Vienna: Walther König bookshop

It’s a rare thing for us to visit a town without finding a bookshop or two to hang out in. The only one I came upon in Graz was closed when I went by. In Vienna we were particularly taken with the Walther König bookshop. I hadn’t heard of this chain before – they are in galleries around Europe, including a couple in London, I discover.

We went to the Museumsquartier in order to view the Schiele and Klimt holdings at the Leopold Museum, only to discover that it is closed on Tuesdays. It was a splendid second prize to walk into this bookshop. It’s very large but not impersonal. I’m used to the way in which secondhand bookshops grow, organically, if not higgledly-piggledy. Here it felt designed, in a good way. Lots of different categories merged into the idea of art. There are critical works and fiction. There is landscape gardening and books like The Architecture of Trees. There is design, including interior, and fashion and craft. Photography, of course. Graphic novels. Fascinating books on architecture and urban planning.

The book I would have loved to buy was Schiele: All paintings 1909-1918. But it cost 150 Euros and that’s without adding in excess luggage as it weighed kilograms. Still, an extravagant and beautiful book I could come back to. I’m not sure if it was the beginning of the internet, or simply cheaper ways to produce excellent art books, but the bottom fell out of the market for secondhand ones in the mid-nineties or so. Despite being well aware of that, I was nonetheless taken aback to see so many beautiful art books yesterday at such heavily discounted prices. For example, for a mere 15 Euros one could buy Dancing Around the Bride. An interesting looking publication in a unique format.

Instead I ended up with a small book on Schiele, text in English, and a John Berger I haven’t come across before: Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance. I look forward to visiting this bookshop again, we must go back to Vienna.



10 thoughts on “Vienna: Walther König bookshop

  1. And I ended up with “Die dicke Prinzessin Petronia”, which is the funniest book I’ve read for at least two months! (Okay, it’s up against “Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell”, but that’s not nothing). This is a terrific bookshop.

  2. Excellent!! I love visiting used book stores and buying art books. I bought a few in the US on Dali and de Kooning.

  3. A good consolation prize indeed for the museum being closed. I grew up in Vienna and it used to be very simple back then: all museums were closed on Mondays. I went back last year and found it really confusing with the Monday, or Tuesday or Sunday or whatever closure. It seemed each one had a different timetable.
    There are many good bookshops in Vienna. Here is an article (in German) with some recommendations:
    My childhood favourite was Frick, but that was because it was big and also had books in English!

    • Wow, you grew up in Vienna – what a cultured upbringing you must inevitably have had then! Right now I’m looking for theater to go to late November. It seems like there are going to be a few things with English surtitles as well as Europe’s longest standing English theatre company, which I will definitely have to go to.

      As for the different days of the week, in Geneva it is even shops and cafes. But as far as museums go, one can see the logic, there is always something open and perhaps it can even influence a person positively to go somewhere that would otherwise not have been on the list.

      I am now working my way through that list of bookshops, thank you.

      • And I lived in Geneva (well, just outside Geneva, on the French side) for a total of 7 years, so I know all about the frustrations of the Restaurant Open 24/7 except for Sundays, Monday evenings and Tuesday lunchtime… But yes, I was very lucky to grow up in Vienna. One of my classmates’ parents worked for the English Theatre in Vienna, so I know it well.

        • A nice vegetarian cafe has just decided to extend its hours here in Geneva so that it will be open until 11pm every day – that’s still very unusual here.

          I will take your comment as a recommendation for the English Theatre and I shall report here after I’ve been!

  4. I love this,

    I’m used to the way in which secondhand bookshops grow, organically, if not higgledly-piggledy. Here it felt designed, in a good way. Lots of different categories merged into the idea of art.

    And sometimes, the fact we can’t get that which we love, it’s a strangely good thing in my eyes. Count me weird, but this made up for a wonderful story of a priced book that’s not in your possession “yet”, but which you had some time to admire. That makes you, as you say, want to go back to Vienna, and you got a smaller size but huge treasure still.

    This makes me long to travel, -which I have not been able to do in quite some time-.

    • I absolutely agree, life is as much made up with what we don’t have as what we do. Wanting – this would be a bad concept if it were always fulfilled.

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