Tue 26 October 2021

Seen historically as Germany’s sleepy neighbour, Austria – and Vienna in particular – is having a moment all its own. Don’t miss it.

Current Mood: Creative

In a rut? Find yourself run down by the rat race, unable to think big or dream bigger? Tied of spending forty minutes commuting with your face buried in a stranger’s armpit? Get those creative juices flowing in Vienna! Their ability to merge classic and new will get reopen those neural pathways and get you seeing inside the box entirely differently and outside the box in a very exciting way.

What to expect:

“You have to eat schnitzel,” I was told for the 3rd time in so many hours. “It’s from here and they don’t do it right anywhere else,” the hotel receptionist insisted. When I first thought of Vienna my main thought was “fancy.” The only European capital I hadn’t been to, I had written off Vienna as a slightly more exciting but slightly less expensive Geneva or a slightly less exciting but slightly more expensive Munich. This often happens with places. They carry a mythology about them that can either ruin them for you or leave you pleasantly surprised. In the case of Vienna, it will likely always be the latter.

A land famed for its classical musicians (Mozart, Schubert, Haydn and Straus), Vienna has emerged as a European capital of “cool” thanks in large part to its complete lack of caring if you think it’s cool. While all eyes have been on Berlin, a similar edge has taken hold of Vienna though with a decidedly more polished finish. After all, you can’t be the birthplace of classical music and NOT boast a 900-year-old Cathedral with a hand-tiled roof. But don’t let that fool you. You can still end a night out in a secret dance club hidden down several staircases under an U-bahn station. Trust me. I did.

Before Sunset:

The Viennese love their carbs and there is no better start to a day than some rye bread slathered in chive-infused cream cheese from uber-hip Josef Brot vom Pheinstein bakery. Wear all black and be ready to talk philosophy with the intellectualati channeling your inner Freud (also Austrian).

Vienna is known for its incredible museums and the perfect day should continue with an architectural wander through the museum quarter. The Albertina art museum – housed in what was once a Hapsburg palace – is world class, as is the natural history museum. But don’t spend too long inside. There’s more food to be eaten.

Head next to Naschmarkt. An indoor-outdoor mash-up of restaurants, florists, fruit and veg sellers, stuffed pepper sellers and more, this is where the Viennese while away a sunny afternoon over wine, beer, cheese and meat.

You can go high-brow and stop into Neni – a Mediterranean/Viennese mash-up with an upstairs dining room ensconced in exposed wood or keep it street and devour a 4 euro cheese-infused, ketchup and mustard covered sausage called kasekrainer that’s stuffed lovingly into a bread roll that has been toasted from the inside out (yes, you read that correctly). The cheese is roughly the temperature of molten lava as it gushes from the inside of the sausage so wash it down with a beer poured from a street keg.

Afterwards, you can class it up with a wander of Palmenhaus – a tropical greenhouse in the city centre – or hop a taxi to Weingut Cobenzi – a 700 hectare vineyard in the city limits – for a walk through the vines and some wine tasting.

Don’t miss yet another culinary moment: Sachertorte – a dark chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam hidden beneath a thick chocolate icing. Try to avoid getting in an argument over which one is actually the “original.”

I’d recommend Demel (one of the two vying for the title) as the ambience is lovely and the price is right. Top tip: skip the downstairs queue and pop upstairs, where the queue moves at breakneck speed.

It may by now be time for a nap before you start eating carb-laden food again. Stay at Hotel Daniel for a modern, hip vibe. Housed in a repurposed 1980s-style office building, the glass showers are completely exposed in the centre of the room. Or you can opt for the Airstream trailer in the front garden. I mean, seriously, could you get any cooler?

If you prefer your shower covered in marble in a room with a door that closes, look no further than Lamee. Wood-paneled walls, velvet furniture and free drinks in the all-day salon  give you that old-world European grandeur that will balance out those cheese sausages nightly. Lamee is also home to the best view in the city from their rooftop bar. There is no better place to watch the sunset over a piping hot mulled wine served up in their own branded mugs which have – for reasons entirely unexplainable – have become an Instagram sensation.

Before Sunrise:

For a modern take on Viennese classics, dinner has got to be Salonplafond at MAK. This might be the coolest place I’ve ever eaten. If classic schnitzel is your thing, Lugeck is second to none and if you really want to mix it up, head just north of the river and devour Georgian classic like khachapuri (cheese-stuffed, fire-baked bread) and khinkali (juicy, peppery meat soup dumplings) at Café Ansari. Wherever you end up, wash it all down with an Austrian Riesling.

The night should still be young, which means it’s time for a drink and a dance at Marea Alta – a bar cum basement dance club that reaches capacity at about 30 people. It’s almost too cool. What might actually be too cool is Club U, where you can literally dance until dawn in a space hidden inside Karlsplatz U-bahn station.

Seen historically as Germany’s sleepy neighbour, Austria – and Vienna in particular – is having a moment all its own. Don’t miss it.

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