Slip into local life in Vienna

JENNIFER ENNION
Last updated 13:04 08/10/2013

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A hip hotel in Vienna is offering tourists the chance to become "locals".

A trio of Austrian architects are making their mark on the hotel industry by giving travellers the opportunity to "reside" in studio rooms scattered about the 4th District.

Urbanauts is a cross between Couchsurfing and a normal hotel stay, without small talk between strangers and dealings with reception staff.

Co-founder Theresia Kohlmayr, 28, explains the concept: "We want to transport the feeling that our guests are travelling with friends," she said.

Basically, before leaving home, you book a studio room online at urbanauts.at. You opt to be picked up from Vienna airport and taken to your temporary abode, or, if you really want to feel like a local, you can jump on the metro.

You pay in advance and are then sent a studio access code. This means that when you arrive in Vienna you can go straight to the 4th District, just a hop from the city centre.

It's a no-fuss welcome that allows you to effortlessly slip into local life.

The studios are inconspicuous, as they are former galleries, artists' spaces and tailor shops, and therefore the facades blend into the cityscape.

They're similar to the shops-cum-homes found in Sydney suburbs such as Rozelle and Paddington.

They have trendy bathrooms, free-standing clothes racks, laptop desks with internet and wi-fi, free mini bars, and king-size beds.

Guests are also given bicycles for their stay if they wish to explore the city on two wheels, and you're left a map that highlights great cafes and a nearby day spa.

The experience allows you to be integrated into the community quickly but, unlike the Couchsurfing model, you can retain solitude and personal space.

"It looks like a hotel room but you're private," says Theresia, who, with hoteliers as parents, grew up in a Salzburg hotel.

The scattered placing of the studios also means that instead of listening to the knocks of hotel maids in hallways and Aussie accents in the room next door, the city soundtrack is one of German voices, local shopkeepers and perhaps the mailman.

"It's a city experience without detours through the hotel lobby," reads the Urbanauts website.

There are three street "lofts" (as Urbanauts calls them), but plans are underway to build the portfolio to 10, all of which will be in the same district.

Urbanauts, which has a hotel licence, also offers a 24-hour phone service so guests still have that typical hotel assistance if they need it.

When the three founders opened the first room in 2011 they expected a clientele aged from their mid-20s to 40s. Their youngest guest, however, has been 18 and their oldest 70.

It's largely popular with couples looking for something a bit different, with 60 per cent of guests German speakers and from northern Europe.

It's certainly a concept that's on the fringe of the hotel industry and one that is sure to take off in cool city suburbs around the world.

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IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Numerous airlines fly to Vienna, with connections in Asia or Europe, including Emirates, Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa.

For details on public transport in Vienna, as well as attractions, check out wien.info/en.

STAYING THERE: Book a "loft" online at urbanauts.at. A "couple" loft costs €120 ($195.6) per night per loft and a slightly larger "comfort" loft costs €140 ($228.2) per night per loft.

The cost includes items in the mini bar and the use of two bicycles. Guests are required to pay in advance and will be sent the code to their room. The rooms are not "lofts" in the Australian understanding but are studios at street level.

PLAYING THERE: Hipsters will also enjoy the Albertina, an art gallery with three exhibits, one of which features works by Monet. See albertina.at.

For great food in a funky place make your way to the Daniel Bakery, inside Hotel Daniel. Meals are burgers, salads and soup in Austrian flavours. Check it out at hoteldaniel.com.

The writer travelled as a guest of Vienna Tourist Board.

- AAP

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