30 Dec 2014

Where to Stay and Eat in Vienna, Austria


2014 is almost on its way out, but I thought I'd sneak in one last post before the ball drops. It's time to make your 2015 resolutions, and I do hope that you will have at least a couple of travel resolutions - places to tick off your bucket-list, experiences to add to your adventures list and culinary treats to be had in foreign lands! 



One of my favourite places from this year's travels is Vienna. I recently visited it to experience the fairytale wonderland that is the Christmas markets in Vienna. If you haven't already been to Vienna, I highly recommend you add it to your list of must-visit places. Whether you're a history buff or a culture vulture, you will find Vienna charming. There are stunning imperial palaces, impressive art and architecture, pretty parks and sweet delights (of the pastry kind) to tempt you. 


And I'm not the only one recommending it; Vienna is ranked #8 on Lonely Planet's Best in Travel - Top 10 Cities for 2015 list! If you need more reasons to visit, take a look at my pick of top 10 things to do in Vienna

Here is my mini-guide on where to stay and eat in Vienna. 

Where to Stay in Vienna

When I visited last summer (2013), I stayed at the Ibis near the Prater amusement park. Vienna has an efficient public transport system, so getting to the major attractions is quite a breeze from most parts of the city. But it's always more fun to stay in the city centre and have everything at walking distance. So I was quite pleased when the Vienna Tourist Board put me up at the 25 Hours Hotel in the Museums Quartier area. I am a big fan of bold colours (and kitsch) and the ambience at 25 Hours Hotel was right up my alley. 
Image courtesy 25 Hours Hotel Vienna Austria
A former student dormitory that has been converted into an upscale hotel (rates are mid-range), 25 Hours Hotel is quite literally a circus - that is after all its theme. Expect bright colours, pop kitsch, and juggling clowns & circus freaks at your headboard - well paintings of them at least. 
Image courtesy 25 Hours Hotel Vienna Austria
Image courtesy 25 Hours Hotel Vienna Austria
I was in an m+ room, with a view of the city and a park. The room was warm and cosy, contrasting with wintry Vienna outside. I loved the splash of yellow in the bathroom and the lime+honey scented toiletries. And did I mention that the bathroom floor was heated? Overall, I was quite impressed with the level of detailing in the decor and the amenities at the hotel. 

Image courtesy 25 Hours Hotel Vienna Austria       
Breakfast was plentiful and very good quality. And of course the Wi-Fi is free. While I didn't check it out, the rooftop lounge bar is apparently quite a swinging place. 
Image courtesy 25 Hours Hotel Vienna Austria
The Ringstrasse, Vienna's main boulevard with many of its top sights, is a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Plus the U-Bahn station is quite nearby. So you can get around the city fairly easily. 

There are 25 Hours hotels in Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg & Zurich as well. 

Where to eat in Vienna

Here's my pick of restaurants in Vienna, for various budgets.

Budget
For a budget meal, head straight to Trzesniewski on Dorotheergasse, just off the Graben. It's a traditional Viennese style buffet place, frequented by locals. The buffet lays out an array of finger sandwiches, with a variety of toppings - tuna & egg, sweet & spicy peppers, salami, spicy egg, herring, egg & tomato and more. Line up at the counter, make your choice of sandwiches (mostly by pointing at the ones you like the look of) and head over to pay. You can also order a small beer (called pfiff, which translates into whistle and is about 0.175 litre) or a glass of wine to go with your meal. 

If you're lucky, you might find a seat at one of the few tables scattered around, or head to the standing tables and rub elbows with a local or two. Trzesniewski has a counter at the Westbahnhof station as well as at the airport, plus 6 more branches around Vienna.

Most coffee houses also serve a very good, budget lunch, so check them out as well. See below for recommendations. 

Mid-range
(c)Heuer am Karlsplatz 1
Heuer is a trendy restaurant at Karlsplatz. Its glass walls give a fantastic view of the beautiful square and the many historic buildings nearby. Heuer is open all day and also serves breakfast; it's particularly known for its in-house coffee roasting. 

For lunch, I had the lamb chops that came with fat fries, and I also tried one of their homemade lemonades. 

Another restaurant I particularly liked was Halle, in the Museums Quartier (a short walk from 25 Hours Hotel). Museums Quartier used to house the stables of the imperial family and is now home to several museums and restaurants. 
Halle Wien (c)Marianne Greber
My lunch began with a warm bowl of tomato soup with fresh herbs. The day's menu had a gnocchi with baked pumpkin, feta cheese and pumpkin seed oil that looked really tempting; and it didn't disappoint! I ended the meal with a miniature version of the Gugelhupf, a typical Austrian bundt cake with raisins. 


Date Night
Palmenhaus im Burggarten(c)WienTourismus_Lois Lammerhuber
Look no further than Palmenhaus, the cafe-brasserie located in the erstwhile greenhouse of the royal Habsburg family. It's located at the back of the Burggarten, near the Albertina. 
Palmenhaus im Burggarten(c)WienTourismus_Karl Thomas
The interiors have a very tropical look with lots of trees (in keeping with the earlier function of the place), warm lighting and a smiling wait-staff. During summer, the outdoor area is open as well, with a lovely view over the Burg garden. Try the grilled fish; my dish of salmon trout arrived grilled to perfection with a crispy skin, along with roasted veggies. I also had a warm gingerbread filled with chocolate, which was served with cinnamon ice cream and a sour cherry compote. 

Coffee
You have no doubt heard about Vienna's famed coffee house culture and it would be a travesty to visit the city and not soak in the old-world charm of the Viennese coffee house. I have written earlier about my top 5 coffee houses in Vienna. Here are two more that I discovered on my latest trip, thanks to my lovely guide Ilse. 

Cafe Frauenhuber - This is Vienna's oldest coffee house. Apparently both Mozart and Beethoven have performed here. The ambience is quite intimate and the servers seem as old as the cafe! I popped in there to rest my feet after a long afternoon of walking around Vienna, and had a decadent cup of hot chocolate with rum and whipped cream (hey, it was 4°C outside!)



Cafe Griensteidl - This one was my favourite from my most recent trip and I visited it twice in the three days I was in Vienna! The cafe is located in Michaelerplatz, just outside the Hofburg. I had lunch there after spending a few hours prowling around the imperial palace. It was a typical Viennese lunch of goulash, semmel bread and a pfiff of beer, followed by a topfentorte (an Austrian cheesecake), and of course a kleiner brauner (brown coffee with milk on the side). 

On my last day in the city, I took advantage of my delayed flight back home, and went to Cafe Griensteidl again - this time I had a coffee and a topfenstrudel - flaky pastry filled with sweetened cream cheese (also known as quark). 



There you have it - a mini-guide to where to stay and eat in Vienna, Austria. 2015 is the perfect time to visit the city as it celebrates several anniversaries - 150 years of the Ringstrasse and 450 years of the Spanish Riding School; it also plays host to Eurovision Song Contest 2015. So expect a lot of special exhibits, events and general enthusiasm. You can find more information here.

Pro tip: If you're staying for 2-3 days (and you should), get the Vienna Card. It gives you unlimited travel on all public transport, plus free or discounted entry at museums and other attractions, as well as at concerts and restaurants. Remember to validate it when you use it for the first time. 

That's it for 2014. Have fun this NYE and here's wishing you a 2015 filled with love & laughter, travel & good food, and above all peace. Happy New Year :) 

Disclosure: My experience in Vienna was made possible by Vienna Tourist Board. Views are entirely my own.   

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