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Vienna is the grand dame of Europe. A monarchy up until 1918, echoes of her aristocratic roots can still be felt and experienced by visitors today. As important as this history and tradition are to the city, there is also an edgy emerging art, fashion and food scene that are definitely worth exploring, experiencing and tasting. So without further ado here is our guide to caffeinating, eating, sleeping, shopping and playing in this (once) dynastic capital.
Coffee house culture is a huge part of Viennese life and so visitors and locals alike are spoiled for choice. For a traditional experience (read: brightly lit, bustling and smoky). Be sure to try Hotel Sacher Café for its elegance and proximity to the opera house (and don't miss their world-famous chocolate torte), Café Prüekel and Kaffe Zentral(frequented by all the famous literati at the end of the 19th century). For something more akin to a Brooklyn brew, we loved Balthasar in the up and coming Praterstrasse 2 (second district).
Something a little stronger than coffee:
Hotel Sacher Blaue Bar is a Viennese institution, and a glass of champagne or a delightful local white wine is just the thing to order.
For a more contemporary vibe and a birds-eye-vista, be sure to visit Loft for views that won't stop (it's located on the 18th floor of the Sofitel)
Roberto's American Bar sets the standard for cocktail culture in Vienna. Small, smoky, dark and intimate. What the bar lacks in space it more than makes up for in style and hospitality. Cocktails with a capital C. Ask for Roberto and tell him we sent you!
Loos Bar -- don't let the ongoing feud with neighbouring Roberto's bar deter you. Loos bar is not only architecturally beautiful (amazing Art Deco), but historically significant as well. Most of Vienna's intellectuals drank here throughout history. The bar, designed by Adolf Loos in 1908 has (fortunately) remained un changed.
Lunching & Snacking around the Ringstrasse:
Zum Schwarzen Kameel has been an institution since 1901. Still serving fine coffee, Austrian wine and the prettiest open faced sandwiches with the original recipes from fräulein Frieze. Spend an afternoon enjoying an aperitif and some of their many delicacies while watching their sophisticated customers come and go.
Bitzinger Sausage Stand, because a visit to Vienna would not be complete without a late-night sausage, a post-opera sausage or a just-because sausage snack. A visit to this civilized little stand is the perfect cap to nearly any activity. Street food with 200 years of tradition! Plus you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer to accompany your choice of wurst.
Tian - Vegetarian or not, the menu at the one Michelin starred Tian is so mouth-watering that even a die-hard carnivore couldn't possibly miss their beloved meat. Set in a beautiful, light-filled historical building, both the lunch and dinner menus are definitely something to write home about.
Labstelle -- with a dedication to local, fresh and seasonal bordering on obsessive, this central eatery manages to be both rustic and contemporary all at the same time. The menu delights with unique, sometimes foraged ingredients, and the staff are as knowledgeable as they are hospitable. Be sure to save room for any of their mind blowing deserts and don't pass up the house blend coffee roasted locally by Bernd Salat (www.salatkaffee.com). Even the wine comes from less than 10 miles away (in Vienna city limits no less).
Looking for a classic option to satiate your schnitzel craving? Be sure to pay a visit to Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper. According to the Viennese, a proper schnitzel is prepared with veal, and this one ticks all the right boxes (thin, light and crispy) -- ever so decadent! Served with a traditional potato salad in a vinegar dressing and paired with a glass of Austrian white wine, you'll want to yodel your praise from the foothills of the Alps (incidentally, less than an hour outside Vienna)!
The Sofitel is a great boutique property on the edge of Praterstrasse 2, a hip emerging neighbourhood with some cool boutiques and cafes nearby that can easily be explored on foot. The all-white rooms and cloud-like beds will make it hard to rise come morning, but the city streets will beckon.
The Park Hyatt Vienna is the newest luxury hotel to open its doors in Vienna. This converted bank in a prime location has more marble than a Roman bathhouse. The historical rooms are large and luxurious with traditional wood paneling and herringbone floors that belie all the intuitive technology built-into the furnishings -- no need to leave your bed thanks to the command centre within arm's reach. Be sure to take a dip in the old vault that now houses a stunning spa and pool.
Supersense is part hipster coffee shop and part boutique offering customers the opportunity to ignite all their senses. From sound (they sell analogue music from cassettes to records), smell (create your own memory scent in a glass vial composed of various elements to be cracked and inhaled at a poignant life event), taste (a selection of locally roasted coffee and delicacies) and much more.
Ceramics are not the easiest souvenir to transport, but you'll be inspired to take the risk upon visiting Sandra Haischberger's stunning bright studio shop, Feinedinge. Delicate clay vases, tableware, pots and their famous glowsphere. Bring on the bubble wrap!
Mühlbauer -- Celebrities like Madonna and Brad Pitt flock to this fashionable hat shop for fanciful headgear from Mühlbauer Hutmanufaktur, all handmade since 1903.
Karmelitermarkt Market offers up interesting food stalls and restaurants permanently stationed in an open square in Praterstrasse 2. The neighbourhood is up and coming and is full of contemporary art and interesting cafes and boutiques that are worth a visit.
Doing & Seeing: The Visual Arts:
The Leopold Museum is located in the heart of the MuseumsQuartier, an example of city planning at its finest. Visitors can take in the impressive modern art collection with works by Schiele, Klimt and Josef Hoffmann. Get a combined ticket to save some euros then wander next door to the MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung ludwig Wien) where you can continue your art crawl into and through the remainder of the 20th century.
Doing & Seeing: Music:
Take in an Opera at the Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera House) because, well quite frankly, it's bucket-list worthy (and just what one does while in Vienna). Many of the productions are thoroughly modern but approachable for opera rookies. Opt for a balcony seat and join your fellow guests for a glass of champagne at intermission, like something out of a James Bond film.
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