10 Reasons to Love Vienna
by Everett Potter
Vienna is one of my favorite cities in the world. Long on charm, style and tradition, Vienna is undergoing a massive infusion of energy, money and building. A Ritz-Carlton has just opened and the Hotel Topazz, a Design Hotel, opened last year. There is an edgy new bar in the heart of the most traditional quarter, a host of eateries with inspired takes on Viennese fare, one of Europe’s best flea markets, and a hotel that redefines the boutique concept. The art that defines the city has never seemed more important. In 2012, the city celebrated the 150th birthday of native son and painter Gustav Klimt, master of eroticism. This year, it’s the reopening of the Kunstkammer Wien and its trove of imperial treasures. If you want to visits cafes and visit the opera, it’s your city. If you want to see cutting edge art and party all night, that works as well.
1. Café Mozart
You can spend hours arguing about which is the best café in Vienna — Sperl and Landtmann are among many contenders — but for creaking Thonet chairs, mildly grumpy waiters, a musical diet of Mozart and a room with the look of fin de siècle Vienna, you can’t beat Café Mozart. A simple café mélange (an Austrian café au lait) and a newspaper (they’re kept on rollers) is the way to go. Novelist Graham Greene was a habitué and sat here working on the script for “The Third Man.”
There’s a fruit and vegetable market here, and a variety of restaurants serving everything from currywurst to fresh fish — with lots of outdoor café seating — but save your visit for a Saturday morning. That’s when the weekly flea market moves in, with hundreds of seasoned dealers selling everything from books to vintage 1950s radios. It’s flotsam, jetsam and a few treasures from pre- and post-war Austria.
In a city jam-packed with museums, the roomful of works by Brueghel (The Elder), including “Children’s Games” and “The Peasant Wedding,” at the Kunsthistorisches is enough to take your breath away. So is the gallery filled with Dürers. . On January 13, the Kunstkammer Wien, featuring objects commissioned or purchased by the emperor or members of the imperial family, reopens.
4. Gasthaus Poschl
If Gasthaus Poschl were in Brooklyn, it would be a neighborhood hipster haunt. In Vienna, it has much the same function, but the buzzy local crowd is without attitude. If you’re solo, sit at the bar or along a wall, where an elevated bench and high tables are particularly welcoming to solo diners. They serve Wiener schnitzel that will make you rethink Viennese fare, and typical Austrian wines, such as the hearty red Blaufränkisch (Weihburggasse 17)
5. Loos American Bar
One of the most sublime bars in the world, this Art Nouveau gem was designed by the great Viennese architect Adolph Loos. It’s an ornate jewel box: stylish, but also dark and cramped. Order a glass of champagne — it’s what everyone orders — and then be prepared to hoist it above your head as someone squeezes by you. For the cavalcade of international scene-makers who parade through nightly, it’s worth the squeeze. But if the weather is nice, move to an outdoor table.
6. Albertina Passage
After you’ve seen this year’s production of Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” at the palatial Staatsoper, what do you do for an encore? Go outside and down the stairs to a disused pedestrian underpass that’s been turned into the Albertina Passage — a futuristic bar blasting Motown that’s become one of the city’s underground hotspots.
7. Hotel Alstadt
There’s an artsy, old world gentility to the Alstadt’s large, high-ceilinged rooms. It’s a warren of rooms in a late-18th-century apartment building, now a stylish, vaguely eccentric and friendly boutique hotel that’s filled with owner Otto Wiesenthal’s contemporary art collection. It’s especially favored by actors in Vienna for an extended stay. Rooms from $207.
8. Le Bol
Given the eye-candy tucking into enormous and inventive salads — especially welcome after too much schnitzel and strudel — sharing a communal table has never been so much fun. (Neuer Markt 14; 43-699-1030-1899).
Basil mojitos ($14) may not be your thing, but even a glass of Gruner Veltliner takes on fresh meaning when you take in the view from the eighteenth-floor penthouse bar of architect Jean Nouvel’s new hotel (Praterstrasse 1; 43-1-906-160).
My favorite place to hear music in Vienna is inside this jewel box. Catch the Vienna Philharmonic or whoever happens to be passing through this most musical of cities. Just be sure to book tickets as far in advance as you can.