A winter’s tale in Vienna
By Fiona Gaze from Hg2 luxury city guides
After arriving by train, we drop off our bags and linger for a while in the bright, modern rooms of the Hollmann Beletage Hotel (00 43 1 96 11 960; hollmann-beletage.at) at Köllnerhofgasse 6, located in the city’s Golden Quarter. This hotel, kitted out in brown leather, red and orange with retro fittings, is pure fun: there’s an in-house cinema with freshly popped popcorn and a fitting showing of The Third Man, which we pass up in favour of an early start out hitting the town.
For an aperitif, we head to the nearby Café Hawelka (00 43 1 5128230; hawelka.at) at Dorotheergasse 6, a timeless, quintessential café that has a whiff of past cigars and intellectual debates of decades past. We analyse the crowd and wonder who will be the next Gustav Klimt among them, before downing our coffee and whisking down the fairy-light strung streets, past St Stephen’s Cathedral. Ducking into the maze of cobbled alleyways beyond, we go into Zu Den 3 Hacken (00 43 1 512 77 87; vinum-wien.at) at Singerstrasse 28 for a fortifying plate of traditional tafelspitz (who would have thought boiled beef could taste so good?) and a bottle, which soon turned into several, of excellent local Grüner Veltliner wine. We hop across the road to Zu Den 3 Hacken’s hardcore wine bar for a bit more, before stumbling back to the hotel and collapsing in the giant bed, conveniently located right in the middle of our room.
The next morning, with an opera of wine-induced hangover ringing in our heads, we slink down to the hotel’s six-course breakfast, before heading to the Therme Wien thermal spa (00 43 1 680 09 96 00; thermewien.at) at Kurbadstrasse 14, found at the end of the No 67 tram line. Floating in heated mineral water outside as our breath steams around us and relaxing against targeted massage jets, we feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the city. Armed with newfound appetites, the vast Naschmarkt outdoor food market is our first stop, where we amble past stall after stall of spices, produce and every cuisine imaginable before settling on a glass of wine and a plate of calamari.
Vienna takes Christmas very seriously, and the markets that dot the city are a commitment to Yuletide whimsy. We wander around the one in front of the Karlskirche, sipping on a Glühwein to fortify against the chill and we deliberate over whether every one of our friends and family would like handmade ornaments and bags of sweets for Christmas. We decide that we would, at least, and armed with a bag full, stride over to the nearby MuseumsQuartier, an art-lover’s paradise. The regal courtyard outside the Leopold Museum has its own glühwein stands, sheltered from the elements and neon-lit like nightclubs, complete with resonating house music. Slipping inside the Leopold, we visit its café (00 43 1 523 67 32; cafe-leopold.at) at Museumsplatz 1 – a cool, retro functionalist affair, where we opt for several pints of the Viennese Ottakringer lager.
With beer on the brain, we buzz through the charming, narrow streets of the Spittelberg Christmas market toward the 7 Stern microbrewery (00 43 1 523 8697; 7stern.at) at Siebensterngasse 19, where we sample the rich and malty seasonal special Weihnachtsbock. We take our time wandering back through the city centre and over to the Museum of Applied Arts, intent on sampling the fantastic creations that come from its restaurant’s kitchen, Osterreicher im MAK (00 43 1 7140121; oesterreicherimmak.at) at Stubenring 5. The chandelier-topped room – which, like its menu, balances impeccably between tradition and innovation – has lightning-quick service and we are soon tucking into giant schnitzels with potato salad and zwiebelrostbraten (beef with gravy and onions).
Thirsting for something sweet, we cross the Danube to the Sofitel Hotel, where we zip up to the Le Loft Bar & Lounge (00 43 1 906160; sofitel.com) at Praterstrasse 1 to marvel at both the list of cocktails and the mesmerising, bird’s-eye view over the city, while rubbing shoulders with the well-heeled. Sipping on a Dark & Stormy seems the perfect end to the day – or at least, it is until we come across a tiny rock’n’roll bar several doors down from our hotel, where the day quickly slips well into the next, fuelled by crisp Zipfer beer.
A Hedonist’s Guide to ... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information , see hg2.com
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