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Europe Report: Vienna

Our intrepid traveler Susan enthusiastically tells us why “Vienna is a city that deserves some attention” …

[Photo courtesy of wien.info]

Often overlooked when competing with major cities like London, Paris, Florence, etc., Vienna is a city that deserves some attention. Why? Within a compact, easy to navigate city you can enjoy the palaces of the Hapsburg Empire, the Viennese Modernist architecture of Otto Wagner (circa 1900) and others, a wealth of art museums– all while savoring both traditional Viennese pastries and quite modern food in hip settings. Of course, if you are a music lover you can’t go wrong in Vienna either. Further, there are some great hotel choices that won’t break the bank (especially when compared to other “name” European cities).

What To See/Do: Vienna is one of the most organized cities in the world in terms of tourist information. An extremely helpful visitor office is located opposite the Albertina Museum with tons of useful free maps and guides (including ones on architecture, shopping, etc. depending on your interests). To orient yourself in advance, the city’s online site is equally great – www.wien.info. It’s the best I’ve seen, covering both sights and current events of interest, musical performances as well as their dining and shopping recommendations (including “stores with an architectural wow factor.”). It would not be possible to duplicate the wealth of information on the website here, but the “hot list” of sights includes:

Imperial Vienna: Visit the Imperial Palace – don’t miss the Imperial Apartments and the Silver Collection (use the included audio guide to get a real flavor of what life was like for the Hapsburgs and their staff). To see Vienna’s Versailles, visit the Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens and also the Belvedere Palace, which has great art collections on display as well, including the work of Gustav Klimt. TIP: the online site provides a “Gustav Klimt Walk Through Vienna.”

Viennese Modernism: Don’t miss the work of Otto Wagner, including his apartments, the still functioning post office – the Postparkhaus – and much more. See “Otto Wagner in 26 Stops” on the online site. (You don’t have to do all of them of course!) Additionally, don’t miss the Secession Building by Olbrich, a student of Otto Wagner.

MAK- Museum of Applied Arts: From bentwood chairs by Thonet to Biedermeir sofas to Wiener Weerkstatte tableware, it is all here. Additionally there are architectural models by contemporary architects and contemporary art exhibits. Don’t miss the adjacent restaurant (see below).

The MQ – MuseumsQuartier: A museum complex which includes a focus on contemporary art and architecture as well as the not-to-be missed Leopold Museum with its own display of Schiele and Klimt and a section on Modernist architecture and applied arts. Great cafes are sprinkled throughout the MQ along with a range of shops making it a lively place to hang out– much frequented by locals during the day and evening.

Restaurants: If you are after classic Viennese cuisine, I suggest you tap sources other than this, since what follows are some of my favorites and all are about contemporary Viennese food. Most noteworthy is Osterreicher im MAK (www.oesterreicherimmak.at), a fabulous chef who has taken over the dining room (with an equally fabulous décor) of the MAK museum. Garden dining is possible. Reservations essential at dinner and even lunch. Another favorite is Do & Co. Albertina, the more casual component of Do & Co.’s operations in Vienna (they have another slightly fancier restaurant in town) – www.doco.com (reservations advised). The food is international with a Viennese twist, and the setting on the terrace of the Albertina Museum can’t be beat whether you dine inside or out. For something completely different, try the restaurant in the Urania complex – a turn of the (last) century observatory that has been beautifully converted into a multi-use center for arts, including a restaurant (www.barurania.com). Food has a definite Asian accent, and the setting on canal which feeds off the Danube is quite pleasant, with dining options both inside and out. For an amazing food store, don’t miss Julius Meinl, which has a coffee bar and restaurant as well (www.meinl.com).

Coffeehouses: For classic Viennese pastry, visit Demel (www.demel.at). For more casual coffeehouse experiences, check out the listings on the Vienna tourist website. Café Central is the legendary Baroque coffee house from 1868, but the city abounds with choices both traditional and hip.

Hotels: I am a big fan of Le Meridien (www.starwoodhotels.com); designed as an “art hotel,” with contemporary rooms, free wifi, free minibar (soft drinks & beer), fitness center with small pool. Importantly the location on the “Ring” near the Opera House can’t be beat. The lobby is very edgy, the rooms a bit softer in style, the shower one of the best found in all my travels, and the bed super comfy to boot. If you can get a rate inclusive of breakfast you will appreciate their extensive buffet. Further on down the Ring is a new boutique hotel aptly named The Ring Hotel (www.theringhotel.com) that is worth checking out. Slightly further a field, but not drastically so, is a Design Hotel, the Levante Parliament (www.designhotels.com) and in the town center is a small, quite stylish boutique hotel with its own restaurant, the Hollmann-Beletage (www.hollmann-beletage.at).

Vienna is a great place to stroll – although their tram system is a quite compelling alternate! I encourage you to give the city a try!


Snoety symbol
Josef says: July 17th, 2009 at 5:28 am

Dear Susan,

thank you for including our hotel Hollmann Beletage in this article about Vienna. Unfortunately the link you have posted has an error: an “n”in hollmann is missing.

Kind regards from Vienna,
Hollmann Beletage – Design & Boutique Hotel

Harriett says: July 17th, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Oops, that wasn’t Susan’s mistake — it was ours. It’s fixed now. Many thanks for letting us know.

Harriett says: August 4th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Hi Susan,

‘Twas fun seeing you and Bruce for breakfast. You sure have done a great job on your property the design maintaining your privacy but with an open feeling. Steven forwarded your blog and I liked what you said about Vienna one of my favorite places. I lived there from Jan to June in 1962 a much different place then.

Pamela and I visited there 10 years ago and were constantly on the move for two weeks. We really liked the Hotel Koenig von Ungarn(King of Hungary). very well located right behind St Stevens and small(33 rooms all different) old(1815) with a real old world charm. Other things I wouldn\’t miss: the Teatre an der Wien(close to the Secession Building perfect venue for opera-Fidelio had it debut there) Restaurent Steiereck(elegant space wonderful food) Grinzing in the Vienna Woods for new wines in old settings(huerige) and their version of kitch moderne the cluster of apartments designed by Friedenreich Hundertwasser. Very humorous……..

If you had any extra time a day or two along the Danube in the Wachau Velley is extraordinary. The narrowest passage of the Danube where ships were extorted to pass in earlier days Richard the Lionharted was held hostage nearby by Leopold and a wonderful small museum devoted to Egon Schiele if you like him is in the small nearby town of Tulln. All the hotels along this stretch of river have loaner bikes to ride along the extensive bike paths.

To the east of Vienna toward Hungary you could drive through the asparagus fields to a large wildlife sanctuary where many birds stopover on route to Africa.

Needless to say we love it there. Have fun on your next journey.

Ron Harrison.

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