Skip the Schnitzel in Vienna

1. Where to Stay

For an experience that is more bohemian than Habsburgundian, stay at the Altstadt.Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Altstadt

Say gute nacht at the Hollman Beletage (from $224) the inn helmed by Austrian actor turned pastry chef Robert Hollmann. Rent a pumpkin-orange bicycle to explore the cobbled streets of surrounding Old Town.

Select from among 42 rooms varying dramatically in size and vibe at the Altstadt Hotel (from $207), a converted nineteenth-century townhouse in the city’s vibrant Spittelberg district. The Baroque Suite, designed by Italian architect Matteo Thun, has slate-colored damask wallpaper, tufted-crimson headboards, and massive chandeliers.

Feel like a member of the Imperial Court at the grandiose Hotel Sacher (from $576), the nineteenth-century hotel where there are nearly three staffers to every guest. Book one of the nine new contemporary suites—each comes with a terrace and sweeping views of the Vienna woods—for a slightly updated experience.

Save your euros for what matters (eating) and check in to the brand-new Wagner family-owned Hotel Fabrik (from $104). The former linen factory has been refashioned into a 39-room hostelry where rooms are spare but immaculate.

2. Where to Eat

Enjoy modern Viennese cuisine at Österreicher im MAK, left, and Ein Wiener Salon, right.Photo: (L-R) Courtesy of Österreicher im MAK; Courtesy of Ein Wiener Salon

For a mix of traditional and new-wave Viennese dishes, visit one of Helmut Österreicher’s contemporary gasthauses, where moderately priced seasonal menus are served in elegant settings. At Österreicher im MAK, dishes are served below a massive chandelier made of empty wine bottles. Or eat in the cellar of the Vienna City Hall, where Österreicher opened his latest brasserie, Rathauskeller, earlier this year.

Reserve one of only 24 seats at the Ein Wiener Salon, a semi-private dinner party hosted by Sven Bader and Felix Strasser, where neo-baroque décor—candelabra, damask wallpaper, and a huge portrait of Maria Theresa with Bader’s face superimposed—is a cheeky backdrop for modern Viennese feasts prepared and served by the couple themselves.

Talk to strangers at the communal wooden table at Hollmann Salon, the nearly two-year-old restaurant housed in a former Cistercian Abbey that favors ascetic décor and an abundant locavore menu.

3. What to Do

Take a scenic stroll through the Stadpark to find the chic milk bar Meierei.Photo: Courtesy of Meierei

Forage in the Naschmarkt, the indoor-outdoor food bazaar that has supplied Austrians for centuries. Forsake store-bought balsamic after a stop at Gegenbauer, the oil-and-vinegar shop helmed by a third-generation vinegar-maker who sells 60 different varieties like apricot, quince, beer, or elderberry. Next, head to vendor Leo Strmiksa (a.k.a Gurken Leo), considered one of the last of Austria’s sauerkrautlers, who’s been presiding over his massive barrels of Salzgurkens (brine-pickled gherkins) and kraut for the past 30 years. Pair your sauerkraut with some charcuterie from Der Urbanek and a wedge of cheese from Käseland.

Take the long way through Stadtpark (think Central Park, but along the Danube) to get to Meierei. The swanky dairy bar offers about twenty different kinds of warm and cold glasses of flavored milk. Pair the coconut or lavender flavors with one of the endless selection of Austrian cheeses on display.

Silence your sweet tooth at the legendary Demel’s, once the official confectionery of the Imperial Court, where puff pastries and tins of candied violets are displayed under gold-leaf-dotted ceilings. Later, pop by the tiny Fruth for confections reminiscent of Soho’s MarieBelle in a shop that feels like it’s the size of a truffle. Schokov, the creative chocolatier in bohemian Spittelberg, just opened its third boutique on the Gersthofer Strasse. Among the treats you’ll find are strawberry and pepper Berger chocolates from Salzburg and pumpkin-seed marzipan Zotter bars.

4. Insider’s Tip

There’s no need to eat your Naschmarkt food on the run. Instead, bring your spoils to Sektcomptoir, the welcoming Champagne bar a few doors down, for a BYO picnic.

5. Oddball Day

Try your hand at curling in the MuseumsQuartier.Photo: Courtesy of MuseumsQuartier

Burn off some calories by partaking in Vienna’s favorite winter pastimes, starting with a mid-morning skate around the Wiener Eislauf-Verein. Located in the city center, the world’s largest open-air skating rink is open from October to mid-April (7 euros). Refuel at sleek café Die Halle in the nearby MuseumsQuartier for light fare like grilled calamari with rose hips. Afterward, grab a broom at the MuseumsQuartier’s ice curling rink, where for a half-hour you can rent equipment and glean tips from the rinkside members of the Vienna Curling Association for $52 (or just pay $3 for five solo shots). At dusk, descend to the subterranean wine bar in the three-story Julius Mein am Graben gourmet food market to sip local vintages from one of the 1,700 acres of vineyards located within the city’s limits.

6. Links

To keep up with local happenings, peruse English-language publication Austria Today, which offers daily coverage of Austrian politics, business, culture, sports, and current affairs.

Vienna Unlike provides lively reviews of Vienna’s trendiest hotels, restaurants, cafés, shopping, spas, and museums.

Vienna Life features information on events and festivals, with a directory of places to eat, sleep, and play.

Courtesy of the Vienna tourist board, Wien Info is a comprehensive and frequently updated guide to local events, concerts, and museum exhibits.

Skip the Schnitzel in Vienna