Europe’s Cultural Gem: Vienna, Austria
One of the most culturally underrated international cities lies nestled in Central Europe—Austria’s capital, Vienna, known for more than its’ imperial history and the Waltz. In fact, Vienna is rich with coffee houses, art museums, and architecture which should make the Parisians green with envy.
For The Coffee Lovers
Vienna is a mecca for coffee fans. Find anything from trendy coffeehouses such as Rien to historic coffeehouses such as Café Central and Café Digas. If you are visiting for the first time, make sure to fill your schedule with as many elegant Viennese coffeehouses as possible. The coffeehouses are known for more than coffee and pastries, they are perfect for capturing Instagrammable moments at spots such as Aida, which is fully adorned with “Millennial” pink hues, down to the waitress uniforms. Another important stop is the original Julias Meinl coffeehouse and grocery store. You can’t miss the logo of a boy with a Fez, a tribute to the Turks when first designed in 1924 (Austria had a strong relationship with the Ottoman Empire). Coffeehouses are institutions in Vienna and this city has cornered this cultural market as far as Europe is concerned.
Pastries For Days
While strolling through Vienna, you are bound to run into a few pastry shops or bakeries that serve as snacking points. Make sure to visit the best of the best, Demel, which is known for many menu items including the popular Krapfen (only available between November and February), fried stuffed donuts filled with marmalade, chocolate or vanilla flavors and sprinkled with powdered sugar. I highly encourage you to try the traditional Kaiserschmarrn, a caramelized pancake dish. Another staple is the traditional chocolate cake, Sachertorte, invented by Austrian Franz Sacher; this cake is so good Vienna dedicated December 5 as Sachertorte Day. While you can find this staple across the city, the most authentic place to try one is the Sacher Hotel, which even prepares and ships the cakes across the world should you fancy more when you return home from your travels.
The Cultural Scene
While the Parisians have Versailles, the Viennese have Schönbrunn Palace, a centuries-old palace referred to by the locals as Klein Versailles (small Versailles). The Palace served as home to emperors and monarchs. The Palace is now used as a venue for special events, museums, and is a must-see any time of the year. The Vienna State Opera is an opera house with more than a century of history and one of the best opportunities to experience classics such as Carmen or Don Giovanni. For art connoisseurs, the Albertina Museum should be on your agenda, housing more than 65,000 drawings and one million old master prints. You certainly don’t have to visit a museum to experience the culture, stroll around the city to the beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral or one of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s modern, architectural sights.
Shop Like The Locals
To fit in with the true gentlemen of Vienna, be sure to purchase a classic hat from one of the many shopping districts throughout the city. One of the best is Maurer, a hat store with a history dating back to its opening in 1873. While you will find classic men’s hats such as the Tyrolean, the women’s collection will not disappoint either, with many contemporary and stylish hats and accessories as well as hand luggage. A variety of shopping options are Mariahilfer Stasse, Goldenes Quartier, and Favoritenstrasse. You may notice the abbreviations, K.u.K. on the entrances of some traditional shops throughout the city. This is a symbol of quality in Vienna dating back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867–1918, “imperial (Austria) and royal (Hungary)”. Shops that have the exclusive stamp of approval by the empire are known to have been approved by the best of the best in Vienna. If you want to pick up something familiar, stop by one of the many Swarovski stores—yes, the popular gems are indeed Austrian.
Take In The Views
Catch some of the most stunning views of Vienna from atop the Lamée Rooftop, a chic and colorful setting topped with fun cocktails and ambiance, especially in the summer months. If visiting during the winter, try Das Loft or the Hilton Vienna Plaza for gorgeous views from the comfort of your suite.
Auf Wiedersehen, Wien!
While saying goodbye to Vienna, don’t miss a visit to one of the famous squares, such as the Rathausplatz and grab a refreshing Aperol Spritz while catching a movie or enjoying a traditional Wiener Schnitzel. Before heading to the airport, pick up some Mozartkuglen, the delicious confectionaries are a tribute to Austrian-born Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (you won’t be disappointed!).