48 hours in the Austrian capital
Long famed for its majestic palaces and classical music, Vienna is reshaping its reputation with new boutique hotels, art galleries and avant-garde design shops. And for night owls and bar revelers, Austria’s capital—known for opulent balls and galas—is now home to high-profile, open-till-dawn nightclubs, making it all the more perfect for a weekend jaunt.
WHERE TO STAY
The Ritz-Carlton recently unveiled a new satellite right on Ringstrasse (the city’s main traffic artery), where many rooms still feature the original building’s intricately designed ceilings. Hotel Sacher, an Austrian hospitality icon, recently completed a five-year floor-by-floor renovation that has added modern glamour to all 150 rooms. For a more boutique dwelling, there’s Hotel Topazz, which is adjacent to St. Stephen’s Cathedral and features quirky (goose-leg lampposts) décor, or Hotel Daniel, a Graz transplant with fuss-free rooms and a great bakery.
Hotel Sacher, Vienna
Vienna is made up of 23 districts. As with many European cities, neighborhoods have come into being over decades (if not centuries) of growth and change. Consequently, the winemaking 19th district is all the way to the north, while the leafy, residential 10th is in the south. The sixth, a hip neighborhood with cool storefronts and cafés, is right in the middle and a perfect place to start your trip. Pick up a morning treat while perusing vintage vinyl at Tongues, a rustic-looking deli and record shop, then head to Habari and We Bandits, two cleverly curated boutiques nearby, for fashion and furnishings.
The Naschmarkt is Vienna’s 120-stall-strong open-air food market in the fourth district, and it is at its busiest on Saturdays. The food stalls offer everything from Middle Eastern spices to freshly butchered meat, but don’t miss famous chef–approved (Thomas Keller of Per Se is a customer) Gegenbauer, a purveyor of artisanal vinegars that feature flavors like asparagus and black currant.
For the people-watching alone, opt for lunch right at the market: The Israeli and Mediterranean menu at Neni has long been a crowd-pleaser. For something less hectic, escape to nearby Café Drechsler, and take on traditional Austrian dishes like Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet).
A sidewalk café in the Naschmarkt, Vienna
Get your post-meal coffee from über-popular roaster Alt Wien, which stocks a massive inventory of gourmet beans from places like Brazil and Ethiopia, all of which can be purchased ground or whole for home brewing. But the small back-room bar also serves espresso or a cup of melange, the Viennese take on cappuccino.
Continue down the fourth district’s buzzy Schleifmühlgasse thoroughfare, and peek into Flo, a vintage shop full of decades-old Chanel and Pucci; Samstag, a boutique for mostly local fashion labels; and Galerie Georg Kargl, which is among the city’s most trendsetting contemporary art spaces.
Start your evening on the Danube Canal, a 10-mile channel that breaks off from the Danube River in the 19th district in the north and then connects with it again in the 11th district, in Vienna’s southeast. The canal-side neighborhoods of the first district have recently gained popularity for outdoor flea markets and waterfront parties. Dine at Motto am Fluss’s glitzy see-and-be-seen lower-level eatery, where regional classics (from blood sausages to various iterations of pork) and international plates (risotto, bruschetta) mingle on the menu.
For a dose of modern-day Viennese nightlife, make your way to the Gürtel (“belt” in German) in the 16th district, and take your pick of live music venues, hip bars and thumping clubs. Check out what’s going on at Rhiz, where edgy electronic bands and DJs thrive. For something with less pulsating beats, Q’s playlist offers house and R & B.
Last year, the closing time for clubs was pushed from the previous 4:00 a.m. curfew to 6:00 a.m., so spend the rest of the night at Pratersauna in the second district, a 1960s sauna transformed into a modern nightclub that is loved as much for its scenic interior garden and pool (open for daytime bathers during warm weather) as it is for its rotating roster of sought-after DJs.
Photographs courtesy of Pratersauna, Vienna
Meander around the MuseumsQuartier, the museum complex in the seventh district that’s swarming with locals no matter the season (in winter, it’s the destination for devotees looking to get in some curling action). Then brunch at Die Halle, a split-level restaurant once home to the imperial cavalry. These days, it impresses with a massive continental breakfast plus Austrian twists on café stalwarts like wraps and soups.
Vienna has tons of top-class museums: The Leopold, the Belvedere and the Albertina are worth visits. If you’re jonesing for something more of-the-moment, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum of Art in Madrid has just opened a temporary satellite at the Augarten in the second district called TBA21, a contemporary art workshop curated by Francesca von Habsburg and the Belvedere.
Photographs courtesy of the Leopold Museum, Vienna
Vienna’s ball season doesn’t officially begin until February, but if you’re in town on New Year’s Eve, you can ring in 2013 at the Imperial Palace’s Grand Bal, where your waltzing skills will be put to the test. Otherwise, you can always get dolled up for the opera. And because you’ve not eaten since breakfast, grab a bite at the sausage stand right outside the Vienna State Opera, where you’ll find old-fashioned bratwurst.
Lauded as the first design bar, the postage stamp–sized American Bar, known just as Loos Bar after its creator Adolf Loos, packs in the art and media crowd, who come for strong cocktails—a rarity in beer-and-wine-heavy Vienna and the perfect end-of-trip nightcap.
Photographs courtesy of the Loos Bar, Vienna
BARS & CLUBS
Kärntner Durchgang 10
Linke Wienzeile 22,
MOTTO AM FLUSS
Standnr. 111—114, Naschmarkt
LE GRAND BAL
VIENNA STATE OPERA
Landstraßer Gürtel 5,
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
GALERIE GEORG KARGL
Augarten, Scherzergasse 1A,
- © WienTourismus/Günther Ezsöl
- © WienTourismus/Karl Thomas
- Gallery Leopold © Gisela Erlacher/Arcaid/Corbis