After not having been back in my home country for several years, I decided to spend some time in Austria to catch up with friends and family and to enjoy some of the local delicacies. As a part of the trip, my fiancée and I decided to live off bitcoin for a day to find out how far adoption has come in Austria’s capital.
For brunch, I reserved a table at the popular Tian Bistro on Schrankgasse in Vienna’s 7th district.
The restaurant accepts bitcoin payments and also houses one of the many bitcoin ATMs found in Vienna.
Tian Bistro serves a sharing breakfast that gives guests a choice between four warm dishes combined with a variety of sweet and savory baked goods as well as yogurts with fruits and seeds. For €18 ($19.76) per person, their sharing breakfast is a great way to start the morning, especially when you have it with a glass of champagne as the waiter recommended.
My fiancée and I opted for eggs benedict and the vegetable omelet as our main dishes and shared the yogurts, breads with condiments and fruits. I particularly enjoyed the mushroom spread on sourdough bread and the “Nusskipferl,” an Austrian pastry containing nuts, which was served as part of the dessert round.
The bill came to €50 ($54.89) for two people and also included a bottle of water and two coffees. Paying in bitcoin was fast and convenient as the waiters there are used to processing bitcoin payments. I asked our waiter how often people pay in bitcoin he responded:
“Around two to five people a day will pay using bitcoin in the restaurant, and about half a dozen will come daily to use the bitcoin ATM. We are definitely seeing an increase in bitcoin payments lately since the price of bitcoin has started to shoot up.”
While it was my first ever visit to Tian Bistro but it will definitely not be my last. The food was simply amazing, and the service was excellent.
Bitcoin ATMs and “Bitcoinbons”
Buying bitcoin in Vienna is actually extremely easily and convenient. Not only do you have the choice between several bitcoin ATMs scattered around the central districts of Vienna but you can also buy so-called “Bitcoinbons.” Bitcoinbons are coupons that you can pay for in cash to then receive bitcoin into your wallet. They are a creation of the Austrian bitcoin startup Coinfinity and are available at dozens of newsagents in Austria’s capital.
House of Nakamoto
By far the most interesting location for bitcoiners that come to Vienna is the House of Nakamoto. It is located a short walk away from the Stephansplatz, the center of Vienna, and acts as a bitcoin information center as well as a retailer for gadgets and clothing. You can purchase bitcoin t-shirts, hardware wallets, and of course bitcoin itself at the in-store ATM or by purchasing a “Bitcoinbon.”
At the House of Nakamoto, I had the chance to have a chat with Magdalena Isbrandt, the general manager of Bit-Trust store Gmbh, the bitcoin startup behind the bitcoin store House of Nakamoto. My main reason to go to House of Nakamoto was to buy a Nano Ledger hardware wallet, but she informed me that they are currently out of stock due to high demand and that I had would have to wait another two weeks for the next batch to arrive. “The demand for hardware wallets has increased so much in recent months that manufacturers are struggling to catch up with production to meet the demand,” she told me.
I also asked her thoughts of how bitcoin is evolving as a spending currency in Austria as opposed to becoming a pure alternative investment due to the bitcoin network’s scalability issues and increasing transaction fees. She responded:
“Here, in Austria, we live in prosperity, so it doesn’t really make much of a difference whether we pay in cash, using a bank card or with bitcoin when we pay for our coffee, except when it comes to privacy and data security. That is only possible using cash and bitcoin. However, in developing parts of the world, there are 2.7 billion people who have no access to formal financial services. In some Islamic nations, such as Afghanistan for example, women are not even able to open bank accounts. In countries like that and economies that are plagued with hyperinflation, bitcoin can act as a real store of wealth and as a means to make payments.”
On the topic of the block debate and bitcoin’s increasing transaction fees, Isbrandt added: “Bitcoin’s network problems are normal. All large networks experience these issues when start to scale. The same thing happened with the Internet in the 90s with emails with large attachments could not be sent. Bitcoin transaction costs are still minimal compared to bank charges and remittance costs when dealing with Western Union and Moneygram. I consider the block size debate a positive aspect of the Bitcoin community as it shows that decisions are being made in a democratic way and not by ten people that get to decide over the fate of the world.”
Café Tanzen Anders
Nudged away in the Ziegelofengasse in the fifth district, you can find the café, Tanzen Anders. The cafe reminds me of the hipster cafes I have visited in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and in Shoreditch, London.
It is small, loud and very busy. Unfortunately, it was too busy for my partner and I to get a table, so we were not able to sit down for a coffee. A brief chat with one of the barristers confirmed that they accept bitcoin payments and see customers pay in the digital currency quite regularly.
According to CoinMap, several retailers that accept bitcoin in Vienna, including a beauty salon, a botanical retailer, a Tesla limousine service, a bookstore, a craft beer vendor, and several software companies, among others. The only shop that really interested me was the bookstore and the craft beer vendor, so I called up the two retailers before visiting them to ensure that they still accept bitcoin as the listings found on CoinMap are not always up to date.
The owner of the bookstore Buchhandlung 777 told me on the phone that he stopped accepting bitcoin because the currency was too volatile for him. “You would never know what you would get a day after you got paid in bitcoin,” he told me. I asked him if the payment service he was using did not immediately convert the bitcoins he received into euros, but he responded with: “No, it didn’t.”
Since the bookstore was off the table, I decided to venture into the 12th district to visit the craft beer shop Malefitz at the Meidlinger Markt. Malefitz sells a wide variety of local and international beers and, as I was informed on the phone the day before, accepts bitcoin as a payment method. Unfortunately, despite stating on its website that it is open on Saturdays the shop was closed when we arrived there. That was a real shame because having a beer in the sun would have been just perfect for the late afternoon.
To grab dinner, I called up other venues listed on CoinMap to ensure that they actually accept bitcoin. However, it turned out that the restaurant Bits&Bites is currently in the process of setting up bitcoin payments but still needs to check the legal standpoint for accepting the digital currency while the Diesel’s Bar in the third district is closed on the weekends.
That meant that the only option to have dinner and pay in bitcoin that I was able to find online was Tian Restaurant, a sister venue of the Tian Bistro, located in the first district. However, since we already had brunch at Tian Bistro, we decided to have dinner at home instead.
Given Vienna’s famous coffee house culture and its wide variety of restaurants, it is a shame that there are not many cafés or restaurants that accept bitcoin. So if you want to drink coffee and eat cake at traditional Viennese cafes, you will have to resort to using your bitcoin debit card when it comes time to pay.
Bitcoiners who want to pay for their accommodation in the digital currency, however, have the choice between several different apartments that can be rented from the local Airbnb equivalent Vienna Apartment. The lodging service currently provides seven apartments located in the inner districts of Vienna, close to the main touristic attractions.
Bitcoin in Austria
With Austria traditionally being a quite conservative country, it is somewhat surprising to see that the small country in the heart of Europe possesses a vibrant Bitcoin community. The community includes monthly meetups, several Bitcoin startups, such as BitPanda, Cointed, and Coinfinity, as well as a local bitcoin foundation, Bitcoin Austria, which promotes the use of digital currencies in the country.
Spending a day in Vienna living only off bitcoin showed me that it is very easy to acquire bitcoin here but not so easy to spend them. Through the substantial number of bitcoin ATMs and “Bitcoinbons” vendors, it is easy to get your hands on new bitcoins, but there are only a handful of businesses that accept the cryptocurrency as a payment method. So if you want to explore Vienna using bitcoin, make sure you have arranged some peer-to-peer deals through LocalBitcoins or Mycelium to obtain euros or pack your bitcoin debit card because you will need it here.