Amid old-world cafés and Hapsburg-era architecture, Vienna is embracing a contemporary renaissance with renovated museums and stylish hotel and restaurant openings.

By Sarah Wildman
May 19, 2014
Cafe Do-An Restaurant in Vienna
Credit: Courtesy of Do-An

Lay of the Land

First District: Once the seat of the Hapsburgs, the core of imperial Vienna is now known for its pedestrian-only streets and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

Second District: Cutting-edge shops and restaurants occupy this former immigrant enclave.

Third District: One of the city’s most charming areas draws crowds thanks to its grand avenues and Belvedere Palace.

Fourth and Fifth Districts: In these adjacent areas, 19th-century town houses stand alongside buzzy cafés and old haberdasheries.

Sixth District: This is Vienna’s shopping epicenter—look for independent stores and the food stalls of Naschmarkt.

Seventh District: Near the MuseumsQuartier, this district has boutique hotels and one-off stores run by young local designers.

Getting Around

Taxis are easy to hail and the subway is expansive. Streetcars are great for sightseeing.


Eight new and classic hotels for every type of traveler.

Guest House: In the first district, designer Terence Conran’s hotel is reminiscent of a high-end Nordic ski lodge (all blond wood and recessed lighting). Molton Brown toiletries and thoughtful touches such as complimentary wine and cozy reading nooks give the rooms a homey vibe. $$

Hotel Altstadt: A former aristocrat’s town house in the seventh district, Hotel Altstadt has 45 rooms and suites, nine of which are courtesy of Italian architect Matteo Thun. Black-tiled bathrooms and dark, sexy wallpaper are a few highlights. $$

Hotel Imperial: A palace turned hotel for the 1873 World’s Fair, Hotel Imperial is known for its grand traditional suites and public spaces, as well as an at-the-ready concierge staff who will secure last-minute opera tickets or dinner reservations. $$$$

Video: Tour Vienna’s Hotel Imperial

Hotel Topazz: The brown mosaic façade of this new eco-hotel in the first district is defined by its distinctive oval windows. Guests are welcomed into a lobby that pays homage to the Wiener Werkstätte, a decorative-arts movement of the 1900’s. Expect wood paneling, slipper chairs, and custom-made fauteuils. $$

Hotel Sacher: Just opposite the opera house, Hotel Sacher is old-world opulence at its best (antique furniture; oil paintings; silk wall coverings). The first-floor Café Sacher has a glassed-in terrace that opens up during the summertime. $$$$

Park Hyatt: Opening this month, the much anticipated Park Hyatt mixes old and new: deep-mahogany walls and coffered ceilings, slick gray-on-gray rooms, and streamlined furnishings. Don’t miss a dip in the indoor pool, a rarity for hotels in Vienna. $$

Ritz-Carlton: Four 19th-century mansions house Ritz-Carlton’s Austrian debut. There’s a Guerlain spa, a roof deck with 360-degree views, and spacious rooms decorated in rich fabrics. $$$

Sofitel: On the banks of the Danube Canal, this Jean Nouvel property has monochromatic rooms in white, gray, and black. Locals flock to the 18th-floor bar with its rotating, multicolored ceiling mural created by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. $$

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000


Where to dine now, from authentic gasthauses to the latest hot spots.

Steirereck/Meierei: Heinz Reitbauer’s restaurant in Stadtpark is a high-gastronomy play on traditional Austrian cuisine, with a rotating seasonal menu. Try the local trout paired with melon, cucumber, and pea shoots. Below Steirereck is Reitbauer’s more casual (but no less exciting) Meierei. The cheese boards, organized according to pungency and origin, are a revelation. $$$$

Gasthaus Pöschl: Gasthauses—or taverns—have long been known for staples such as Kalbsbutterschnitzel (veal schnitzel) and Wiener Würstchen (sausages). Among the best is the first district’s Gasthaus Pöschl. In summer, tables spill out onto the Franziskanerplatz. 17 Weihburggasse; 43-1/513-5288. $$

Zum Finsteren Stern: Tucked into a corner of the first district, Zum Finsteren Stern specializes in updated regional classics such as tender chicken breast with parsnip-beet hash. Book a table in the cobblestoned courtyard outside the front doors. 8 Schulhof; 43-1/535-2100. $$

Konstantin Filippou: Vienna’s newest temple of haute cuisine is chef Konstantin Filippou’s namesake Michelin-starred restaurant. He cares less about flash than about quality, offering two six-course menus in a pared-down dining room. A standout: the snail ragoût, presented in a roll made of beets. $$$$

Café Do-An: A must-stop in the Naschmarkt? Do-An, a Turkish-influenced café with a line around the corner on Saturday mornings for to-go items such as freshly baked pita with black sesame seeds and zucchini-and-goat-cheese fritters. $$

Skopik & Lohn: One of the second district’s most celebrated new restaurants is this former gasthaus, where the stark white walls and ceiling are scribbled on with thick black paint. Here, native ingredients are combined with Mediterranean flavors—the braised rabbit is served with preserved lemon, the St. Peter’s fish with olives and tomatoes. $$$

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150


For a taste of Viennese style and design, check out these boutiques.

