Vienna – Coffee, Cake, burgers and something to complain about
Vienna lends itself very well to tourism in the form of its quaint but grand architecture and its many coffee stops. But if you live here, as I do, it will be more than likely that you will find a never ending merry go round of things to complain about. One thing we do love here is a good moan about the state of, well anything really – something we’re pretty well known for. I once remember reading an article from an English newspaper about our love of complaining and thinking, we (Viennese people) don’t complain only to find myself having a grumble and rolling my eyes because of something was holding up my tram. We don’t mean to be like this, its just natural, you see.
We don’t have very much to complain about compared to the average Londoner who battles the tube daily, we do love our city and enjoy a comfortable life here in Vienna. The city is well looked after and is mostly clean and very safe. Getting around the centre of Vienna is pretty easy. There are five lines, one to four and then line six (don’t ask me where the fifth is) as well as a wealth of tram (Strassenbahn) lines. Nearly all the tourist sites are accessible by U-bahn (metro), but taking the number 1 tram round the ‘ring’ lets you see so much more of Vienna compared to the other lines, including the Wiener Staatsoper (opera house) (1). The building basks in its own glory regardless of season or weather and can be found seconds from Karlsplatz U-Bahn, Rathaus (city hall) (2) which is a short walk from Karlsplatz (3) and the Austrian Parliament (4). From Karlsplatz you can take the tram number 1 in the direction of Prater Hauptallee. This will take you around the ring road that surrounds most of the historic centre of Vienna. In the summer months, be sure to get off at Schwedenplatz and visit the Donau Kanal (1) and one of its many waterside bars.
Once you have seen most of the tourist sites on the ring and maybe checked out MQ (better known as museums quartier) (5) which is located a short walk through the gardens of the Kunst Historische Museum (art museum) , you can find a park to laze away the afternoon in (I suggest Burggarten) (6) or do as the locals do and find a coffee house. If you are on the ‘ring’ you will come across many places to stop and have coffee (Starbucks included). If, however, you would like something more Viennese, then opposite Rathaus you will find Café Landtmann (2). Well known as one of the most established coffee houses in the city. If charm and not worrying about your budget is more your thing, then located a stones throw from the ring behind the Oper on the corner of Kaertener Strasse, you will find Hotel Sacher (3), well known for its Sacher torte (a very rich chocolate cake) and cream otherwise known as Schlagobers.
If budget busting luxury is not your thing and you prefer somewhere favored by locals but also tourist friendly, Café Schwarzenberg (at Schwarzenberg Platz, oddly enough) (4) has a wonderful selection of calorific cakes. The local coffee drank by the locals is the mélange, a mix between a cappuccino and the latte, and is served in every ‘real’ coffeehouse. On the subject of calorific, If you find yourself in Heitzing (Thirteenth District), not far from Tiergraten Schoenbrunn, then try the Pure Living bakery at Altgasse (5). The atmosphere is homely and inviting and the staff will be only too happy to serve you their amazing Oreo Cake or homemade bagels. Pure Living Bakery recently opened a second shop at the top of Burggasse (68) (6), which is conveniently located not far from quaint Spittelau. One of the oldest parts of the city.
On the subject of food and Burggasse, if you are a burger connoisseur (as I am) then I would suggest you try and reserve a table at Die Burgermacher (Burggasse,12) (7); this place is an amazing and cozy burger kitchen (read: rather small) where they make the burger buns themselves as well as the ketchup. The Mexicanische Burger is amazing and they have a great selection of beer.
Another place that does a great burger is the Hotel Daniel (1), which is also a great place to stay and comes complete with a strategically placed melting Yacht on the roof thanks to Erwin Wurm’s trademark ‘dripping seriousness’ and an Airstream Caravan in the Garden should you fancy staying there. The hotel is located on Landstrasser Gürtel, near Scholoss (Palace) Belverdere (7).
Getting to Vienna has become an easier affair too, both Austrian Airlines and British Airways fly non-stop from Heathrow while KLM and Lufthansa offer regional departures via hubs in Amsterdam and Frankfurt respectively. Low cost options include Easyjet from Gatwick and for those who feel really adventurous, there is also Ryanair flying to Vienna Bratislava (Slovakia).
If you are looking for some extra things to check out in Vienna, check out the following.
(1) Schönbrunn Palace – This complex is the former residence of Austria’s imperial palaces and arguably one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Europe. Take a tour inside the grand palace and experience how the royalty of Austria once lived. The complex also houses Schönbrunn Zoo, voted the best zoo in Europe three times and the oldest zoo in the world. Check out the pandas if nothing else.
(2) St. Stephen’s Cathedral – This beautiful Gothic period cathedral is most definitely worth a peek inside. If you have time, climb the 343 steps for a breathtaking view of Vienna.
(3) Danube Tower – Take a 35 second journey in a lift to enjoy stunning views of Vienna from a height of 826 feet.
(4) Imperial Palace: Hofburg – The former residence of the Habsburgs. Today the palace is home to the office of the president of Austria. Visit the Gothic Imperial Chapel on a Sunday at mass to see the Vienna Boys Choir perform. The complex is also home to the world famous Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule), a definite must see in Vienna.