Forever young, Vienna knows how to enjoy herself and share the love.
(Mercer’s 20th annual Quality of Living survey recently announced that Vienna topped the world’s most liveable city list for the ninth consecutive year. See link at bottom of article.)
Landlocked and lovely, that’s Austria. A country of modest proportions that is neatly wrapped into a package that contains almost everything a visitor could desire. There’s the sounds of music, Mozart, mountains, strudel, lakes, cakes, castles and mighty fine museums, sparkling Christmas markets and brilliant ski fields – in fact the perfect place for a European holiday.
And top of the delicious Austrian cake is the capital and Grand Dame of the country – big, bold, hip and a work of exquisite art – Vienna.
Let Vienna be the one for you! A city that has not only rested on its elegant, pedigree laurels – it trims and reinvents them at regular intervals.
Discover Vienna by walking! The city reveals treasures around every corner. Start your day with a purposeful amble along and around the Ringstrasse – the road that leads to all things cultural and historic. Pedestrian precincts take in the grand architecture from Baroque to Art Deco and 70s glass houses.
Switch between the sights of the magnificent Vienna State Opera House to a clutch of old-school and hip and happening cafes – yes, coffee and café culture reigns supreme here . . . along with music, cakes and the best collection of museums in the world.
The city encourages and nurtures all cultural pursuits and galleries and museums have constantly changing exhibitions for young artists. Museums include left-of-field subjects such as Schnapps; Textiles; Undertakers; Graphic Artists, Torture and many more.
But the classic stalwarts are the Kunsthistoriches Museum; Leopold; Kunst Haus Wien; Liechtenstein Palace and for equine magnificence – the Lipizzaner Museum.
There are certain attractions to see in Vienna and experiences not to be missed. My considered and totally biased opinion is for you to follow my lead:
- As Vienna’s cultural ascendancy continues to rise each year – head to any exhibition that’s on. From Gothic to Biedemeier to classic art to modern – it’s here.
- Book for an evening at the Vienna State Opera House – even if you’ve never seen an opera before – time to change your mind set.
- Must tastes are: Tafelspitz (slow boiled beef) served with horseradish and chive sauce; Vienna Schnitzel (the king of the table), tender flat veal, crumbed and served cooked to a golden colour – and usually very large servings.
- Obtain a list of restaurants from the tourism bureau and that way you can eat your way through the entire menu of the Hapsburg Empire plus the delights of the new world.
- Mixing old and new is de rigueur in Vienna so sample the city’s finest traditional food and signature tiny sandwiches at Zum Schwarzen Kameel – The Black Camel – a great place to start your food adventure in the city.
- Now, let’s get serious about cakes and pastries! Patisseries are the sweet temples of our time and they include the famous Demel and Schokov, bakery and coffee house that display cream pastries and cakes that will bring a little tear of happiness to your eye and a life-changing experience to your mouth. Sacher Torte reigns supreme in all its glossy, chocolaty gorgeousness. You can purchase the Sacher Torte around town, but it’s all about the occasion when you have cake and coffee at the Hotel Sacher (best to go to the source).
- Take an evening stroll through the Naschmarkt, the city’s fresh food open market selling olives, cheeses, oil, meats and sauerkraut from huge vats.
- Coffee, coffee, coffee. No trip to Vienna is complete without a visit to a coffee house, an institution ingrained in the DNA of the Viennese. Enter the world of aroma and elegance and very good taste. Try a Kleiner Schwarzer – well before ‘espresso’ was invented, this little ‘shot’ of black coffee invigorated Vienna’s populace. And for the milk fanciers, go for a Melange – the ‘mixture’ that is quintessentially Viennese – a perfect marriage between coffee, milk and textured milk foam – with a pastry or apfelstrudel of course.
- Favourite coffee houses include: vintage Cafe Central, Kleines Cafe, Cafe Korb, Cafe Diglas and Demel.
- Go see the famous white horses performing at the Lipizzaner Show – the Spanish Riding School, for precision and tradition on show with magnificent horses.
- Love a palace? There are tours through the divine 18th century Schonbrunn Palace. The lavish rococo rooms leave a lasting impression – think gold, gold, gold.
- Vienna is a green place with serene parks. Walk through the Volksgarten, Stadtpark and Burggarten for fragrant roses and old trees that have many tales to tell.
- Shopping . . . and there’s lots. The main hub for shopping is the city centre where fashion – is the fashion. Also there are many small boutiques specialising in young designers’ work. Watches, leather, homewares are being created by designers of diverse origins. And if you can bypass a snow globe there are beautiful souvenirs to purchase that are not kitsch or cliché. Souvenirs as gifts – if you can bear to part with them.
It’s difficult to sum Vienna up on a couple of pages, Hard to explain its vibrant personality, it’s fierce loyalty to tradition and its bold acceptance of the new and adventurous. The art of enjoyment is what Vienna is about.
TIP: Buy a Vienna Card on arrival for visits to lots of attractions and transport – great value.
AND take a ride in a Fiaka.
Writer, Bev Malzard has had many culinary excursions in Vienna and has eaten every dish mentioned above. And she has a little guilty secret that should now be told. She was given a gift of a Sacher Torte, wrapped safely in cellophane and packed into a stylish balsa wood presentation box. It wasn’t a giant cake but one that would nicely feed six well-mannered mouths. She had a morning to kill and sensibly missed breakfast as the long flight back to Sydney from Vienna would be adding a few calories to her over-indulged body. After packing, settling back for a meditative hour or so she thought a cup of tea would be nice. And that damn box of cake began to rattle and hum! She unpacked the cake and ate the entire thing – washed it down with several cups of tea – and felt no shame.
But she was awake for almost the entire flight to Dubai, and on to Sydney. The amount of sugar she had digested had come out to play for 12 hours. The lesson learned? Only eat half the cake in one sitting.