My Rough Guide: Vienna; Secret toilets and well-endowed fisherman

Best Discovery

In a city that's not short on dusty and fusty museums, I was amazed when I walked into the unpromising-sounding Austrian Museum of Applied Art (popularly known as the MAK). Every single room has been individually designed by one of Austria's leading contemporary architects. One has deep cobalt-blue walls, another has a fast-moving multi-lingual LED text set into the cornice, but the piece de resistance is the museum's display of chairs, in which two parallel shadow screens running the length of the room, create a corridor down which you can stroll, while admiring the changing geometry of chair design over the last hundred years. Even more importantly, the museum has a spacious designer cafe that's open until midnight.

Favourite hotel

Frequented by Orson Welles during the shooting of The Third Man, the Hotel Orient, in the backstreets of the old town, is the nearest Vienna comes to a Japanese "love hotel". The rooms are "themed" - one is decked out like a Turkish harem, another has pink ruched curtains - several are available for rent by the hour or by the night, and the wood-panelled lift is suitably ancient.

Best bargain

Vienna's transport system is among the most expensive in the world with single tickets costing around pounds 1 each, but the longer you stay the cheaper it gets: a day pass is pounds 2.50, a three-day pass roughly pounds 7 and a weekly pass only a few Schillings more. What's more the public transport actually works. While I was there the U-Bahn was delayed for 24 minutes - and it made the front page of the national newspapers.

Rudest awakening

On the my first night in Vienna, I went drinking with some Czech friends and ended up checking into the megalithic 330-bed Freidrich Engels Platz youth hostel around 1am. I awoke with a start at 7am to a hearty "Guten Morgen" from the hostel's loud-speaker system which went on to inform guests (in German and then English) what time it was, how long it was before breakfast stopped being served, and how long it was before the cleaners would kick you out of bed.

Most beautiful corpse

Not a sick joke actually, but what all good Viennese aspire to: eine schone Leich. In order to check out the current health of the Viennese obsession with death, I went to the city's Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) on All Saints' Day when up to a million Viennese come to pay their respects to the dead by leaving flowers and lighting a candle. With as few as 18 percent of the Viennese opting for cremation, and some even keeping separate savings accounts to pay for a lavish funeral, it comes as little surprise that the Zentralfriedhof is one of the largest in the world with a population (2.5 million) twice that of the city itself. Even so I didn't expect it to have its own internal bus service. When, at dusk, I finally left, the cemetery was aglow with thousands of flickering nightlights.

Biggest disappointment

On one particular trip I dragged a barfly friend along with me to sort out the city's nightlife. We were staying in a painfully low-cost pension above one of those nightclubs with doorbell entry only and a spy hole - a neon sign saying "Dancing" hung invitingly in the windows. On returning home after a particularly hard night's research, my friend took the plunge and knocked on the door. No doubt hoping that some wild (heterosexual) orgy was taking place, he was somewhat dismayed to find four lonely male punters sipping their drinks at the bar underneath a giant statue of a fisherman with a huge erect penis.

Most memorable toilet

Strolling through the Belvedere Palace admiring the Baroque art, I eventually reached the richly gilded Goldkabinett in desperate need of the toilet. When I asked the museum attendant where the loos were, he beckoned me over to the far corner of the room and opened a hidden door in the 23- carat gold panelling and invited me to relieve myself in the secret flush toilet therein.

Best cafe

One of the great joys of Vienna is its cafes. While the rest of the world queues up for fast food, the Viennese Kaffeehaus implores you slow down. For the price of a cup of coffee - and admittedly it's quite some price - you can sit for as long as you like and read the free newspapers or write postcards without ever being asked to move on or buy another drink. A perfect example is the Cafe Jelinek, off the beaten track in the backstreets south of Mariahilferstrasse, where the sign on the wall says: "We do not serve people in a hurry."

Rob Humphreys wrote 'The Rough Guide to Vienna'. Keep up with the latest developments in travel by subscribing to the free newsletter 'Rough News', published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.

How to get there

British Airways, Austrian Airlines and Lauda Air all have regular flights from London to Vienna; discounted fares should bring the price to around pounds 150 return or less.

Where to stay

Double rooms at the Hotel Orient, Tiefer Graben 30, range from pounds 40 to pounds 100 for the night (tel 00 43 1 533 73 07; fax 535 03 40).

Where to drink coffee

Cafe Jelinek is at Otto-Bauer-Gasse 5 (the nearest U-Bahn is Webgasse); open Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 8am-8pm.

Seeing the sights

The MAK lies to the north of Stadtpark (U-Bahn Stubentor/tram 1 or 2) and is open Tues, Wed & Fri-Sun 10am-6pm, Thurs 10am-9pm; admission costs Asch90 (pounds 5). To get to the Zentralfriedhof, take tram 71 from Schwarzenbergplatz or 72 from U-Bahn Schlachthausgasse; get off at the second gateway (2 Tor). To visit the Belvedere, take tram 71 one stop from Schwarzenbergplatz or walk. The palace is open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm; admission Asch60 (pounds 3.50).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?