Vienna is famous for its grand palaces and baroque beauty, and the stately Austrian capital is considered to be one of world’s most historic and cultural cities. Known for an unparalleled arts and music scene, as well as a cool culture of cafes and coffee-houses, Vienna perfectly encapsulates the lavish charm of old-world Europe. From strolling along grand cobbled streets to sipping cocktails on the rooftop of Austria’s tallest building, prepared to be seduced from the moment you arrive; not for nothing is this city consistently rated as one of the best in the world. Here’s your luxury guide to Vienna.
WHERE TO STAY
Grand Hotel Wien
For unadulterated glitz and glamour, head to Austria’s first ever luxury accommodation, the Grand Hotel Wien. From the moment you enter the palatial lobby, with its sleek marble floor, gleaming chandeliers and sweeping staircase, you’ll step back to the times of classic Viennese grandeur and Belle Epoque opulence. Upstairs the bedrooms are no less sumptuous, with period furniture, luxurious carpets, and vast windows draped in thick brocade curtains – it’s very reminiscent of the iconic pomp and splendor of the Louis XV era. In spite of its lavishness, the Grand Hotel Wien doesn’t feel straitlaced or pretentious; a laid back ambiance pervades the hotel, and the resident pianist regales you with live music as you make your way in and out of the grand doors. The huge spa, with its exposed brickwork, Spanish-style tiling and innovative LED technology, showcases another, more modern side to this historic hotel.
Then there’s the innovative Grätzl Hotel, a new accommodation concept ideal for independent travelers. Designed by a group of architects called The Urbanauts, Grätzl Hotel isn’t technically a hotel; it’s a collection of individual rooms, lofts and suites spread around Vienna’s most buzzing districts. Each room has its own unique charm, and many were once ground-floor shops that stood deserted for years. The history of each suite is reflected in the name, be it ‘Seamstress’, ‘Blacksmith’, ‘Sugar Baker’ or ‘Artist’. Suites are light, airy and packed with personality, with a hint of industrial chic in the strong, clean lines and exposed pipework. The furniture and styling is luxurious, with big, comfy beds, powerful rain-showers, large TVs, sweet-smelling toiletries and cosy robes ready to slip on. The best things about Grätzl Hotel is how it makes you feel like a local; as soon as you walk into your suite, you feel like you’ve effortlessly blended into authentic Viannesse life.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
For a dining experience like you’ve never had before, head to TIAN, one of only five vegetarian restaurants in the world to have a Michelin star (it also boasts three Gault-Millau toques). In this outstanding lounge-style restaurant, you’ll discover a whole new world of plant-based pleasure, and whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, it’ll be impossible to deny just how easy it is to make vegetables the breathtaking focus of a dish. To understand the true depths of chef Paul Ivić’s talent, opt for the ten-course tasting menu, which features mouthwatering small plates of king oyster mushroom with fava beans and spruce sprouts, zucchini with fennel and raspberry, and buckwheat, chanterelle and rosehip. The rich chocolate dessert – ‘Don’t Call Me Donut’ – will knock you for six, and leave you contemplating just how sensational plant-based food can be.
For a more authentic Austrian fine-dining experience, head to the famous Le Ciel, a restaurant whose innovative gourmet cuisine has been awarded a Michelin star, three toques and 17 Gault Millau scores. This seventh-floor restaurant provides dramatic views over the city, and as you feast on a decadent five-course menu you can marvel at Vienna’s baroque buildings and imperial palaces from the sun-drenched terrace. Inside the restaurant it’s just as beautiful; the midnight blue ceiling makes you feel like you’re dining under the stars, and the white glove service is old-world European glamour at its best. Food is Austrian and French inspired, yet in spite of its traditional fare, Le Ciel can cater for gluten-free, veggie or vegan diets too; just let the restaurant know when you book.
Meliá Vienna Rooftop
To truly appreciate the beauty of Vienna – while sipping some delicious cocktail creations – head up to the rooftop bar of Meliá Vienna. Perched on the very top of the tallest building in Austria, this is your chance to admire the city vista at its most breathtaking. Even on a rainy day it’s worth a visit, as from behind the glass walls you get a great view of the steely Danube River as it glints and winds its way through town. On Friday and Saturday nights, the busy outdoor terrace is packed with trendy young professionals and glitzy hipsters drinking cocktails while the hotel DJ churns out tune after tune; Thursdays are also good nights to visit, as there’s live music from local musicians.
WHAT TO DO
Get your cultural fix
Once the home of the Habsburg Empire, Vienna has more culture and art than you can imagine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to cover some good ground during your visit. From baroque palaces that literally glitter with gold to majestic concert halls and art galleries you can lose yourself in, there’s something for everyone here. The enormous Kunsthistorisches Museum is the jewel in Vienna’s cultural crown, and inside you’ll find some of the best works from the Old Masters. The white limestone Leopold Museum is worth a visit if contemporary art is more your thing, and the neighbouring MUMOK has an excellent range of unusual exhibitions. If you want to pretend you’ve stepped back in time to the Habsburg heyday, the beautiful palace of Belvedere is a must-visit, as are its gardens: with pristine landscaped lawns, cascading fountains and ornamental sculptures, don’t forget your camera!
Shop til you Drop
If you’re planning on picking up some souvenirs while you’re in town – or a few gifts for yourself – you’ll be pleased to know that Vienna is a very underrated shopping destination. With several upmarket shopping districts (Kärntner Straße, Kohlmarkt, Graben and Ringstraßen Galerien) within easy walking reach, you can spend the day shopping til you drop. Pop by Mühlbauer, known to be Vienna’s oldest hat maker and just as popular today: choose from chic straw boaters to the Salzburg felt hat and everything in between. Visitors with a sweet tooth must visit Zuckerlwerkstatt, a now-iconic ‘candy workshop’ where the vintage inspired sweets are (almost) too beautiful to eat. For simple, stylish and unique accessories, head to Österreichische Werkstätten, an Aladdin’s cave of fashionable treasures – from exquisite jewelry to Art Deco inspired handbags.