17 April 2015

Vienna Travel Files: What to See and Do

Blue Bar Hotel Sacher Vienna Austria
Sachertorte at Hotel Sacher Vienna Austria
The Blue Bar, Hotel Sacher, Vienna 
Life, lately, has been more than a little bit manic. Travel plans, my sister’s wedding and the little matter of moving into temporary accommodation while we're buying a house has left me discombobulated, with most of my products in storage and no access to my usual blogging set-up. Fun and games people, fun and games. Which is why it’s taken me so goddamn long to tell you all about our trip to Vienna at the end of February. I’ll be back in a regular routine soon(ish) so please bear with me - and thanks for your patience in the meantime! 

Altstadt Vienna Hotel

Where to stay:  The Altstadt Vienna, above, is a charming boutique hotel that’s situated in one of Vienna´s oldest districts, the Spittelberg, in easy walking distance of the Museum Quarter and all major attractions.  A converted apartment building, no rooms are alike and the place is full of gorgeous mid-century modern furniture, colour and art. If you like your hotels to look great, be packed full of character and offer great service to boot, I think you’ll love this as much as we did. Did I mention the breakfast bellinis, and the (complimentary) afternoon tea and cake? If you'd prefer self catering, Airbnb has some lovely old Austrian apartments. 

Where to eat: For a city so cultured and elegant and sophisticated, the food scene is surprisingly simple – think lots of veal, pork products and cabbage. Our favourite meal was in Kristian's Monastiri in the same area as our hotel, which offers a more modern take on traditional Austrian fare. But if traditional is your thing, don’t miss the home of wiener schnitzel; this fried, boneless cut of veal in breadcrumbs might not be paleo friendly, but it’s surprisingly delicious. The local beer and wine are both fantastic. 

Sacher Torte Vienna
L: Griensteidltorte (pretty, but dry and quite tasteless); R: Sachertorte (much richer and tastier)
Café Culture: The one meal that Vienna really kicks ass at? Coffee and cake, and we freely indulged. The grand art deco cafes are fabulous, but be prepared to queue at the most popular spots. Creator of the sachertorte (chocolate cake with apricot jam), the Hotel Sacher is a Viennese institution; the ground floor café with its red and marble décor looks swish but, seeing long lines of tourists out the door, we walked round the corner to the hotel proper and had ours in the stunningly opulent Blue Bar (top pics). Much nicer, no queues, and free bar snacks. Score!  

We were less impressed with Café Griensteidl, beside the Hofburg Imperial Palace (trust me, the Griensteidltorte has nothin’ on the original Sachertorte!) and the queues at Cafe Central put us off, but we loved the authentic atmosphere at Café Hawelka, where we rubbed shoulders with the locals. 

cafe Hawelka Vienna Austria

What to see: Culture vultures will be in city-break heaven with the opera, art galleries and museums galore. We made it to precisely none of these -  but we did catch the 10am training session at the Hofburg palace riding school, where you can see stunning steeds dancing and performing in the most elegant arena imaginable, under crystal chandeliers. We also enjoyed touring the palace itself; skip the silver collection and make straight for the imperial apartments, the former residence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth. Oh, and pack your comfiest walking shoes - my cosy Skechers proved invaluable! 

From top left: Outside the Hofburg palace, pavement pounding in my Skechers, the Spanish riding school and Aperol Spritz outside a pavement cafe 

Getting there: We flew with Ryanair to Bratislava for a song, and caught a bus into Vienna. The bus journey was nearly two hours; next time I’d go direct. 

Before you go: check out the 1948 film The Third Man;  set in Vienna, this put us in exactly the right frame of mind for our trip!

Have you visited the Austrian capital and do you have any travel tips of your own? Please share them in the comments! 

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