Tag Archive | "Vienna"

10 Reasons to Love Vienna


The ghost of actor Oskar Werner in a Vienna bookshop.

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.



Cafe Mozart

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.”


Naschmarkt, Vienna

2. Naschmarkt
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.

P. Bruegel “Hunters in the Snow” at Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna

3. Kunsthistorisches
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.


Gasthaus Poschl

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)


Loos American Bar

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.

Albertina Passage

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.

Otto Wiesenthal, owner of Vienna’s Hotel Alstadt

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.


Le Bol, Vienna

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).

The view from the bar of architect Jean Novel’s new Sofitel Vienna Stephensdom

9. Sofitel Vienna Stephensdom

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).


10. Musikverein

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.


She Said, She Said: Vienna


Kunsthistorisches Museum. Photo by Jenny Keroack

By Geri Bain and Jenny Keroack

Inspired by the grand tours of aristocrats past and the more recent adventures of TV’s Gilmore Girls, 18 year old Jenny Keroack proposed that she and her mom, travel writer Geri Bain take their own grand voyage. This summer the two set out to share as much of the Old World as thirty days would allow, recording their favorite places and activities along the way.  Jenny’s are in italics while Geri’s are in regular type. Read about their adventures, explorations and all the schleps in between. The following is their installment, logged from Vienna.

The train from Prague to Vienna glided by small towns gathered around steepled stone churches, and a rolling country quilt of sunflowers and other crops. Arriving in Vienna, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel, and then set out on foot to explore some of the city’s amazing museums.

Museum Quarter. Photo by Geri Bain


Immersed in Art. Entering the MuseumsQuartier (Museum Quarter), we found a playground of fanciful structures on which children climb and adults lounge. Walk through (or on) these, past the restaurants and cafes, to the Leopold Museum. The Leopold focuses on Austrian art, from the evolution of Egon Schiele’s Expressionism to Vienna’s Art Nouveau movement, the Jugendstil. It also has a changing array of temporary exhibits–check the website for details. Whatever you see, take time to notice its beautiful white marble building. Also worth checking out is the KUNSTHALLE wien for photography, film, installation art, and new media, and the mumok for modern and contemporary art. Then, perhaps, settle back on one of the colorful sculptural “couches” and watch. This is a really fun and alive architectural space.


Hofburg Palace. Photo by Jenny Keroack


Hofburg Palace: Sisi, as Emperor Franz Josef’s wife was affectionately known, and the Emperor come alive on a tour of the Hofburg Palace and its Sisi Museum. Through photos, we understood how the cinch-waist tomboy country girl Elizabeth captured the heart of Franz Josef and much of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Their rooms and photos paint the picture of a very formal, proper Franz Joseph, who ascended the throne at the age of 18, and an irrepressible wife. The couple seemed to be enough in love to let each other live their lives to the fullest. However the people of Vienna never quite embraced the untraditional Sisi. This exhibit presents the history behind the myth, and includes a new area focused on her role as a parent which opened in honor of the 175th anniversary of her birth (December 24,1837).


Confectionery as Art at the Demel Museum. Photo by Geri Bain


Food. Confession: I had wiener schnitzel for dinner every night we were in Vienna. And I don’t regret it. Plenty of Viennese food is borrowed from its neighbors, however; it does possess some wonderful dishes of its own—especially when it comes to desserts. Be sure to taste of some of Vienna’s justly famous pastries such as apple strudel and Sachertorte (chocolate cake). One chocolate and pastry shop, Demel, actually has a candy museum in its basement. The museum can be a little hard to find so ask a staff member to direct you; it’s worth it, you’ll learn about its history as the former Imperial bakery (founded in 1786) and how treats were delivered underground to Empress Sisi at the palace. When you’re ready for a traditional meal, ask your hotel or a local for suggestions, such as mom’s choices: boiled beef with bread dumplings (Tafelspitz) at La Boheme, and pasta with cabbage (krautfleckerl) at Glacis Beisl, or, my favorite everywhere, wiener schnitzel.


