Long famed for its majestic palaces and classical music, Vienna is reshaping its reputation with new boutique hotels, art galleries and avant-garde design shops. And for night owls and bar revelers, Austria’s capital is now home to high-profile, open-til-dawn nightclubs, making it all the more perfect for a weekend jaunt.
The Embassy via AirBNB: The “stay” was one of the most exciting parts of our visit to Vienna. Furnished by a French-born interior designer, a traditional, very luxurious 2,475 square foot Viennese apartment sits in the perfect location opposite the Belvedere Castle. Tucked in the middle of the Embassy Quarter, all main sights were within 15 minutes walking distance.
Built at the end of the 19th-century during Vienna’s Golden Period, the apartment boasts 13-foot high ceilings, traditional stucco, white lacquered double wing doors, surround sound, a gigantic movie collection, quick wi-fi and antique chandeliers. Completely refurbished in 2012, with all traditional elements carefully restored, the space is furnished with a mix of original 19th-century antiques and paired with modern design classics. Special features include a library with a grand piano and whisky bar, dining room, salon, office, eat-in kitchen, master bedroom and a guest bedroom—all of which contributed to an unforgettable experience.
EAT + DRINK
Salm Bräu: For a hole in the wall, authentic Austrian food experience, the Salm Bräu brewery—next to the Belvedere Castle, former residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy—is the place for you! Today the Georgian Hall has replaced what once was a stable for the Empress’s coach horses. Known for its authentic Austrian micro-brew talents, the family has paired the perfect combination of Grandma’s recipes and regional favorites. Our group dug into steins of beer, pig knuckle. goulash and Grandma’s lentils with bacon. Each dish came with a side of bread dumpling.
The Wine Bar at Julius Meinl: Part of this restaurant’s allure derives from the wine-buying savvy of Vienna’s most comprehensive delicatessen and wine shop. It’s small and cozy, set underground in the cellar of a food shop that leaves most gastronomes salivating and accessible through a separate entrance that’s open long after the delicatessen has closed. Within a decor that evokes the interior of a farmhouse on the Austro-Italian border, it features a changing array of wines from around the world, and platters of flavorful but uncomplicated food that’s deliberately selected as a foil for the wines. You’ll be amply satisfied with the dozens of wines listed on the blackboard or on the menu, however if there’s a particular bottle you’re hankering for in the stacks of wine within the street-level deli, a staff member will sell it to you and uncork it at a surcharge of only 10% more than what you’d have paid for it retail. Gordon uncorked the perfect bottle of Chardonnay for me!
Meinl’s Restaurant: Located right next door the Wine Bar, the Austrian restaurant scene would not be the same without Meinl’s Restaurant. It has been counted among the country’s top five culinary venues almost from the day it opened. The restaurant with the best view in Vienna has delighted connoisseurs from Austria and abroad with its charming mix of exciting dishes, unpretentious service and outstanding wine list. Meinl’s Restaurant offers a delicious selection of dishes to delight the palate. In the morning, a variety of ways to enjoy breakfast; at lunchtime, a series of light and exquisite set menus; and in the evenings, you can enjoy our evening menu with excellent wines and the best champagnes at the bar.
Café Landtmann: This legendary Café has been and continues to be one of the most popular in Vienna with legendary “regulars” such as Sigmund Freud, Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sir Paul Mc Cartney. Our all-star experience included soups, salads, tea and coffee service with the most amazing apple streusel I have ever tasted! The Café was the perfect spot for us to reboot after touring all the sights surrounding the restaurant.
Figlmüller: At Figlmüller, fine dining goes beyond the edge of the plate—the average schnitzel measures roughly thirty centimeters in diameter and is eaten in no time. Why? Because it tastes tender, juicy, and is covered in a crispy coating. For this delicious meal, Figlmüller chefs use only the best pork cuts, namely, the rose or tenderloin, a choice back piece which hardly puffs during frying. This results in a schnitzel that is quite a bit larger, thinner, and crispier than all the others. While this attracts tourists, the Vienesse love it too! Our table went family style ordering Chicken Cordon Blue, Classic Schnitzel and Green Salad.
