Vienna is rich in cultural experiences of the highest order, and one not to be missed is a visit to the Schoenbrunn Castle. A World Heritage treasure, Schoenbrunn is the Austrian Versailles. While Hofburg Palace was the city residence of the Imperial Habsburgs family, Schoenbrunn was their weekend retreat. A Late Baroque masterpiece, this “weekend retreat” has no less than 1441 rooms, 42 of which are available to the public.
Don’t miss the extraordinary French-style gardens, tranquil alleys and mazes with groomed tree tops that look particularly quaint in winter time. They remind one of Scherenschnitte, a design tradition of paper cut outs that started in Germany and Austria in the 16th Century.
Walk all the way up to the Gloriette after you pass the Neptune Fountain and take the panoramic view of the castle with Vienna in the background. Check the free concerts offered all summer in the sumptuous park, dress up for the occasion and fancy yourself at the court of the last emperor of Austria and Hungary.
Credit: The Hungarian Girl
Another thing not to miss in Vienna is to sit in a typical café for a moment of bliss, to enjoy a pastry with your favorite coffee drink.
Coffee houses have existed since the second Turkish siege of Vienna in the 17th century. Don’t expect to see any hipsters huddled behind their computers like at a New York Starbuck’s though. Instead encounter people of all ages and backgrounds sipping on a Kleiner Brauner (small coffee) or a Großer Brauner (tall coffee) for a moment of civilized enjoyment in a hectic day.
Also visit Cafe Demel’s, a chocolate maker with amazing pastry and imaginative designs, established in 1786, as well as Cafe Sperl or Hofburg Cafe.
Hotel Rathaus – Wein & Design
For the best Wienerschnitzel in town, I recommend Reinthaler’s Beisl, an earthy gasthaus that many Viennese residents patronize. My Wienerschnitzel was awesome, served with a huge salad and a house beer at a reasonable price. Not far from the restaurant, I stayed in an elegant hotel that offers comfort with a subtle blend of luxury and cool, Hotel Rathaus – Wein & Design, in Vienna’s 8th district. It has an extensive wine list with over 450 Austrian wines. Each room is dedicated to a specific Austrian winemaker with his best-selling wines in the minibar.
My room at Hotel Rathaus – Wein & Design was serene, spacious with exquisite design details, a sense of minimalism and whimsy, modern furnishings, air conditioning and a deluxe private bathroom with bathrobe, hairdryer and fine toiletries. Wi-Fi was available free of charge.
Hotel Rathaus – Wein & Design
On the top floor, there is a large rooftop terrace from which your eyes can feast on panoramic views of the city. A buffet breakfast is offered in the trendy atrium, including various hot dishes and Austrian specialties set in artistic display. If you love to be surprised by an imaginative environment, sit at the bar and take in the fun and relaxing decor. At a 5-minute walk from the subway, very close to the Museum Quarter and 10 minutes from all the big shopping areas, the hotel is ideally situated. There are a lot of bars and restaurants nearby and a magnificent Rathaus (City Hall) with an ice rink in front of it in winter and a park in the summer. Don’t hesitate to ask people in the street for directions. Though the Viennese may appear reserved to an American, they are actually very friendly and eager to help. Some even escorted me to my destination. For more information go to http://www.hotel-rathaus-wien.at
In the first district, Stefan’s Dom or the Cathedral of Saint Stefan, the patron saint of Vienna, is a Gothic masterpiece especially known for its multicolored roof made of 23000 glazed tiles. Ludwig van Beethoven is said to have realized how deaf he had become when he could not hear the clamor of the 23 bells that caused a flock of birds to take flight as he passed by the cathedral. The neighborhood around the church is baroque, with many fine chocolate stores and old cafes. A new hotel opened recently near St Stefan: the Mercure Vienna First.
Credit: Andrea Loru
With a distinctive French decor, the hotel is pleasant and comfortable.The lobby is welcoming, my room was simple but elegant with a beautiful modern bathroom with a make up mirror, bathrobe, slippers and hair dryer. There was a Nespresso coffee machine in the room and free wifi.The best aspect of the hotel was the staff that was extremely polite and friendly and greeted you cheerfully each time you walked by.
Credit: Fotostudio Andorfer for Accor
Every employee at the desk or in the restaurant was very eager to answer my questions about Vienna, its culture or its history. I enjoyed a light delicious dinner in the restaurant inside the hotel that also serves fine local Austrian wine. This new hotel is a fantastic place to stay right in the very center of Vienna on Desider Friedman Platz 2. For more information about the Vienna Mercure First, please visit http://www.accorhotels.com
If you’re traveling to Europe this summer, make sure to visit Vienna! Special exhibits include Edvard Munch at the Albertina Museum, the Vienna Biennale 2015 from June 11 to October 4, Rembrandt, Titian and Bellotto in The Spirit and Splendor of the Dresden Picture Gallery at the Winter Palace, from June 11 to November 8 and the Vienna Pride + Rainbow Parade from June 16 to 21.
Don’t miss the Music Festival that runs through June 23rd, and five weeks of contemporary stage art including 39 productions from 20 countries, from drama to dance and opera, at the Vienna Konzerthaus. During the Festival, discover 50 evenings with the best orchestras, including the Wiener Symphoniker and the Orchestra Vienna Radio Symphony, with Chick Corea accompanying vocal artist Bobby McFerrin on the piano and actor Karl Markovics reading the work of Austrian writer Heimito Von Doderer in June. Works by Bruckner and Messiaen will be performed at the closing concert.
Europe’s biggest open-air event on Vienna’s Danube Island welcomes you as well. From June 26 to 28, it attracts nearly 3 million visitors with cabaret, dining, sport, a children’s program and a large number of pop concerts. Amongst the stars this year are Anastacia, Opus and Nazar – the best thing is that admission is free!
When thinking of Vienna, many people have two words to describe it: a gem. Find out for yourself why the city that inspired the greatest musicians of all time still remains an oasis of beauty, peace and quality living.