Film festival at Rathausplatz. Photo by Jenny Keroack


Vienna by Night. Lovely by day, the broad avenues of Vienna, lined by gracious baroque architecture, are magical by night. Vienna’s historic district gives you space to feel the impact of its grandeur. Strolling past illuminated monuments such as the grand Natural History Museum and the Hofburg Palace one evening, we saw just a few dozen people.The big crowd was gathered at Rathausplatz, where a giant movie screen was mounted on the spire-capped Vienna City Hall. Here, the free annual summer film festival was showing animated arias from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Rossini’s the Barber of Seville and Bizet’s Carmen and free bleachers and chairs provided comfortable seating. We also loved that we could walk back to our hotel, the quirky 42-room Hotel Altstadt Vienna, located in the trendy art district of Spittelberg, just behind the MuseumsQuartier. The halls and spacious high-ceiling rooms feel like an artist’s studio, with original art and avant-garde furnishings throughout—a great complement to Vienna’s lively art scene.

Freud’s Waiting Room. Photo by Geri Bain


Freud’s Vienna home. Freud fans will get a lot out of a visit to the place where his practice and daily life took place. Freud and his family lived here from 1891 until 1938, when they fled to England. The Freud Museum, located in his former home and office, contains his refurbished waiting room as well as detailed informational guides in English and other languages on his interests, life and work. We were surprised to learn that Freud had three “obsessions”: travel, smoking and antiques; liked Hannibal because he saw the ancient war strategist’s tenacity as similar to that of the Jews; and he actually psychoanalyzed his own daughter. The guides add insight to the displays which include home videos of Freud with commentary from his daughter Anna, as well as photos, memorabilia, documents, and notes from the man himself.  


Mozart’s House. Allow at least an hour to enjoy the audio tour at Mozarthaus, which intersperses information about Mozart’s life with lovely samples of his compositions. The museum is set throughout the home where Mozart lived in grand style from 1784 to 1878 and created some of his most famous works. Anecdotes about displayed objects such as the red jacket he let a countess know he “had to have,” and quotes from Hayden, his father, and others whose photographs are displayed provide a complex picture of this restless musical genius. Snippets of the movie Amadeus and a multimedia collage of scenes from “The Magic Flute” help bring his story and works to life. However, those traveling with kids be forewarned: an enticing series of shadow boxes along one of the walls illustrates the story of the Mozart and the area’s Red Light district past.

For more information on Vienna and Austria, visit the Austrian Tourist Office at  http://www.austria.info and the Vienna Tourist Board at http://www.vienna.info

Next, we take a scenic journey to Venice.

Geri Bain (right), a widely published travel writer and editor, has written about more than 60 countries and contributed to publications including inc.com, N.Y. Daily News and Robb Report. While travel editor at Modern Bride magazine, she wrote an acclaimed guide to Honeymoons and Weddings Away. She is a past president of the New York Travel Writers Association and former editorial director of Endless Vacation magazine.

18-year-old Jenny Keroack wrote for the Observer Tribune from 2009 to 2012 and has been published in the Riverdale Press and Elegant Lifestyles. She was a researcher/blogger for the N.Y. League of Conservation Voters last summer and will be studying political science at the University of Chicago this fall.

Vienna for Partying


Vienna: more than schnitzel and strudel

By Everett Potter

Berlin gets all the credit, but ­Austria—that nation of Klimt-worshipping, Sacher torte–eating opera­goers—practically ­invented nightlife.  More in my story in New York magazine …


  Everett Potter is Editor in Chief of Everett Potter’s Travel Report

The Guardian Angels of Train Travel

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Story and photos by Denise Mattia

A pale wintry light pierced the Vienna sky at dawn, revealing the tops of roofs and the silhouette of the Hofburg Palace Dome. I returned to my room ready for a journey by train from Vienna to the Wachau Valley in Krems, traveling on to Salzburg, Basel, Zürich and lastly Paris. Prior to this trip I’d reached all destinations directly by air and hadn’t traveled throughout Europe by train since 1964.

