Vienna is known for being one of the cities with the best quality of living in the world and after spending three days in the Austrian capital I have no difficulty understanding why. But then again, Vienna has everything to please an aesthete like me: glorious architecture, historic palaces, elegant cafés… Vienna is pure beauty. Yet the city doesn’t feel sleepy and features also a fair amount of trendy places for hipsters to enjoy. In other words, Vienna is classic with just the right amount of modernity!
Lunch at Ulrich | Sankt-Ulrichs-Platz 1, 1070 Wien
Upon your arrival in Vienna, head to the trendy Neubau neighborhood located behind the MuseumsQuartier and stop at Ulrich for a healthy lunch where everybody is sure to find something delicious on the menu, vegetarians and vegans included! Prices are really decent, especially considering the ‘hip’ factor of the place which boasts a cute industrial interior; although on warm days people prefer to gather on the sun exposed terrace in front.
Shopping and more in Neubau
With its young and alternative vibe, the Neubau district quickly became my favorite part of town. Along the Lindengasse, Neubaugasse and Kirchengasse, you will find a mix of hip-fashion boutiques, vintage shops, antiquarians, little coffee shops and various bars. This part of Vienna feels very much alive and urban, although the pastel buildings still form a classic Viennese decor. Make sure to push the door at Burggasse24 (located right next to Ulrich), a beautiful concept store where you’ll find Viennese-vintage fashion. Think lots of sequins, velvet and furs in an airy space, for both women and men. An absolute must!
Visit of the Leopold Museum | Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Wien
Towards the end of the afternoon, between 16:00 and 17:00, head to the MuseumsQuartier. Vienna’s cultural quarter is centered around a big square where you’ll find many people sitting around, surrounded by multiple museums, forming a modern ensemble all together. It is here that you’ll find the Leopold Museum (which is open ‘til 18:00), an imposing structure made of big blocks of white limestone from the Danube River. Among Vienna’s wide cultural offer, it is this museum I favor because it is home to the biggest collection of modern Austrian art with a focus on the first half of the 20th century. You may expect the largest collection of Egon Schiele as well as masterpieces from Gustav Klimt (such as ‘Death and Life’). The permanent collection is spread over three floors, yet the museum doesn’t feel huge and you can visit it casually without feeling like you’re potentially missing something.
Dinner at Glacis Beisl | Breite Gasse 4, 1070 Wien
Tucked away in the MuseumsQuartier you’ll find Glacis Beisl, the classic Austrian bistro. Because its location is rather hidden, you won’t find the average tourist here, but instead the place is always packed with locals. Come here for the authentic experience, tasting the classics of Viennese cuisine, but don’t expect an out-of-this-world culinary evening. Some might say the dishes - such as the inevitable Schnitzel - are straight up with no frills, I would push it even further and say they’re one note (although I applaud the effort to include some vegetarian options on the menu). Still, it is worth booking a table at Glacis Beisl for its quintessentially Viennese character and its lovely garden.
Stay at Hotel Schani Wien | Karl-Popper-Straße 22, 1100 Wien
If you’re reading this city guide, chances are high you’re a young person who’s very connected and all about new concepts; in which case you ought to like Hotel Schani Wien. With its modern design made of industrial elements and the recurring colors yellow, blue and pink, Hotel Schani speaks to a trendy crowd who likes to travel casually. The lobby/bar is a very pleasant area with lots of welcoming seats and you’ll find the same kind of window seats in your room, overlooking either the garden, either the street. Its location isn’t exactly central, but is is very conveniently located right next to the Central Station (with easy connection to the airport) and the tram, which stops literally in front of the hotel, will take you to the center in approximately 15 min.
Visit of the Belvedere | Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Wien
To get a taste of that lavish beauty Vienna is best known for, head to the Belvedere, an ensemble composed of two palaces with a splendid garden in between. This is Baroque at its best: opulent palaces that house intricate chandeliers, golden moldings and wooden floors. At the Upper Belvedere, you’ll find a total of 420 art works spread over three floors, displayed according to theme. But most importantly, the Upper Belvedere has the world’s biggest Klimt collection, composed of beautiful portraits of women as well as Austria’s most famous work of art ‘The Kiss’ which is part of Klimt’s Golden Period (1898-1909). Be warned: you’ll be surrounded by hords of Chinese tourists desperate to take a picture of this masterpiece, so the earlier you’re in the Klimt section, the better (first floor, on the right). The Lower Belvedere hosts temporary exhibitions which are possibly less memorable, yet this palace is much quieter and boasts a few gorgeous rooms.
