Hidden spots around Vienna: “Pawlatschen” Courtyards

Even after more than seven years of living abroad, I am awed by Vienna’s inner city whenever I return to visit. The grand dignity and baroque beauty of the “Innere Stadt“, with each building in impeccable condition, blow me away every time. And despite its small size, there is always something new to discover for the visitor who roams with open eyes and an open mind.

Beneath, between and beyond the spectacular theatres, churches, museums and palaces lie the little hidden gems that make Vienna’s inner city a real pleasure to wander. Take, for one, the inner courtyards found in many old buildings within the district. Known colloquially as “Pawlatschen” after the Czech “pawlač”, an open entrance to a house, these squares are oases of green and calm. While these are not in short supply in Vienna more generally, these courtyards do offer a welcome respite from narrow streets often thronged by tourists – and from the sun, which can be merciless on a hot summer’s day.

Vienna's Inner City: Pawlatschen Courtyards. Austria.

A Pawlatschen courtyard, leading on to another courtyard at the back. The sign reads “1st courtyard”.

From the courtyards – or the corridors that connect them – residents can access the stairwells of their houses in relative privacy, and the large number of inwards-facing flats and rooms makes for much quieter living. Of course, these are among the more desirable places to live in Vienna, so I’m sure prices are according! Still, I enjoy the fact that these courtyards are open for anyone to wander; unlike the driveways of blocks of flats in places like Kensington, which are walled and protected by fierce-looking spiked fences, they are a part of the city, if one rarely glimpsed by the casual passer-by. 

Vienna's Inner City: Pawlatschen Courtyards. Austria.

Blue skies and a breath of green, just a few metres separate me from the bustling streets outside, but the two places seem a world apart.

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