So, you say to me: Kat, we’ve seen the sights! We want to really get to know Vienna and maybe get some tasty food and drink along the way!
No problem. As most seasoned travellers know, one of the most rewarding things you can do in a new city is to simply wander and see what you find. However, when time is of the essence and you only have a weekend and you want to get your money’s worth, local knowledge is priceless.
Following are a few recommendations, both for those taking a budget break and for those with a bit more to spend. The great thing about most of these places is that the majority of tourists are unaware they even exist, which, along with giving you a sense of satisfaction, is rather more relaxing than being surrounded by a swarm of camera-happy visitors.
First on my list would be Kahlenberg. My personal recommendation would be to take the 38 Tram from Schottenring up to Grinzing (which is stunning in itself) and then take a leisurely walk up through the vineyards to the top of the hill. Here, the view is spectacular and best of all, there are sun loungers where you can recover from the journey! There is actually a popular hotel here too, for those of you enamoured with scenic views.
While in the area, it is worth seeking out a Heuriger. These are traditionally Austrian restaurants, many hidden away in the streets of Grinzing. The fare is traditionally local and simple, but one can get some incredible Viennese delicacies. Two of the best is Am Himmel, which is just ten minutes walk from Grinzing. Beware though, as opening hours often begin only from three, and they are sometimes only open in the summer months.
If, after your walk, you want to relax, you could take a visit to the Sargfabrik. This is a strange combination of bathing house, restaurant, concert house and living community in the south of the city. It’s worth checking on their website (sargfabrik.at) to find out if the bathing house is running a special evening that night, as sometimes there is limited access. But otherwise, for approximately EUR 7, you can relax, enjoy a sauna, a swim and a jacuzzi – just be aware that it’s the European style to go naked! While the Sargfabrik is certainly not the most flash, nor the most expensive spa, it is charming and authentic and walking through the surrounding area gives you a real feeling for the city. Particularly good for those who want a cheap or budget holiday. It’s also worth it to mention that there are many cheap hotels and restaurants around this area.
One thing you absolutely cannot miss in Vienna is the Coffee House Experience, as I like to call it. Waitors in Vienna are frequently rather surly, so don’t take it personally if yours looks like he hasn’t cracked a smile in a decade. Viennese coffee is traditionally of a high quality and it’s common practice to come, sit in a Kaffeehause, read the paper, drink a cup of coffee and eat a slice of cake. Some of you might know of Vienna from its famed Sacher Torte and subsequent (and ongoing) row between the Hotel Sacher and restaurant Demel over who invented it, but there is an astonishing array of delicious cakes available at almost all coffee houses. Some of the better ones even have their own cakes, such as Café Griensteidl in the town centre. Other favourites are Café Schwarzenberg, near Schönbrunn, Café Donmayer, Café Prückel and Café Central. Prices vary, but a slice of cake are coffee is fairly cheap. If you want to treat yourself, head on over to Demel or Hotel Sacher, but be prepared to pay!
By this point, you’re probably feeling a bit peckish. So…this leads me on to my final section; restaurants. Having spent most nights of my last month in Vienna dining out, I accrued several personal favourites, varying from the cheap and cheerful, to the mouth-watering yet somewhat wallet-damaging.
Firstly, Vienna is full of both Italian, Chinese, Viennese and Japanese restaurants. Indian and Thai are somewhat harder to find, although it is possible. Starting at the top end is Dots Experimental Sushi, situated in the middle of the gigantic Maria Hilfer Strasse. Dots can be expensive, but considering the quality and service you receive, it is worth it. The sushi is absolutely stunning, and while they do offer some strange combinations (cream cheese, peanut butter, anyone?), you can also get hot food and traditional sushi. Delicious.
Heading a bit further north into the 4th district, you’re spoiled for choice. Here you will not only find the stunning 7 Stern Bräu, where you can sample approximately every beer in the known world (only a slight exaggeration), but also the stunning Amerlingbeisl. The food is gorgeous and the setting incredible, particularly in the evening – if you’re looking for romance, you’ve found it! Interestingly, the private rooms in the restaurant also serve as meeting places for, among others, student groups, young communists and feminist groups. It can be quite interesting to watch them file out later on in the night and guess which group they belong to!
If you find yourself by chance hungry and in the vicinity of the Hundertwasser Haus, head to Pizza Mari, an authentic Italian restaurant, raved about by Italians themselves. The menu is very limited – just several appetisers and a few combinations of classic pizzas, but the quality is out of this world. My stomach’s rumbling just thinking about it.
While there are many other restaurants I could mention, the final one I want to talk about is Deewan, famed for its ‘pay what you want’ policy. Beloved among students, there are no prices and end the end of the meal you simply leave what you think they deserve. Due to this, the place is, however, almost always packed, but the food is great quality and there’s a chance to a grab a bargain. I would, however, suggest not taking advantage!
Well, that’s me about finished on Vienna. I hope you’ve found this article informative and interesting – if so, please comment. Suggestions on further topics are also appreciated.