Walk through the historic centre
Vienna’s historic centre is where its most sumptuous buildings are concentrated, making it the perfect backdrop for an epic city walk. Starting point is the Burggarten which used to be the private garden of the emperor but now welcomes many people chilling on its green lawns. This park is home to statues of famous Austrians as well as the Art Nouveau Palmenhaus where I suggest having lunch. Not only does this huge greenhouse form an amazing decor, the menu actually also features some great options (such as falafel & hummus or quinoa vegetable ravioli) and despite its popularity, the service is qualitative and quick.
On the other side of the National Library, you’ll discover a second picturesque park, the Volksgarten, as well as the Heldenplatz, which opens the way to the Hofburg. It’s quite difficult to figure out where the Hofburg starts and where it ends since this is one of the largest palace complexes in the world. It is home to several museums as well as the Spanish Riding School so it is safe to say you’ll get your dose of imperial opulence walking through it. A little further you’ll discover the St. Stephens Cathedral and its distinctive colorful roof tiles depicting the Royal and Imperial double-headed eagle and the coat of arms of the city of Vienna, before eventually reaching the Vienna State Opera further South.
Sweet break at Café Sacher | Philharmoniker Straße 4, 1010 Wien
Café Sacher is located near the Opera so this might be the perfect time to enter and have a taste of its signature cake. In fact, you might not be able to enter straightaway, but instead you’ll potentially be faced with a queue in front of the café’s entrance, for this is the place where Austria’s most famous cake has been made since 1832. Originally created by Franz Sacher for Prince Metternich, this unique chocolate cake featuring a fine layer of apricot jam is known worldwide and can, as such, be considered a true Austrian icon. The wait in front shouldn’t take too long and once inside you’ll discover a rich interior made of red velvet couches and walls packed with old portraits. The Sacher-Torte is indeed delicious, sweet yet not too sugary, unctuous yet light, and is served with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream. You won’t regret it!
Dinner at Salon Plafond | Stubenring 5, 1010 Wien
Considered one of the best restaurants in Vienna, Salon Plafond is the place to be for dinner on Saturday night (meaning booking a table is a must). The restaurant is part of the MAK (Museum of Applied Arts) and you can feel the arty vibe inside. The room with intricate ceiling feels very open and welcomes many tables, yet the atmosphere is intimate thanks to the dim lights. The menu is appetizing and features contemporary Austrian cuisine as well as international influences and prices are decent. Add to that a very friendly staff and you got yourself a perfect night out!
Visit of Schönbrunn | Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien
I guess when thinking of Vienna, what first comes to mind for many people is the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, also known as Sissi (and Romy Schneider who portrayed her in a film trilogy in the fifties). The palace where Sissi as well as many other Habsburgs impresses used to spend their summers is the Schönbrunn and it lies not so far from the city center. The Baroque complex strikes by its sheer size and hides a garden that’s even grander. I guess it must incredibly beautiful in Summer when the flowers are in bloom and the fountains are running. I suggest taking your time to stroll through the green domain, eventually reaching the Gloriette on the opposite side (a monument perched atop a 60 meter hill from which you have an open view over the palace and the city that stretches behind it). I’m not so much in favor of visiting the inside of the palace because it is very crowded and people move at a glacial pace from one room to another (the sort of thing that gives me thoughts of murder). If you do decide to visit the imperial rooms, make sure to book your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting lines.
Lunch at Café Central | Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien
Before leaving Vienna, put one final classic on your agenda: the embodiment of the city’s café culture, Café Central. With its vaulted ceilings and many chandeliers, an incredible sense of history emanates from this place (Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud supposedly were regulars of the café). Besides its amazing decor, you can enjoy some great pastries - such as the Apfelstrudel - as well as a nice selection of coffees and teas. Their meal offer is less compelling to me so I would suggest a sweets based lunch on Sunday (since you’ll probably have enjoyed an extensive breakfast before at the hotel anyway).
Flights from Brussels to Vienna take less than 2 hours. At the airport, a direct train will take you to the Central Station (known as ‘Wien HBF’) in only 15 minutes. From there, it is just a 5 minutes walk to Hotel Schani Wien. Tram D will take you to most places of interest (and you can enjoy the views while getting there).