There aren’t many countries in Europe I haven’t been to, Austria was top of my to do list, and in particular a visit to Vienna. Steeped in history and tradition this beautiful capital city much has its own character and style, despite the neighbouring countries that land-lock Austria. Their heartfelt fight for independence in the past has made the locals proud of their heritage and I noticed this enthusiasm throughout the city. The grandeur and elegance is immediately noticeable in the architecture, the regular ballroom dancing events and, of course the cake culture, which we whole-heartedly embraced! Music and art are unforgettable elements to the Viennese culture, many tourists visit just to indulge in the opera productions at the magnificent opera house or to marvel at the impressive art collections. I factored in a mix of prominent sites and hidden gems into my itinerary, and have highlighted my favourite finds below.
Hotel Lamee – this stylish boutique venue is one of the handpicked design hotels in the city. Centrally located, with sumptuous bedrooms and luxurious amenities, it was a lovely place to return to after a long day exploring the streets of Vienna.
Edvard – Located in the outstanding Kempinski hotel this one Michelin star restaurant serves immaculate dishes using the finest local meat and fish from the lakes of Austria. Sit back, relax and enjoy the culinary masterpieces presented to you by the charming waiters.
FiglMueller – This renowned restaurant is known in Austria as the home of the schnitzel. Cosy and always bustling with hungry tourists and locals, make sure you book ahead or be prepared to get a take-out schnitzel and eat on the street like I did!
Neni at Naschmarkt – a trendy café in the midst of the weekend flea market, Neni’s offers delicious Middle Eastern fare by a Tel Aviv chef. Sit outside (blankets are found on the seats) and enjoy the food while soaking up the bazaar-like atmosphere.
Hotel Sacher – a trip to Vienna is not complete without a slice of the Hotel Sacher Chocolate Torte. Rich and dense it is best enjoyed with a dollop of thick cream.
If Dogs Run Free – named after the famous Bob Dylan song, this stylish bar in the 6th district has a great vibe and serves tasty cocktails. Run by a few creative and zealous guys the bar has become a popular hang-out for young trendsetters.
Halbstadt – this little bar was a lucky late discovery for me in Vienna. Known for mixing the best cocktails in town we headed there for a final drink on Saturday night when the place was just beginning to warm up.
Weinorgel – I didn’t realise how wine-proud Austrians were until I visited this little wine bar. Sit at the smoky bar and enjoy a glass of the local wine whilst enjoying the basket of monkey nuts (the floor is coated in the nut shells).
Caffé Couture – a modern and hip artisan cafe offers easily the best coffee in Vienna. The coffee has a smooth luxurious taste poured with precision by the masterful baristas.
Demel – this famous pastry shop and chocolaterie was founded in 1786 on the Michaelerplatz and is still a classy institution today. Order the classic indulgent hot chocolate with freshly whipped cream and then spend your spare change in the beautiful shop (best known for the violet sugary sweets and ultra-thin chocolate ‘cat’s tongues’).
Mozart’s House – The Mozarthaus Vienna was Mozart’s residence from 1784 to 1787. This building in Vienna’s Old Town, not far from St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is his only surviving Viennese residence and is now a museum holding many illuminating information and documents about his life and work in Austria.
Vienna State Opera House – this World famous opera house produces major productions all year round with staggering variety and top talent. Tickets sell out fast, but you can queue on the day for €3 standing tickets or attend a short tour round the building to see the splendour of the venue.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum – this palatial museum houses some of the most important artwork in Austria, currently showing an exhibition of Velaquez alongside the remarkable permanent collection.
Shopping with Lucie – Lucie is a wondrous woman who hails originally from NYC. In 2006 she set up this inventive company to fill a gap in the market and has since offered tours that shed light on the ateliers and artists of Vienna. Tailor-made tours offer insight into the beautiful handmade, luxury and traditional products, clothes and jewellery that live in the backstreets. Below are a few shops I discovered thanks to Lucie’s recommendations.
Lena Hoschek – this is a wonder emporium of unique clothes and accessories made for strong and stylish women. Lena Hoschek’s designs are dark and glamorous with an emphasis on the femme fatale look.
Park – this smart fashion boutique is a kind of concept store. Stocking a carefully curated selection of designer and street brands alongside on-trend furniture, footwear, magazines, perfume and art books. I bought a small bottle of the fragrant Austrian perfume, Wendy and Jim, and also loved the Park’s own brand coloured cashmere hats.
Muhlbauer – this minimalist shop has been providing the Viennese elite with beautiful headwear since 1903. Try on the timeless hats, perfect for keeping your head warm in the cold winter weather.
Das goldene Wiener Herz – the name translates to ‘the golden Viennese heart’. These traditionally-shaped wine glasses are decorated with old-fashioned designs and motifs and make a lovely gift. The balloon glasses have a gold rim and a gold heart on the bottom, whilst the bulbous stemless glasses have a pretty vine illustration.
Sofitel Spa – this sleek skyscraping hotel is very striking thanks to designer Jean Nouvel who has given the building a futuristic look. Head up to the minimalist spa and let the therapists pamper you while you look out over the city.
The Wiener Riesenrad – this 64.75-metre tall Ferris wheel is at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the 2nd district of Vienna. Featured in the famous “The Third Man” film this iconic wheel is a must for tourists. Relish the opportunity to ride on one of the oldest operating wheels in the world and take a photo to remember the extraordinary view.
Many thanks to the Vienna Tourist board for their help with this trip, more information here.