Local hero
Klaus Mühlbauer’s Guide to Vienna
By Aleks Cvetkovic
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Like so many inter-generational family businesses, the fourth-generation owner of Mühlbauer hat makers, Klaus Mühlbauer, really didn’t expect to be a part of the family business growing up.

“I was always interested in fashion,” he explains, “but I don’t think I’d have become a hatter if this hadn’t been a family business. After I finished school, I started an apprenticeship in our hat-making workshop for something to do – and because my parents liked the idea. Within two or three months, I’d fallen in love with the process. There aren’t many professions today where you can start a piece of work in the morning, finish it by the evening and go home knowing that you’d made something beautiful with your own hands.”

Even so, it wasn’t till the year 2000 that Klaus took the reins, joining his family’s Viennese hat-making institution as managing director, following several years pursuing fashion and textile design elsewhere: “My father decided to retire and asked my brothers and sisters whether they had any interest in taking on the company. I was the only sibling with any interest.”

Under Klaus’s guiding hand, Mühlbauer has enjoyed some considerable success in the 21 years since. The brand has an international reputation as a contemporary couture hatter, and loyal celebrity clients including Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Madonna – to name just a few. It’s this cult following that has ensured Klaus’s 25-strong workshop of craftspeople have made it through the Coronavirus pandemic largely unscathed.

“So many business-people come to visit and ask me, ‘are you crazy running a workshop in the centre of Vienna?’ I always tell them this is my greatest asset. Here, I have total control over the quality of my product, and I can create anything I want with my own hands, or the hands of my team. At Mühlbauer, we can answer the customer’s every wish – and that’s why so many of our clients stay with us through the years. Their loyalty gives me confidence that we’re on the right path.”

Speaking of right paths, as a born-and-raised Viennese native, Klaus’s knowledge of his home city is as impressive as his commitment to his family’s long-standing business. He kindly took some time out to take us through a few of his favourite hot-spots, from low-key konditorei cafés to fine dining spots and craft stores. Read on for Klaus’s guide to Austria’s picturesque capital city.

“So many business-people come to visit and ask me, ‘are you crazy running a workshop in the centre of Vienna?’ I always tell them this is my greatest asset. Here, I have total control over the quality of my product, and I can create anything I want with my own hands, or the hands of my team."
— Klaus Mühlbauer

‘Good Day Vienna’

 

  1. Our office and workshop is right in the centre of the city. We’re on the first floor of our building, but the ground floor is one of the most famous ice cream parlours in Vienna. It’s called Eissalon Schwedenplatz, and I’ve been friends with the owner for years. The ice cream is excellent, but I tend to sit there in the mornings and have my espresso before I go upstairs to the workshop.

 

  1. Just a few minutes walk on from Schwedenplatz is a classic Viennese-style cafe where I go for lunch a couple of times a week. It’s called Diglas and it’s quite strangely decorated inside, but it’s great fun. It’s not modern or cool, but it’s a charming spot for tea, coffee or a light lunch.

 

  1. En route to my other shop, I pass by St Stephen’s Cathedral. Although I’ve walked past it thousands of times, it’s still very special to me – as it is to many Viennese people. There’s a real energy to the cathedral and I always feel very connected to it.

 

  1. Close to my second store, beyond the Cathedral, there’s a really lovely bakery called Gragger & Cie that sells the best Nussbeugel in Vienna, a pastry filled with nuts and walnut cream. It’s a Viennese speciality and this is a great place to try it.

 

  1. My favourite museum is the Museum of Applied Arts. It’s closely connected to the University of Applied Arts, and the exhibitions there are often fascinating. To me, the museum is always that little bit more relatable to the modern world than the pure field of fine art.

 

  1. For dinner, one of my favourite restaurants is Café Ansari, it’s walking distance from my office but just across the river. It’s a Georgian restaurant with a lovely interior, so it’s not the kind of place to eat at every day – it’s quite special. Choose it as your ‘fancy’ meal out when you come to Vienna.

 

  1. O Boufes is another regular haunt of mine. It’s a relaxed restaurant run by the very famous Greek cook, Konstantin Filippou. He has a fine dining restaurant in his own name just next-door, but O Boufes is his relaxed, bistro-style place. It’s a Greek-Austrian fusion, which might sound quite strange, but what he does with it is really exceptional.

 

  1. Vienna remains are great European city for craft and I’m always surprised by how much craft there still is in the city centre. There’s a shoemaker called Rosa Mosa that I can recommend highly – the co-founders are an Austrian woman and Japanese man, who’ve worked very closely together for years.

 

  1. PARK is a retail store in the 7th district of Vienna, that I always think has a really well curated collection. I’d say it’s one of the best fashion stores in Vienna. I also like to shop at EMIS, which has a great selection of Japanese fashion.

 

  1. There are so many jewellery designers in town that I don’t really know where to start. I think my favourite is actually FLorian Jewelry, but unfortunately at the moment he doesn’t have a store in town, but he’s still worth checking out online. His designs are really beautiful.
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