Fabio’s: Mingle with Vienna’s upper crust within the glass walls of Fabio’s, one of Vienna’s most popular and trendiest dining spots. Opened in 2002 by Fabio Giacobello (formerly of Italy’s famous Antinori wine company), the sleek restaurant draws in trendsetters and VIPs to dine at tables with black leather seats or to gather under soaring ceilings for drinks at the wine bar. Not to be outdone, of course, is the Mediterranean food that is prepared with the freshest ingredients, including seafood and poultry flown in daily. We loved the Ahi Tartar, Branzino with Asparagus and Fish Stew. Instead of polenta, I requested buttered noodles and am so glad I did!
Tian Bistro: If you are looking for good old-fashioned home cooking, Tian Bistro does it with passion and creativity and in their own special way. The Tian Bistro team is revitalizing traditional Viennese cuisine and international classics with a new vegetarian approach. Enjoy the wide range of fresh seasonal tasty produce – all organic, of the finest quality and grown sustainably. We loved the French Onion Soup and Veggie Club Sandwich presented with utter thoughtfulness. The Bistro is located in the Kunst Haus Wien and is a bit of a jungle, both inside and out, with uneven black and white tiles and a colorful and playful décor. Pop in for a look around, for a quick set lunch or a friendly coffee break or a snack with a good glass of wine—you won’t be disappointed.
Tian Restaurant and Wine Bar: The Tian is in the heart of Vienna—a place where architecture, atmosphere and lust for life provide the framework for the team’s celebrated love of vegetarian food made from organic produce. The menu is ambitious in its creativity as every dish is served as a pure work of culinary presentation. The chef’s respect for nature and organic produce is evident as he exalts its ingredients as stars in a grand performance. We simply order cappuccinos and a chocolate dessert and it was presented as a work of art. At the same time we soaked in the interior details, too!
A totally different aesthetic but in the same building downstairs, the Tian Wine Bar opens its doors from Tuesday through Saturday at 5:00 pm. The heavy-weight wine menu features 315 sophisticated vintages. Austrian and international wine by the glass or by the bottle, the top winemakers in Europe have a platform to present themselves in Vienna with Tian. Accompanied by extraordinary tarte flambées, wine and tastes unite.
Loos American Bar: Lauded as the first design bar, the postage stamp–sized American Bar, known just as Loos Bar after its creator Adolf Loos, packs in the art and media crowd, who come for strong cocktails—including the perfect Manhattan. The coffered ceiling along with the stark, clean lines of the bar counter, barstools, tables, booths, and walls—all form a pared-down wood-rich geometry exquisitely orchestrated. In a Ralph Lauren-like speakeasy, you’ll find a saloon of only 290 square feet, expanded by wall mirrors to suggest a glimmering spaciousness. The materials are elegant—mahogany on the bar counter and paneled ceiling, onyx in the backlit wall tiles, and marble in the green and white squares of the floor. Dip in for a drink while shopping—we did and bought a round of cocktails for some traveling American college students!
Fürst Vienna: Fürst Vienna is a fashion retailer with a claim to exclusivity. As a young, dynamic company, Fürst takes pleasure in offering hip, chic fashions. The store front windows alone tout a wide range of clothing from mainly Italian, French and English fashion designers. The team offers high level service and expertise, providing an exceptional shopping experience. We not only purchased clothing but gifts and accessories, too.
Golden Quarter: One of the most exclusive shopping districts in the city is being created in the heart of the 1st district, on the extension of the elegant Kohlmarkt. The “Goldenes Quartier”, or Golden Quarter, promises luxury shopping pleasure in a historic ambience. The new luxury shopping area lies between Tuchlauben, Bognergasse and Am Hof. The elegant flagship stores of international designer labels can be found here including Emporio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Miu Miu, Roberto Cavalli, Brioni, Mulberry and Etro.
By June 2014, flagship stores of Prada, Saint Laurent, Church’s, Bottega Veneta and the Kashmir boutique Brunello Cucinelli will move into the “Goldenes Quartier. A Vivienne Westwood outlet opened on the edge of this exclusive area in September 2012 on Tuchlauben. In addition to the eccentric designer’s wide range of fashion lines, the shop also offers the custom-tailored couture normally only seen at the main shop in London.
