Oh, Vienna! (part two)

By | Category: Travel destinations

Continued from yesterday

However if that sounds too much like a history lesson (well you are on your holidays after all) and you’re after something a tad more chilled, why not while away a few hours in a traditional  Viennese cafe?


Entering a Viennese cafe is akin to stepping into a bygone, golden era – as a favourite local saying goes “when the world ends, go to Vienna as it’s 10 years behind everywhere else”. And yet, despite their olde world appearance, these gorgeous coffee houses are more alive than ever – acting as an oasis in people’s daily lives. Put simply: for the Viennese the coffee house isn’t only about enjoying a good cup of coffee (there are at least 20 different types to choose from) and slice of Sachertorte (a rich chocolate cake invented by chef Franz Sacher for Chancellor Metternich in 1832).  Rather it’s an entrance ticket to a place where they can read (and write) books, dream, think, trade gossip or just watch the world go by.

Traditional famous Viennese coffee houses in the city centre include Cafe Frauenhuber – Vienna’s oldest cafe where Mozart himself once performed – Cafe Landtmann (whose high profile past guests include Sigmund Freud) and Cafe Central where Leon Trotsky made revolutionary plans for Russia.

In need of something more substantial than coffee and cake? You’re in luck. The Viennese take meal-times seriously meaning that food is a big part of Vienna’s short break pleasures. If you try just one dish it has to be the Wiener (Viennese) schnitzel — cuts of veal, fried in a traditional manner until golden crispy brownat Plachuttza sur Oper

For lunch on the run, head to a sausage stand. Vienna’s sausage stands are a home from home for everyone from students to office workers, opera goers, the late night party crowd and just about anybody looking to satisfy their hunger with a delicious sausage.

Looking to impress that special someone? Book in for dinner at Le Ciel  – an award winning restaurant by Toni Moerwald serving sophisticated dishes you will dream abut for months afterwards. If Jay Gatsby could be peeled from F Scott Fitzgerald’s pages and transplanted into Vienna, you would find him here….


If you fancy recreating some of the incredible cuisine you’ve been consuming, sign up for a cooking class at Wrenkh where Chef Carl will teach you the art of cooking an authentic Viennese meal, in addition to Viennese Christmas cookies that are enjoyed by young and old alike in the advent season.

Museums more your bag? Visit the extraordinary Kunst Historiches museum  –  home to art work by Rembrandt, Brueghel, Vermeer, Velazquez, Titian, Tintoretto and almost every art great you can imagine. Other museums in the aptly named MusuemsQuartier that are worth a look include the Leopold Museum and the modern art gallery MUMOK. Be sure to dedicate at least half a day to taking in their glory.


And of course no visit to Vienna is complete without seeing Stephansdom – the gothic cathedral whose spire dominates the busy square of Stephansdom – before making for the Mozarthaus Vienna  where Mozart famously composed The Marriage of Figaro. Then head for the Hofburg – the sprawling home of the Habsburgs that’s filled with grand staircases and suitably high ceilings.

But the real joy of Vienna is to be found in spending an afternoon wandering the  atmospheric, cobbled streets and alleyways of the old city taking in the sights, smells and shops – and interacting with everyday locals who may well prove to be the city’s biggest drawcard. They’re a friendly brunch who are proud of their city.

And righty so, as the recent Austrian presidential election which saw Alexander Van de Bellen (a former leader of the Green party who ran as an independent) elected over Robert Hofer (a candidate from the far right Freedom party) bears testimony to. It’s exactly the kind of thing you won’t find going on elsewhere in Europe (or America) anytime soon….


All told, Vienna is a special, storybook destination – so much so that Billy Joel wrote a song about it – especially in the build up-to Christmas when the city takes on a particularly festive flavour. (If you can’t get into the christmas spirit in Vienna,  well – something is wrong).  Once you have been to Vienna, it will never be far from your mind and heart…



Where to stay: Grand Hotel Wien
Wondering where’s the best place to lay your head when visiting Vienna? Look to the legendary Grand Hotel Wien which has long served as a meeting place for aristocrats, business people and artists from all over the world. An exercise in measured elegance, the enviably located – the Vienna State Opera is only a stone’s throw away – property offers 205 spacious, state of the art rooms  furnished in typical Viennese style (expect exquisite fabrics and rare antiques). Bathrooms meanwhile are vast and stocked with plush, Penhaligon toiletries. You’ll also find five restaurants (including the Michelin star awarded Le Ciel by Toni Morwald), two bars and and a grand spa for Grand Hotel Wien’s only goal is to leave you with a smile. Needless to say accommodation here ain’t cheap, but hey: life is too short to stay in a humdrum hotel.…

Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

To read the first part of Oh, Vienna! click here

For more Vienna ideas and inspiration, visit www.wien.info/en

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