The Spot – If Dogs Run Free


The Spot – hangouts you should visit at least once in your life.

Vienna is a city renowned for its café and bar culture. Ever since the claustrophobic decadence of the decaying Austro-Hungarian empire, it’s been a place that people liked to hang around, partaking of a beverage and talking; about politics, art, music or even psychoanalysis. As the experienced can tell you, that tradition of the bar or café as a social space continues unabated with today’s Viennese from all walks of life.

One of the laid-back –and worryingly cool– spots to hunker down to a good conversation and an equally good cocktail is the bar with the whimsical name: If Dogs Run Free. Close to the bustle of Vienna’s museum quarter, it’s located in a mixed area that manages to combine the quirkiness of a traditional Viennese neighbourhood with feeling upwardly mobile and trendy.

For the design concept the local practice Tzou Lubroth Architekten looked to the world of traditional Chinese landscape painting for inspiration. Go figure.

Perhaps they even looked at it upside down because their ideas literally ended up on the ceiling. This was no mistake. Feeling that ceilings are a somewhat neglected space in many interiors, they opted for focussing the patrons’ attention upwards. Thus, the walls and furnishings of the bar have an understated simplicity; a simple palette of raw plaster and honest wooden furniture along modernist lines. All attention is drawn upwards.


The architects have more than one vested interest in the place. They are, in fact, one of the partners that own the bar. As such, their design is not static, not just a job well done relegated to the archive of projects. In fact, the debut ceiling is the first of an intended series that will see a usually an overlooked space used by various artists and designers to animate the bar. So, by the time you get there, it may already offer a new delight.

One of the reasons for opening the bar, as noted by architect and co-owner Gregorio Lubroth, is that while Vienna has a strong tradition of bar and wine culture, much of that has focussed on the traditional; beer, schnapps and wine. The cocktail has largely remained the overpriced domain of glitzy hotel bars in Vienna.

Dogs Run Free changes that by offering the best of cocktail culture to its mixed clientele at more affordable prices. Here you can get your lips around all the old classics or some of the more concoctions of the friendly bar staff. Anyone fancy trying the Hallelujah Cocktail? That’s cognac, aged rum, sweet vermouth and falernum, of course. However, in the true tradition of a European grand café, those who need to walk rather than stagger are welcome to kick back with a good coffee.

If Dogs Run Free is one of those perfect in-the-know places for anyone making a visit to romantic Vienna. It’s in the ideal location for rounding off a mind-expanding day at the nearby museums with an exotic cocktail before moving on to dinner or, indeed, an excellent place to finish up an evening with a nightcap among its eclectic patrons of gregarious Viennese.



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