48 hours in Vienna
Consistently ranked as one of the best cities to live in, Vienna enchants from the moment you arrive. Known around the world for its culture – in particular its music and art – the Austrian capital is packed with excellent restaurants, beautiful museums, artisan boutiques and innumerable cafés and coffee shops. From the cobbled complex of the MuseumsQuartier to trendy districts that come alive at night, here’s where to stay, what to eat and what to do in this stately, historic city.
Morning: Check into the Grand Hotel Wien
The Grand Hotel Wien was Austria’s first ever luxury hotel, and it’s just as impressive today. Located in the heart of Vienna, it’s moments away from the city’s main attractions and upmarket shopping districts. The palatial lobby shines with gleaming marble floors and shimmering chandeliers, and as you walk through to the front desk, you’re serenaded by live music from the resident pianist. Bedrooms are the epitome of classic Viennese style, with period furnishings, plush carpets, floor-to-ceiling windows and soft yellow or green colour schemes. The marble bathrooms are stocked with luxurious toiletries, but if you’re looking for an extra dose of indulgence, head upstairs to the enormous Grand Spa 605. Relax under cutting-edge LED mood lighting before heading to the sauna and steam-room, or browse the extensive treatment menu and enjoy a spot of pampering.
Afternoon: Explore the MuseumsQuartier
When you’re sufficiently relaxed, wander into the MuseumsQuartier and marvel at its 18th-century classicism. There’s no shortage of museums or galleries to stroll around here, but the jewel in this Viennese crown is the Kunsthistorisches Museum, an enormous gallery located right on the iconic Ringstrasse. The building itself is a work of art, but inside you’ll find some of the best works from Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer and Brueghel. Be sure to check out Prince Kaninisut’s tomb, which was transported from Giza in 1914 and will send you back to the times of ancient Egypt.
Evening: Dine at Le Ciel restaurant
For an unforgettable fine-dining experience, head to the famous Le Ciel, whose innovative cuisine has been awarded a Michelin star, three toques and 17 Gault Millau scores. This seventh-floor restaurant provides sensational views over the city, so you can gaze out over Vienna’s baroque buildings and imperial palaces as you feast on a lavish five-course menu of Austrian- and French-inspired dishes.
Morning: Explore the Naschmarkt
Head into the 4th district to visit the Naschmarkt – which literally translates as “nibble market” – where you can enjoy some of the best people-watching in the city. From exotic fruits and vegetables to local Austrian cheeses, barrels of gleaming olives, sweet, flaky pastries and, of course, the ubiquitous schnitzel, you can get absolutely anything here. At the south end of the market you’ll find all manner of trinkets and curious objects – perfect for picking up charmingly unique souvenirs. There are several excellent coffee shops in the side streets, the best being Kaffee Alt Wien, where you can choose from 45 different types of coffee.
Afternoon: Go shopping
Vienna is a seriously underrated shopping destination. If you’re into headwear, make like a local and pick up a chic hat from Mühlbauer, one of Austria’s oldest hat makers. From casual summer straw hats to the classic-yet-stylish Salzburg felt hat with green ribbons, there’s something for every taste here. Österreichische Werkstätten is a treasure trove of accessories, including Art Deco patterned bags and one-of-a-kind jewellery. If you have a sweet tooth, head to Zuckerlwerkstatt, an enormously popular ‘candy workshop’ where you can drool over vintage-inspired sweets, such as the traditional Wiener Seidenzuckerl.
Evening: Dinner at Tian Bistro
For a city that’s so well known for its meat dishes, it may come as a surprise to learn that Vienna has a thriving veggie scene. Situated in the trendy Spittelberg neighbourhood, Tian Bistro is the more informal offshoot of the upmarket, gourmet Tian. Dishes are wholesome, fresh and generally organic: choose from mains such as grilled white asparagus with polenta fries and garden pea salad or aromatic vegetable curry with pak choi – but if in doubt, go for the delectable Sharing Chef’s Garden course. If the weather’s good, sit outside in the lovely cobbled courtyard, though the interior is equally pretty, with an atrium-style, plant-filled dining-room that glows under light.
Cocktails on Meliá Vienna Rooftop
As night falls, head to Meliá Vienna to enjoy a final, breathtaking look at this city. The newest rooftop bar in Vienna also happens to be the highest in the country, located on the top floor of the soaring DC Towers. The outdoor terrace is a great spot to sip cocktails while rubbing shoulders with the city’s coolest clientele and admiring the winding Danube River and glittering city beneath you. On Thursday nights there’s live music, and on the weekend the resident DJ thumps out beats until late.
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