Thanks to the Internet, most transportation tickets can be purchased online from Rail Europe prior to travel. I bought the Select Pass, which allowed me to travel into each country over a one-month period. Still, the brochure, “Helpful Tips for Train Travel,” didn’t prepare me for the changes in the rail system.

To my disappointment, gone are the stationmasters who ushered passengers to the appropriate cars, helped them up the high steps and assisted with luggage. Replacing those guardian angels of train travel are computer boards specifying track numbers and arrival and departure times. Additionally, there’s no signage indicating where the first- and second-class sections are located when the trains come into the station. Doors don’t open automatically; they slide apart when a button is pressed. Locals have the knack and share information willingly. They also understand the difficulty of lifting luggage onto the train and provide assistance. Accepting an offer of help with my bag, I left Vienna for Krems.

Vineyard outside of Krems

Outside the window, wide expanses of snow-covered flatlands punctuated by church spires and farmhouses flickered by as the train sped past remote villages called Absdorf Hippersdorf and Kirchberg am Wagram. The noise this manmade predator made didn’t bother horses, which were busy nibbling grass in the snow, but it disrupted the peaceful winter scene and caused deer and rabbits to scamper. Nearing Krems, rows of grape vines cut through the snowy landscape uniformly. Once the harvest was over, vineyard keepers cut back the vines, leaving squat stumps topped with bursts of odd-shaped branches.

With impressive museums, wineries and spas, the Krems and Wachau valleys are anything but sleepy, even in winter. After an enjoyable stay in this region, I was off a day later to visit the Baroque city of Salzburg, a lively place where palaces crowd the skyline and where Mozart was born.

On the platform in Salzburg

In Salzburg, there are several dozen cafes where Mozart and Hayden were reported to frequent. When I wasn’t scurrying from the chill winter wind to visit museums, castles and crypts, I was ducking into a sweet shop to have coffee and the decadently delicious chocolate Venusbrüstchen (Venus breast) — Mrs. Mozart’s favorite. Several days and pounds later, I boarded the train to Basel via Zürich.

Not having reserved a seat, I was displaced by a couple who had purchased the one I’d assumed. Fortunately, the train was only half full and a conductor showed me to a private compartment, albeit a messy one. The restaurant car waitress bore no responsibility for cleaning the containers and papers left behind by preceding passengers, nor was she willing to find the appropriate personnel for the job. Since the detritus detracted from my enjoyment of the pristine turquoise-blue water cascading from the mountaintops outside, I tidied the compartment.

Before long, the crisp clear sky turned cloudy, enveloping the train in a white fog that nearly obliterated the towns from Bludens to Sargans. Although it was eerily beautiful, I imagined being caught in a snowdrift – the setting for a modern-day who-done-it. The next stop should have been Zürich. It wasn’t. Minutes away from the city, the train reversed inexplicably and returned to Sargans, which made making my connection from Zürich to Basel doubtful.

When the train finally did arrive in Zürich, my connection was at the other end of the station. A mad dash and a different kind of guardian angel of train travel – an unsuspecting young man – got me on board and into a seat. For the next hour my Basel friend and I talked about banking, European and American politics and the future of the world. Upon arrival, he escorted me to the appropriate tram and, when I couldn’t find my Basel pass, bought me a ticket and refused reimbursement. We parted, as people sometimes do when traveling, as happy companions, likely never to see each other again.

Having become enamored of a town that loves art, architecture and fun in equal proportion, I left Basel vowing to return. The impeccably clean ICE rail sped without a hitch to Zürich, a city that’s an amalgam of church spires, narrow, hilly streets, business and culture centers and Swiss watches (but not the cuckoo clock – that originated in Germany).

