The Viennese Schanigärten

Outdoor seating area of ​​a restaurant or café

 Schanigarten with drinking fountain

If you’re looking for a taste of the Viennese quality of life then you should certainly try out one of the 1,800 Schanigärten (side-walk cafés) – this is where it can be experienced first-hand. And so that you don’t miss them, here’s a brief description: a Schanigarten is the outdoor seating area of a restaurant or café situated on public property, i.e. the footpath. About all that a Schanigarten has to do with a “garden” are possibly some decorative plants, or perhaps a separating barrier.

“Schani, take the garden out!” An unknown publican orders his apprentice to set up the tables and chairs outside.

The first official Schanigarten

was authorised in 1750 for the café owned by Gianni Tarroni on the Graben. And as everything French was considered chic by the Viennese, Gianni’s garden gave birth to the Schanigarten. There is however another popular version of the term’s origins: “Schani” is not only the diminutive name derived from French for Johann and Hans. In Vienna a servant is also called a “Schani”.  (“I bin jo ned dei Schani!”/”I am not your Schani” –  “Do it yourself, I’m not your servant!”). Accordingly, the Schani was the one who had to set up the tables and chairs outside, and thus the Schanigarten was born.

Tables with umbrellas

 Café outside area

Schanigarten of a café and restaurant

In the Schanigarten both the enterprising and the idle indulge themselves with a short break, and enjoy not only food and drink, but also the theatre of the street: seeing and being seen.  Vienna’s Schanigärten are like small, wind-blown oases amidst the hustle and bustle of the dynamic city. Here you can put your bags down and your feet up during a shopping tour, or hold a business meeting in the fresh air.

It would be presumptuous to recommend a particular Schanigarten to you here. Just stroll through the city, and just take a seat wherever there’s lots to see or whenever you feel like a break – that’s quality of life in Vienna!

Text: Lucia Czernin, Fotos: Christine Wurnig