees and the inviting sidewalk cafés of the Spittelberg exude the cosy atmosphere of the time: a small village in the middle of the city, that exudes familiarity and intimacy. And things really were intimate on the Spittelberg in those days: its various “etablissements” earned it the name “Venusberg” (“Venus hill”).

Nowadays the Spittelberg has discarded its frivolous allures and is a charming, trendy area

people meet in the romantic courtyard of the alternative Amerling-Beisl, or spend hours in the Lux, a restaurant, bar, coffeehouse and cinema in one which resides in two old houses.


 View from a house

Biedermeier flower dress

They enjoy good Viennese cuisine at the Witwe Bolte, supposedly the Spittelberg’s oldest Gasthaus, and shop in style: from art nouveau jewelry and arts and crafts to the small shop run by the Austrian fashion designer Lena Hoschek. And in winter the smells of Glühwein, waffles and roasted chestnuts fill the cobblestone streets.In Spittelberg’s shops, restaurants and bars, you can indulge in conviviality, the handmade and the beautiful, good taste and loving detail: today almost exactly as it was in the Biedermeier era.

Text: Nina Lucia Groß, Fotos: Christine Wurnig, Bild Spaziergang: ÖNB Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung