Vienna is an exceptionally well-appointed city, set on the banks of the Danube River and surrounded by the natural green beauty of the Vienna woods. The tradition of the Habsburg dynasty is strong here, which has left the city with a tradition of architectural grandeur.
Masterpieces line the grand promenades, boasting a broad range of styles from Baroque to the modern. Museums burst with the work of Austrian masters and concert halls call out with melodies from legends such as Mozart. Yet beyond the established sights and attractions, Vienna holds a distinct old-world charm in its cozy coffee houses and busy pedestrian streets. So engage your senses, and get ready to embark on a journey through time.
FOR THE SWEET TOOTH
Vienna is renowned for its coffee houses or “kaffeehauses” which offer creamy coffee concoctions paired with confectionary masterpieces such as the sachertorte—a delectable dense chocolate cake. The relaxed atmosphere is perfect for passing an afternoon with friends or simply a good book. Although there are the traditional standouts mentioned in all guidebooks such as Café Central and Demel, lesser-known yet equally alluring coffeehouses lie tucked away around nearly every corner.
Diglas, a local favorite (at right), is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. Its menu boasts a jaw-dropping list of pastries including elegant cream-laden layered napoleon-like creations, sponge cakes, meringues, and fresh apple or poppy seed strudels. Wollzeile 10; www.diglas.at
Bräunerhof Concert Café was once the favorite retreat of author Thomas Bernhard. It features a long list of homemade cakes, and serves as the meeting place for many well-known political figures. Stallburggasse 2; 512 38 93, www.braeunerhof.at
The chocolates at Confiserie zur Lerche are renowned for the craftsmanship used in creating them. Gold-leaf embellishments adorn the delicate treats, and the lovingly crafted displays of truffle balls and bonbons in this 100-year-old shop will make you gasp with delight. Lerchenfelderstrasse 112; 406 44 58
For an unsurpassed look into the world of Viennese confectionary, head to Blühendes Konfekt where master Michael Diewald works his magic. For more than 10 years, this skilled artisan has perfected his craft of turning flowers such as roses, cherry blossoms and forget-me-nots into candied pralines. The shop sells a selection of bonbons which changes with the seasons, and on Thursdays visitors can visit the kitchen to watch these sweet creations being made first-hand. Schmalzhofgasse 19; 341 19 85, www.bluehendes-konfekt.com
GRAND ARCHITECTURAL TRADITIONS
One of the best ways to get a feel for Vienna’s inspiring architectural scene is simply to walk the streets of its famous quarters. Imposing Baroque structures line the streets in older quarters while modern design masterpieces vie for your attention in locations throughout the city. Walking by the same grand buildings as they are lit and illuminated in the dark is another experience entirely, so if possible try to make time to explore at all different times of the day.
In 1897 a sect of artists seceded from the established art movement and pioneered a new association they called Secession led by the motto “To the Age, its Art. To Art, its Freedom.” In the spirit of this new movement Joseph Maria Olbrich, a student of Otto Wagner, designed an Art Nouveau gallery building with a glittering gilded cupola to house the new association in 1898. The Secession building was renovated in 1985-1986, and is now used to display the 112-foot Beethoven Frieze, created by Gustav Klimt for the Beethoven Exhibition of 1902. 1., Friedrichstrasse 12, 587 53 07
Another architectural marvel is the Church am Steinhof designed by Otto Wagner and built from 1905-1907. This example of Viennese Art Nouveau stands high on a hill overlooking the city, and contains an equally stunning interior characterized by a series of glass mosaics designed by Kolo Moser which adorn the windows. 14., Baumgartner Höhe 1; 910 60 – 11 204
Through May 11, 2008 the Museum of Applied Arts or “Mak” is showcasing a special exhibition called “Coop Himmelb(l)au” (beyond the blue). The exhibition focuses on the work of the famous Austrian architect pair Wolf D. Prix and Helmut Swiczinsky, who conceived the recreation of one of the four gas storage facilities in the new city district. The exhibition will include sketches, models, and drawings from the architects to highlight their inspiration and visions in works of past, present, and future. 1., Stubenring 5; www.mak.at/e/jetzt/f_jetzt.htm
For a look into Vienna’s tradition of interior design, the flagship store of the Backhausen Textile House houses the Wiener Werkstätte Museum. This collection is composed of a comprehensive archive of Austrian textile design. In fact the selection includes a range of 3,500 designs drawing from all periods and styles including pieces with historical significance and Art Noveau design. 1., Schwarzenberg- straße 10; www.backhausen.at
BECKONING OUTDOOR MARKETS
Vienna is home to around 26 permanent markets, as well as a multitude of seasonal or holiday markets that spring up at different times throughout the year to celebrate such traditions as Christmas and Easter. Outdoor shopping, strolling and gathering is a beloved activity for locals and can be a particularly satisfying for visitors, as well.
Naschmarkt is an immense collection of stalls and permanent establishments along a narrow thoroughfare easily reached by metro. This market includes seemingly never-ending stretch of vendors selling brightly colored fruits, vegetables, and ready-to-eat ethnic specialties. The market’s bakeries are standouts, featuring freshly baked dark and seed-studded bread loaves, fresh soft pretzels, and a variety of sweet pastries. The market is also sprinkled with a number of small informal restaurants with a few tables from which to watch the bustling daily scene. Wienzeile between Getreidemarkt and Kettenbrücke, Monday – Friday, 6 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Karmelitermarkt is one of the oldest markets in the city. The selection of vendors offers products with an Asian flair, while the Turkish vendors here are said to have the best lamb available in the city.
For a market with a distinct character, Organic Market Freyung sells exclusively organic products directly from the growers. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m on the first and third Friday and Saturday each month. 1st District, Freyung, U2 Schottentor
To enjoy a market in the midst of a young, emerging neighborhood, Brunnenmarkt, located in the multicultural district of Ottakring, is a good bet. The area is full of small shops showcasing the works of young artists and has a bit of a southern European feel. Vendors sell local and international delicacies including a large assortment of Turkish specialties. 16., Brunnengasse/Yppengasse, Monday – Friday 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A BITE TO EAT
St. Josef is a fresh organic and vegetarian restaurant where the menu changes daily. Ingredients such as lentils and sweet potatoes are commonly featured in their healthy, innovative dishes. The restaurant even caters to wheat-intolerant diners by using spelt as an alternative in much of their cooking. Mondscheingasse 10, 526 68 18
Elliefant, owned and operated by a British proprietor, specializes in offering guests a menu of delicacies usually only found in the UK. Soups, sandwiches, curries, smoothies, fresh muffins, and other baked goods are always on offer and can be a satisfying, comforting treat in the heart of the city. 7, Neubaugasse 45, 681–831 125 80, www.elliefant.com
After a long morning of sightseeing, hit Bartolotti to cool off with a refreshing snack. As you approach the shop, you will notice person after person walking by with enormous cones full of soft pastel-colored gelato and equally large smiles on their faces. With simple flavors such as sweet milk, yogurt, or vanilla, or more “exotic” specialties such as coconut, almond, or hazelnut there is something to satisfy every taste. Mariahilferstrasse near the MuseumsQuartier.
For a bite in a trendy area a bit further outside the city center, venture to Margaretenplatz. Here the nightlife is vibrant, as old Biedermeier buildings house pub gardens in their inner courtyards and the streets are teeming with a mixture of both traditional Viennese and international bars along Schönbrunner Strasse and Wehrgasse.
Visitors commonly overlook Vienna’s blossoming wine region, located in the outer reaches of the city. Vienna actually boasts approximately 700 hectares of vineyards within its city limits and celebrates this unique tradition in restaurants called “Heuriger” taverns.
Viennese wines are primarily whites procured from grape varieties such as Riesling and white Burgundy. Heurigers showcase the homemade local wines by featuring them paired with delicious menus in chic outdoor restaurants. Especially in the summer, these venues can be a charming place to spend a warm evening, and often offer live music in their courtyards to set the mood.
10er-Marie dates back to 1740, and it’s thought to be the oldest wine tavern in Vienna. It is set in a traditional setting and offers a large courtyard with live music in the summer. 16., Ottakringer Straße 222, 489 46 47, www.fuhrgassl-huber.at
Dine under a canopy of grapevines while you look out over the neatly ordered rows of vineyards at Zum Berger. Here wines are paired with traditional meat dishes as live performers visit to serenade guests. 19., Himmelstraße 19, 320 58 93, www.zumberger.at
Set in a 300 year old former monastery, Weingut-Heuriger Reinprecht invites you to relax in its terraces. Proud of its prized sparkling wine, the proprietors encourage you to relax and enjoy the gift of Viennese hospitality. 19., Cobenzlgasse 22, 320 14 71, www.weingut-reinprecht.at
By Alix Proceviat for PeterGreenberg.com.
Previously by Alix Proceviat: