Oh, Vienna! Lucy White takes a whirl around the ‘World’s Most Liveable City’.
What to do …
Vienna is best-known for its Habsburg-era bling but, until October, the city celebrates art and design of the most contemporary kind. In its second biennale (viennabiennale.org) will be an investigation of the intriguing theme “Robots. Work. Our Future” across four key art institutions.
Speaking of bling, the Belvedere Museum (belvedere.at) – a former royal residency – is world-renowned for its ostentation. What lies beyond the fanciful façade and grand grounds, though, includes contemporary temporary exhibits, as well as Klimt’s shimmering masterpiece, The Kiss, and Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s ahead-of-their-time gurning 18th century busts.
Lovers of photography and graphic art must visit the Albertina (albertina.at) – another former palace, and where the visual language of art, fashion and cinema regularly collide. Afterwards, refuel with a “Wiener Melange” coffee at The Guesthouse (theguesthouse.at) across the road; an elegant five-star boutique hotel designed by Terence Conran and Co, whose in-house bakery and brasserie makes for a welcome pit-stop. Pull up a seat on the sunny terrace and watch the world (and horse-drawn carriages) go by.
And no self-respecting art lover visits Vienna without exploring the MuseumsQuartier (mqw.at), not least the Leopold Museum (leopoldmuseum.org), where Egon Schiele’s drawings and paintings are genuinely mind-blowing. Also pretty cool, while you’re in the area: having your picture taken at the Photoautomat in the square.
Where to stay …
Blaue Bar, Hotel Sacher
Hotels don’t come much more venerable than the Hotel Sacher Wien – birthplace of the revered “sachertorte” cake in 1832. It is also famous for its former owner Anna Sacher (1859-1930), who put the hotel at the very heart of high society between the two world wars, leaving a cloud of cigar smoke – and a pack of French bulldogs – in her wake. Famous guests include JFK, Queen Elizabeth II, Rihanna and Angela Merkel, each one lured by its opulence, terrific location and surprisingly un-snooty service. Rooms from €435. (Philharmoniker Str. 4, +43 1 514 560; sacher.com).
For a cheaper but no less eclectic stay, check into Hotel am Brillantengrund in the hip and happening seventh district, aka Neunbau.
Its director Marvin Mangalino has had a ball sourcing retro furniture for its 34 guest rooms, while buzzy public areas are peppered with local movers and shakers working in the creative industries. Be sure to sample superb Pinoy cuisine in the courtyard – created by Marvin’s mum – washed down with house cocktails. Rooms from €77. (Bandgasse 4, +43 1 523 3662; brillantengrund.com)
What to eat/drink …
American Bar, Vienna
If your name’s not down, you’re not coming into Mochi, an informal, bijou Japanese restaurant that has locals queuing out the door. Spicy salmon rolls, teppanyaki steak, steaming edamame … Be sure to book ahead – or admit defeat with one of their takeaway dishes at their sister outlet across the road. (Praterstraße 15, +43 1 925 1380; mochi.at)
Another hit in the ‘hood is Skopik + Lohn, whose monochrome doodled ceiling by artist Otto Zitko is as artful as the menu; a short but sweet offering of European dishes such as braised lamb with polenta and mint pea puree, seafood stew, and a token schnitzel thrown in. Barflies will also be happy with the 1am closing time. (Leopoldsgasse 17, +43 1 219 8977; skopikundlohn.at)
The Tardis-like American Bar, tucked away off Kärtner-strasse, is the place for a nightcap (or three). Modernist architect Adolf Loos completed the tiny saloon in 1908 and it has aged beautifully, with Art Deco trademarks – onyx tiles, mirrors, mahogany panelling, leather banquettes, a green and white checkerboard marble floor – making for an elegant backdrop to seriously good cocktails served by dapper staff. (Kärntner Durchgang 7, +43 1 512 3283; loosbar.at)
Where to shop …
On the same street as Mochi is Song, a high-end concept store that’ll have you pressed against its window displays, leering at its avant-garde fashion brands, homewares and furniture. Labels include Dries van Noten, Astier de Villatte, Comme des Garçons Noir Kei Ninomiya, Bernhard Willhelm and Isaac Reina, each showcased with all the care and attention of an art gallery. In fact, the shop does actually have an exhibition space called Song Song. (Praterstraße 11, +43 1 532 2858; song.at)
Also in district two, though towards the famous Prater park and fairground, is Supersense, “the home of analog delicacies”, i.e. instant and vintage cameras, and letterpress printing. They run workshops, host gigs – Gregory Porter used its on-site recording studio – and you can even book a collodion portrait on Zoltán Janota’s 19th century camera, or have your own music pressed on to vinyl. The licensed café is also excellent. (Praterstraße 70, +43 1 969 0832; the.supersense.com)
It’s no surprise that only discerning items are for sale in Die Sellerie – it is run by three young graphic designers, who clearly know their onions when it comes to handsome ceramics, textiles, organic skincare, greetings cards, fine art prints, and more, each made by small-batch producers. Luggage allowance be damned … (Burggasse 21, +43 668 860 8429; diesellerie.com)