"Guardian Angel" by Nikki de Saint-Phalle

On my last day in Zürich, I stopped off at the Stadelhofen to confirm a seat on the train to Paris (a must any time of year). With help, I’d gotten the knack of train travel and had avoided the “pat downs,” liquid checking, passport scrutiny and baggage invasion prevalent at airports. Looking up, I noticed that flying high in the rafters was a sculpture, which I learned later was by Nikki de Saint-Phalle. It was titled Guardian Angel. “They’re not gone at all,” I thought. “They simply take on different forms.”

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Travel prices and tips:
Only non-European residents can purchase a Eurail Pass. I purchased a first-class adult select pass, which allowed seven travel days within a two-month period and cost $569.

Excellent public transportation systems make getting around European cities easy. Most cities offer discount cards or city passes (usually with unlimited rides and discounts to museums, shops, restaurants cafes and more), which go a long way. Once in Vienna, I purchased a regular 72-hour public transportation ticket (euro 13,50, about US $17). The 72-hour Vienna Card (about US$25) offered only 5- or 10% discounts to museums, cafes and restaurants and didn’t seem worthwhile. For more information, visit www.wien.info. Salzburg is small and many attractions are within walking distance of your hotel. For that reason, I chose the 48-hour Salzburg Card (about US $41), which offered free admission to all of the city’s attractions (museums, use of the funicular, cableway and transportation). Visit cards@salzburg.info. Warning: Control officers board trams and buses. Fines are steep for riders without a paid fare.
Since I was only traveling from Basel to Zurich, with a side trip into Germany to visit the Vitra Design Museum (about $US 5 roundtrip), I purchased a single, one-way ticket to Zurich, which cost about US$26.

For more information, visit Rail Europe.

Denise Mattia is a freelance writer and photographer (underwater and topside) whose works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art and architecture, culture, resorts, spas hotels, food and wine and sports’ activities. Her outlets include print publications for upscale professionals, web e-zines and trade magazines. She holds two degrees in theatre and art and was awarded a grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation in 1990 for her work in reef conservation.  Visit www.nytwa.info/DeniseMattia

Waltzing in Vienna: Life Ball

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Vienna with Fred

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Becky Aikman and Fred Plotkin perusing the menu at Osterreicher im MAK in Vienna. Photo by Lana Bortolot.

By Becky Aikman

There may be no bigger gamble in travel than taking a trip with a friend; the results can fall anywhere between the disastrous and the sublime. But the odds were in my favor when I alighted in Vienna for several days of imperial decadence — fine food, fine wine, fine culture, fine music — with my very fine friend, Fred Plotkin.

It helps when the friend in question has impeccable taste, and Fred is celebrated for his.  A frequent visitor to Vienna and a lecturer and author on food, culture and music (his books include Opera 101 and Italy for the Gourmet Traveler), Fred calls himself a "pleasure activist."  He also introduced me to my husband, so who am I to question his taste in anything?

It's not often that one gets to tour one of the world's great capitals with such a well-traveled, cultured and entertaining companion.  If it worked, our partnership might turn what could have been a round of routine sightseeing into Vienna With Fred, another adventure entirely.

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West on Books: Europe’s Best Bookshops (Part II)

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Shakespeare and Company, Paris. Photo by Dena Timm.

The best English-language bookshops in Paris, Vienna and Lucerne …

By Richard West


Shakespeare & Co. (37, rue de Bucherie): Surely the most well-known bookshop in Europe, founded in 1951 by the now-in-his-90's, George Whitman, who still describes the three sprawling floors as "a den of anarchists disguised as a bookstore." Joyously unorganized, a place to catch up on Parisian literary gossip, or grab a book and sit in one of the two red movie theater seats in the "Old Smoky Reading Room" (which isn't anymore), or wander upstairs where a resident writer or two bunks if agreeing to work downstairs and write about the experience. The famous motto is found at the head of the stairs: "Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they may be angels in disguise."

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