As long as you don’t expect world-class football, Vienna has a host of clubs happy to sell you an entrance ticket. But where do you get the best experience?
- Try Rapid Wien and Austria Wien for Bundesliga football and brand new stadiums
- Try Wiener Sportclub and First Vienna FC for semi-professional football with friendly crowds and local flair
- See also: Where to see football in a bar
Football in Vienna
OK, first a very quick overview of how the local football system works.
Skiing may be the number one sport in Austria, but football has a long tradition and decent support (especially in the cities). At one point, the Austrian national team was pretty much the best on the planet. Those were the Wunderteam years of the early 1930s.
Today’s domestic league suffers from the attractions of the German Bundesliga, the Premier League and elsewhere, which tend to drain the Austrian clubs and academies of all the top talent.
- The top two tiers of football are national leagues: the Bundesliga and the Erste Liga.
As in countries such as France, one team dominates the Bundesliga: 2013 was the last time Red Bull Salzburg were not champions.
- The third tier consists of three regional leagues
Clubs from Vienna play in Regionalliga Ost, alongside representatives from the provinces of Burgenland and Lower Austria.
- Tier 4 consist of separate leagues for each province
Since Vienna is a province in its own right, Tiers 4 and below are essentially city leagues, populated more or less only by clubs from within the capital’s borders. Tier 4 is called the Wiener Stadtliga in Vienna.
The typical stadium tradition among the top tier clubs is a little different to the British one. Rather than respond mainly to what’s going on in the game, the hardcore fans (ultras) keep up a continuous cacophony of noise and colour intended to create an atmosphere of support for their team.
Of course, that atmosphere depends on the size of that hardcore group. And their efforts can have the opposite effect, should the ultras become disgruntled with the players or club. Nor are the chants always politically correct (to put it mildly).
The lower tiers have more of a British non-league football feel to them.
Can you drink beer at the games?
Best clubs to watch
There are numerous traditional football clubs in Vienna, but these are my four tips for the best match day experience.
Wiener Sport-Club (“Sportclub”)
League: Regionalliga Ost
Typical attendance: Around 1500 (?), though a derby against Vienna (see below) can fill the stadium with over 7,000 fans
A fallen giant and cult club who hold the record for the heaviest defeat handed to Juventus in Europe, having beaten them 7-0 in the 1958/59 European Cup. (The two clubs have taken slightly different paths since then.)
Extremely friendly and inclusive atmosphere in the English tradition with fans noted for left-wing leanings and a social conscience. You won’t hear racist or homophobic chants here. The core supporters group stands on the Friedhofstribüne (the cemetery stand). You’ll find me in the main stand most home games.
The stadium is the oldest in the country where football has been played continuously and needs a refit (which should happen anytime now).
Address: Alszeile 19, 1170 Vienna | Website
Travel tip: Take the 43 tram (from Schottentor) or the 2 tram (from, for example, Karlsplatz) to the Dornbach stop.
First Vienna FC 1894 (“Vienna”)
Typical attendance: Around 1300 (?)
The oldest club in the country and another fallen giant; Mario Kempes once played for them. Currently recovering from bankruptcy in 2017. Like Sportclub, a very friendly and inclusive atmosphere. The two teams are ostensibly great rivals, but, whenever they meet, the match is known as the “Derby of Love”, and for good reason.
The iconic Hohe Warte stadium is rather unique, with a huge sloping grass hill on one side. It once hosted as many as 85,000 spectators.
Address: Klabundgasse 11, 1190 Vienna | Website
Travel tip: Take the U4 subway to Heiligenstadt and walk across
SK Rapid Wien (“Rapid”)
Typical attendance: 18,000 (?)
The best-supported club in the country and one of the traditional big four alongside city rivals, Austria Wien (see below), Sturm Graz and Red Bull Salzburg. Winner of numerous trophies, though the last one was in 2008.
The ultras put on quite a show with huge pre-match displays and a raucous atmosphere, but it’s a double-edged sword when the team performs below expectations.
The entire crowd always welcomes the last 15 minutes with an ovation to encourage the players. This Rapidviertelstunde (“Rapid quarter hour”) tradition dates back over 100 years.
The new Allianz Stadium, opened in 2016, is a lovely, modern stadium with a capacity of around 28,000. Purchase prepaid cards at the stadium to buy drinks and snacks inside; you can get any money still left on the card back in cash after the game.
Address: Gerhard-Hanappi-Platz 1, 1140 Vienna | Website
Travel tip: Catch the U4 subway to Hütteldorf and follow the crowds
FK Austria Wien (“Austria”)
Typical attendance: 8,500 (?)
Vienna’s other big professional club. Not as well supported as Rapid, but with an equally long and proud tradition. Austria were the last team to break the Salzburg hegemony when they won the Bundesliga in 2013.
The club renovated and rebuilt their Generali Arena recently, with the reopening in 2018. So the city has two very modern Bundesliga stadiums, now. As with Rapid, the Austria stadium operates a cashless system inside (you can use a credit card, debit card or prepaid card bought at the stadium).
Address: Horrplatz 1, 1100 Vienna | Website
Travel tip: Go to Altes Landgut on the U1 subway to reach the stadium
Vienna also hosts Austria’s national football stadium (the Ernst Happel Stadium). Not every home international takes place there, but many of them do.
Address: Meiereistraße 7, 1020 Vienna
Travel tip: Take the U2 subway to Stadion