Escape to Vienna

Austria’s worthy jewel
Monday , 26 September 2011
David Hasselhoff
David Hasselhoff

Forget Paris, when it comes to falling in love in a city Vienna is where you’ll find romance. Quaint in size it naturally draws you closer to people while its mesmerising beauty is enough to enchant even the coldest soul. And with Mozart once calling the city home, Austria’s picturesque capital moves to a sophisticated beat.

When it comes to effortlessly combining history with modernity and urban life few cities compare to Vienna. Once considered a meeting point between travellers from neighbouring countries it’s now a worthy destination in its own right.

Imperial palaces stand side by side with Gothic churches and modern museums, however whether old or new each monument, building and platz (square) has a story to tell. That’s the thing about Vienna, while it may be small in size it’s big in its offerings...

The city is renowned for its opera and it’s clear to see why as it boasts one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses. A treat for aficionados, the grandiose venue was first built in 1869 but was damaged in WWII. When rebuilt it was considered by some residents to be distasteful in design, yet, now known as one of the most influential opera houses in the world, Austrians are proud of the state building.

Fans of classical music should head to Mozarthaus, home to the master composer. While Mozart resided in the apartment on Domgasse for several years his possessions are no longer there, instead his home has been converted into a museum about the composer. So, if you’re expecting to see his bed and bathroom it’s not going to happen.

Another iconic landmark is St Stephen’s cathedral, which sits in the heart of the city in Stephansplatz. An impressive Gothic monument, adrenaline junkies will be awarded breathtaking views of the city by climbing the 343 steps to its tower. What stands the building apart from its neighbouring edifices is its mosaic tiles, which breaks up the grey blankets of colour that dominates most of Vienna.

A perfect example of old and modern living in unison is at Museumsquartier. Home to the city’s museums and galleries, it’s the hub of the Vienna’s cultural scene. During winter an ice rink takes centre stage while in summer DJs provide free entertainment in the courtyard – this is where the in-crowd congregate.

As well as its art scene Vienna is renowned for its pastries and what better place to sample their delicacies than in the famous Café Central at Herrengasse 14? This is one of the most famous coffee houses in Europe, having played host to Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky and Vladamir Lenin.

For an authentic Austrian shopping experience head to Naschmarkt, a historical market with a river running beneath it. Active since the 16th century this bazaar sells everything from fruit and meats to ornaments, trinkets and fashion, it’s now one of the city’s largest flea markets attracting resident and tourists alike.

Whatever your reasons for visiting, one thing’s for sure, you’ll leave feeling truly in love with charismatic Vienna.

While you’re there...

Climb a mountain For that Sound of Music running through the hills moment take a two-hour train to the lower Alps in Schneeberg – nature at its best.

Go regal - Vienna is home to 150 palaces, Schonbrunn is perhaps its most popular. Resplendent with the history of the Hapsburg Dynasty you’ll need to dedicate a full day to exploring it’s vast landscape and exquisite interiors.

Be a culture vulture - Vienna’s Belvedere is perhaps the city’s most stunning art gallery hosting a wealth of works from some of the world’s most controversial and famous artists. The stunning building itself and its abundant gardens are also a masterpiece.

Where to stay
Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom +43 1 906160

Reflecting the marvellous St Stephen’s cathedral, French architect Jean Nouvel – of Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi fame – has created an 18-storey masterpiece that, much like the city combines old and new.

Ideally located at the foot of the Danube river the architectural wonder compliments the city’s artistic flair. The rooms, while luxurious are laid bare, there no pictures, instead the window blinds can me moved in any direction allowing your view to be the art.

Its Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Loft, serves a champagne breakfast with amazing panoramic views –  there’s no better way to start a day.

However, the pièce de résistance is the hotel beds – nothing prepares you for how comfortable these are, even the biggest insomniac will find decent slumber here.

David Hasselhoff got so excited once in Vienna he hilariously gatecrashed a wedding.

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