Though the streets are lined with the vestiges of its imperial past, this Austrian city continues to reinvent itself as a haven for music, art and, of course, wine.
A metropolis thriving with culture, allure and vibrancy, Vienna, Austria’s capital, makes relishing life easy for the travelling bon vivant. The restaurant- and café-lined streets are rich in architectural variation, representing an array of time periods and styles, from Baroque castles and gardens to contemporary 20th-century edifices. Speaking to the significance of the city’s past, the historic center of Vienna was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Vienna is experiencing a hotel boom, with new openings from Park Hyatt, Kempinski and Ritz-Carlton. Recently opened Hotel Daniel Vienna provides a hip atmosphere with affordable rooms close to Belvedere Palace. Don’t miss the excellent breakfast complete with freshly baked pastries. Another option is the new 32-room boutique Hotel Topazz. Its cylindrical exterior and oval windows are already a distinctive addition to Vienna’s architectural landscape.
Stroll through streets alive with art and music. Former royal stables have been reborn as MuseumsQuartier, home to the Leopold Museum’s collection of Klimt and Schiele paintings. The open-air courtyard has become a favorite place to congregate for performances and special events. Just north is the sprawling Hofburg Palace, which features the interactive Sisi Museum, a chronicle of Austria’s independent-minded Empress Elisabeth, whose assassination at the hands of an anarchist foretold the looming end of the Hapsburg reign. In the evening, join the rapt crowds outside the Vienna State Opera for performances projected on the giant video screen.
Wine & Food
Enjoy a glass of Champagne as you tour the cellars of the Palais Coburg, a revitalized palace perched atop the former city wall, now a luxury hotel housing one of the largest wine cellars in Europe. Peruse the 60,000-strong collection rich in French and Austrian wines, including an impressive selection of large format bottles and 100 vintages of Château d’Yquem. Afterward, enjoy lunch alfresco at the hotel’s Basteigarten Restaurant. For a more casual experience, squeeze into tiny Urbanek at the Naschmarkt (stall #46) and let the gregarious owners ply you with Austrian cheese, cured Mangalitsa ham and blood sausage. They serve a number of wines by the glass, including old vintages not often found on wine lists around town. Or take your snacks around the corner to enjoy at Sekt Comptoir, where owner Michael Blaha mans the bar, pouring 15 different types of Austrian sparkling wine from the Szigeti winery, each less than $5 a glass.
Mario Plachutta made his name celebrating Austrian culinary tradition, and his new restaurant, Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper, just steps from the Opera, celebrates the national dish, Wiener Schnitzel. The eatery’s perfectly breaded and fried pounded veal chops pair beautifully with a crisp glass of Grüner Veltliner. For a traditional heuriger, a wine tavern run by a winemaking family, head to the northern sector of the city and to Heuriger Wieninger where Fritz Wieninger’s newly certified biodynamic wines accompany his family’s rustic cooking. Finish the night at the buzzy new dinner club, Albertina Passage, a former passageway under the Ringstrasse Boulevard converted into a trendy venue that features live bands playing jazz and soul, as well as D.J.s.