Discover a new vibe in this old city. Forget café culture - Vienna is now dancing to a new tune where modern art, innovative music and fusion cuisine take centre stage
Something has happened to Vienna. The city that once had the most aged population in Europe has had a revamp. The grand architecture still remains, but the streets are now bustling with the young and the stylish; itching to enjoy the hub of new clubs, flourishing art scene and restaurants that fill one of Europe’s most compelling cities. Elegant and exciting: Vienna is the apple of Austria’s eye.
What to do
The Innere Stadt, the city’s first district, is where all the action takes place. Lose yourself in its maze of winding, cobbled streets and you’ll stumble across all kinds of architectural gems, from Roman remains to medieval houses and baroque palaces and churches. At the centre of it all is the magnificent Stephansdom cathedral (www.stephanskirche.at); a gothic beauty, it dates back to the 13th century and is the symbol of the city. If you have the energy, climb the 533 steps to the viewing platform - you’ll be rewarded with glorious views of the city.
Go for a gaze at the Hofburg (www.hofburg.wien. info), Vienna’s Imperial Palace. The Habsburg family were based here for six centuries; now it is home to a wealth of museums. Also within the palace’s confines is the Spanische Hofreitschule (www.srs.at), the Spanish Riding School, where world-famous Lipizzaner horses perform dazzling dressage to classical music. Tickets to performances are hot property, so you need to order them in advance or get there early to buy an unclaimed ticket. The gardens and parks surrounding the palace are a picnicker's paradise - make your own with the help of Grimm’s bakery (www.grimm.at), a great place to buy delicious Austrian bread.
Art lovers should visit the MuseumsQuartier (www.mqw.at): one of the 10 largest cultural complexes in the world, it’s full of vibrant and challenging spaces. Afterwards take a tram ride around the Ringstrasse, the circular road surrounding the Innere Stadt. Vienna’s State Opera House (www.wiener-staatsoper.at) was the first building to be built here in 1869, and it has one of the largest repertoires in the world. Book in on one of the daily tours or catch an evening concert: there’s something for everyone from high-cailbre chamber music to more contemporary performances.
Where to stay
The Hotel Rathaus Wein & Design is weird and wonderful, every room dedicated to a particular wine. Location rules at the cool, design hotel, The Ring; enjoy views of the Ringstrasse from your window and be in the centre of town in a heartbeat. Meanwhile, oozing charm from every chandelier, Sacher is the epitome of old Vienna. Beautiful but costly.
Where to eat and drink
For your Schnitzel fix, Figlmüller (www.figlmueller. at) is a Viennese institution and fries up excellent, generously proportioned Schnitzel. Or try Zu Den Zwei Liesln (00 43 523 3282), an authentic beisl (traditional Austrian inn); the courtyard is a lovely summer spot for a beer and snack. For a more modern take on Viennese classics, Immervoll (00 43 513 5288) is an excellent choice. Lightly fried Saibling (lake trout) and chanterelles on thyme polenta are delicious.
Within the Museum of Apllied Arts (MAK) is Osterreicher im MAK (www.oesterreicherimmak.at), a gastronomic delight. Master chef Helmut Osterreicher has divided the menu into two halves; the classical – zwiebelrostbraten, roast beef with onions and sautéed potatoes – and the modern – pike-perch on a bed of tomato-flavoured cabbage with parsley potatoes.
A visit to one of Vienna’s Heuriger wine taverns is a must - most of them are found in the wine-growing suburbs to the north. Heuriger Wieninger (www.heuriger-wieninger.at) sells wine from Fritz Wieninger, considered to be one of Austria’s best. For an after-hours, late-night snack find a Würstel stand, a sausage stand that conveniently also sells beer. Würstelstand am Hohen Markt (1 Hohen Markt) is the best – choose between spicy Bosna, cheesey Käsekrainer or the simple meaty Bratwurst.
Time running out?
Step inside the Landtmann Café (00 43 124 1000; www.landtmann.at). One of the city’s grandest, it’s great for people watching over a coffee and a slice of the delicious Sacher-torte.
Get away from the sparkling city centre and explore the lesser known Leopoldstadt district, bordering the Danube. On Sundays the Viennese head to the Prater, a former hunting ground, for a stroll.
Currency is the euro. Vienna is one hour ahead of GMT and a two-hour 10-minute flight from London.
Austrian Airlines (0870 124 2625; www.aua.com) has five daily direct flights from Heathrow to Vienna. EasyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyjet.com) has one daily direct flight from Luton to Vienna.
Tourist Information: Vienna Albertinaplatz / Maysedergaße (00 43 124 555; www.wien.info). Open daily 9am-7pm.
This guide first appeared in Food and Travel magazine.