Vienna city guide

Vienna city guide People & Places Articles
  • Saturday 1 December 2001

The Austrian capital has the highest concentration of good cafés, restaurants and markets in central Europe, says PHILIPP BLOM

The Austrian capital has the highest concentration of good cafés, restaurants and markets in central Europe, says PHILIPP BLOM

Things are happening in Vienna. In the six years since Austria rejoined the EU, it has become one of Europe's most dynamic capitals. Yet it retains much of the charm of the old.
With just under two million inhabitants it is quite small and the pace of life seems dictated by an appreciation of the finer things in life. Nowhere else in central Europe does one find such a concentration of very good and good restaurants, markets and galleries.
What makes Vienna an ideal destination for wine nuts is the fact that it is helpfully located between Austria's main winemaking regions. The Wachau in particular offers both outstanding wines and great beauty (see Decanter, November 2001).
A boat trip here is a good way of taking in landscape and local produce. In winter there is a huge Christmas market in front of the city hall, offering seasonal kitsch and mulled wine. Or all year round, the Naschmarket in the fourth district is a must visit for foodies.

WHERE TO STAY

Among the hundreds of hotels in Vienna a personal favourite is the König von Ungarn in the first district, a converted palais sharing a wall with one of Mozart's houses. It also has impeccable service and beautifully decorated rooms. A little further down the road the Kaiserin Elisabeth offers a biscuit-box surrounding of Habsburg history and an equally perfect location.
Rather than going to these grand and established houses, however, one could do worse than getting a room in the Pension Altstadt Vienna in the seventh district, close to the Museum Quarter. This is a charming, family-run place on four floors at half the price of the grander hotels, with genuinely helpful staff and rooms that reflect the owner's eclectic taste.

Hotel König von Ungarn,

Schulerstrasse 10, 1010 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 515 840

Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth,

Weihburggasse 3, 1010 Vienna

Tel: +43 1 515 260

Pension Altstadt Vienna,

Kirchengasse 41, 1070 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 5263 3990

EATING OUT

There is no Michelin Star system in Austria but several of Vienna's eateries are worthy of such a distinction. The current hot spot is Meinl am Graben, the culinary arm of Austria's best food department store. Overlooking the main shopping area of the inner city, one can pair top Austrian (and other) wines with true culinary miracles.
The classic place for fine dining is still the Steirereck, a cavernous dining temple by the Danube canal. Adi Schmid, the sommelier, is also one of the foremost experts on fine and rare Austrian wines.
One of the charms of life in Vienna is that not everything has to be expensive. Two of the best-loved restaurants serving Austrian food in less formal surroundings are Weibls Wirtshaus in the first district, and Grünauer in the seventh. Both offer excellent wine lists as well as very good cuisine.
If your appetite is for a truly Viennese experience you must try a Heurigen, one of the inns dotted around Vienna and its outer districts, which offer rustic food and wine from local production only.
Two excellent addresses are Hengl-Haslbrunner, a small and very beautiful Heurigen in the nineteenth district, and Wieninger, the base of one of Vienna's, and Austria's, best producers of white wine.

Meinl am Graben,

Am Graben 19, 1010 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 523 3334

Steirereck,

Rasumofskygasse 2, 1030 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 713 3168

Weibels Wirtshaus,

Kumpfgasse 2, 1010 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 512 3986

Grünauer,

Hermanngasse 32, 1070 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 526 4080

Hengl-Haslbrunner,

Iglerseegasse 10, 1190 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 320 3330

Wieninger,

Stammersdorferstr 80, 1210 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 290 1012

BUYING WINE

Several shops offer good selections. Meinl am Graben has an excellent wine section and a cellar with tasting rooms. A chain of wine shops, Wein & Co, is also excellent. For smaller producers and boutique wines Unger & Klein are a good address. The Vinothek am Stephansplatz is one of the most established places and is always good in its selection and pricing.

Meinl am Graben,

Am Graben 19, 1010 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 523 3334

Wein & Co am Naschmarkt,

1060 Vienna, Tel: +43 1 585 7257

Unger & Klein,

Gölsdorfgasse 2, 1010 Vienna

Tel: +43 1 532 1323

Vinothek am Stephansplatz,

Stephansplatz 9, 1010 Vienna,

Tel: +43 1 534 050

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