Kohlmarkt + Kärntner Strasse: The great luxury brands have discovered Vienna. They present cool elegance and stylish glamour in exclusive boutiques between the Kohlmarkt and Kärntner Strasse. The area is only a few steps from the Imperial Palace to the Loos House, designed by Adolf Loos, an architect who characterized the style of modernity. Here Ferragamo displays fine Italian shoes and accessories, Chanel offers French exclusivity, Akris presents fashion from Switzerland, while a classic British touch is provided by Burberry, along with the elegant Italian fashion design by Gucci and Giorgio Armani.
TOUR + DO
Schönbrunn Palace: This palace reminds me of Versailles in France. At the end of the 17th-century Emperor Leopold I commissioned the gifted Baroque architect Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to build a palatial hunting lodge for the heir to the throne. On the site of the old imperial château de plaisance a splendid edifice was to arise. Half a century later under Maria Theresa, Schönbrunn Palace was to become the magnificent focus of court life. From that time onwards it played host to the leading statesmen of Europe. Although Austria is now a republic, Schönbrunn has remained a place of political encounter at the highest level. During our visit, we toured the gorgeous gardens and walked up the hill to the Gloriette.
The Vienna Philharmonic: There is perhaps no other musical ensemble more consistently and closely associated with the history and tradition of European classical music than the Vienna Philharmonic. In the course of its 170 year history, the musicians of this most prominent orchestra of the capital city of music have been an integral part of a musical epoch which due to an abundance of uniquely gifted composers and interpreters is regarded as unique. Since we were late in getting our tickets, we were offered a choice for standing room only—we loved this option and it was only 5 euro a person!
The MAK Museum: This is my favorite museum in Vienna! The MAK Museum was founded by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1863 as the “Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry” and moved into its present-day quarters on Stubenring in 1871. It was the first museum to be built on the Ring. Today, it serves as a museum and laboratory for applied arts at the interface of design, architecture, and contemporary art. Thus, situated between tradition and the present, the MAK offers space for all kinds of events—and will make yours an unforgettable experience.
The Leopold Museum: It took five decades to compile the art collection of the Leopold Museum. In 2001, it found its current location in the largest and most visited museum in the newly created MuseumsQuartier. The main focus of the collection lies on Austrian art of the first half of the 20th century, including major paintings and drawings by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. The collection’s pieces range from art nouveau to expressionism.
The Albertina: The Albertina accommodates one of the largest and most precious graphic art collections in the world. Today, it comprises nearly 50,000 drawings and one million prints dating from all major epochs, from Late Gothic to contemporary art. The range of outstanding works at the Albertina span from Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael through Albrecht Duerer, Rembrandt and Rubens to Lorrain, Delacroix, Manet and Cezanne. The collections of the 20th century include works by Schiele, Klimt and Kokoschka, as well as Warhol, Rauschenberg and Baselitz. I love how they include clever wallcovering backgrounds that provide an unexpected aesthetic to the artwork layered upon it.
Kunst Haus Wien: The Kunst Haus Wien opened to the public in 1991. The 4,000 square meter space hosts both temporary and permanent art installations by international artists, plus it includes the Museum Hundertwasser which is home to the largest collection of artworks by renowned Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Picasso, Hockney, Warhol and Liebovitz have all displayed art here and while we visited, we enjoyed a photography show of Andreas Bitesnich. The brightly colored and irregular-shaped building was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser in his inimitable style, making it a visual landmark in the cityscape of Vienna. The Tien Bistro is also housed in this building making for a great before or after tour coffee stop.
Belvedere Palace: Vienna’s stunning Belvedere Palace houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Klimt. Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), successful general and art connoisseur, built the Belvedere garden palace as his summer residence. Today, the Belvedere is located in Vienna’s fourth district, but at the time of its construction, the location was still outside of the city gates. The Belvedere is one of the most important Baroque buildings in Austria. It actually consists of two palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere) and a stunning baroque garden in between. From the upper Belvedere, you can enjoy stunning views of Vienna’s first district, which give the palace its name. Over the centuries, the palace complex has been home to many important personalities in Austria’s history. Today it houses Austrian art from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Have you been to Vienna? What places were your favorites?