Owners Maximillian Semler and Sabine Bomm at Bomm & Semlerupend the traditional with their covetable bespoke jewelry. Best bets: chandelier earrings with rubies and bracelets laden with Roman-era coins. The Gumpendorferstrasse is a mecca for design enthusiasts: Lichterloh carries rare Midcentury Mitteleuropa furniture (Kalmar floor lamps; 1920’s chaises) while interior decorators swear by the northern European home goods at Das Möbel. It seems every fashionable Viennese woman owns a bag by leather maker Ina Kent; her line features slouchy hobos—in colors ranging from eggplant to distressed silver—that transform into clutches or totes. You’ll find the city’s finest selection of emerging international talents at Nachbarin, including structural dresses by Antwerp-based Tim Van Steenbergen and silk jumpsuits from Véronique Leroy. One of the city’s notable haberdasheries is the 76-year-old Netousek. The men’s suits are created with obsessive attention to detail, using a signature rounded shoulder.

See + Do

Seven places to immerse yourself in Vienna’s cultural landscape.

Academy of Fine Arts Vienna: Founded in 1688 by court painter and Austrian baron Peter Strudl, the Academy of Fine Arts spans more than eight acres and includes a museum that houses Hieronymus Bosch’s famous Last Judgment triptych and Austria’s largest selection of Romantic-era drawings.

MAK: Works of art across all media dating back to the Middle Ages—including glass; ceramics; textiles; metal—are on display at the Museum of Applied Arts. After exploring the galleries, hit the café-restaurant Österreicher im Mak for local comfort food, such as pork goulash and veal schnitzel.

MuseumsQuartier: In this arts complex, you’ll find two world-class museums: the boxy, white Leopold, with its outstanding collections of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art, a black-basalt cube that hosts rotating shows and has a floor dedicated to the 1960’s art movement known as Actionism.

21er Haus: The historic Belvedere district is home to this glass-and-steel archetype of Modernist architecture. Behind the purple-neon-lit façade there’s a serious range of postwar Austrian art, from avant-garde exhibitions to retrospectives.

Wiener Staatsoper: In the city that gave birth to Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, classical music continues to play an essential role in the culture. At the Staatsoper, general manager Dominique Meyer produces a repertoire of world-class opera. Wander the main hall to view restored 19th-century frescoes before having a cocktail in the grand Tea Salon.

The Secession: In 1898, Joseph Maria Olbrich built this exhibition hall to showcase works by the Secessionists, a group of artists who opposed traditional painting styles. A highlight: the Beethoven Frieze by Klimt.


Whether they be operagoers or electronica devotees, the Viennese are obsessed with two things: locally made wines and beers. Here, where to sample the best of both.

At Rote Bar, in the first district’s historic Hotel Sacher, a black-tie-clad waitstaff serves flutes of champagne and glasses of Ottakringer ale in a grand dining room with plush banquettes. Another Rote Bar, hidden above the Volkstheater,has an 1890’s double-height ceiling and puts on shows ranging from international DJ’s to burlesque.

Looking to sample small-batch Viennese whites? Head to Palmenhaus, in the Burggarten, which sources wines from vineyards within the city limits.

Vienna is known for its underground electronic music, and there’s no better place to soak up the scene than at Chelsea, hidden beneath the Otto Wagner–designed arches of the Gürtel beltway, or at Fluc.

Local Take

Three insiders share their top places in the city.

Silvie Aigner

Curator at Bäckerstrasse4 Gallery

“Vienna has great museums and galleries, mostly clustered in and around the first district. I love the Albertina, with its pieces by da Vinci and Cézanne and a photography collection that dates back to the 19th century. For lunch, Labstelle ($$$) is a farm-to-table restaurant designed by Viennese firm Klune; try one of the salads. After an evening at the theater, I stop by Café Engländer ( $$) for a glass of wine. It’s a wonderful place to meet up with friends.”

Robert Horn

Leather-goods maker

“I often start my mornings with an espresso and steamed milk at Café Bräunerhof. When I’m looking for gifts, I head to Phil, a hybrid book, vinyl, décor, and coffee shop in the sixth district; the music is excellent and there’s a wonderful selection of vintage furniture. Nearby, Aromat ($$) has a rotating menu of everything from crêpes to locally sourced meats. In the second district, Muth is the new modern music house for the Vienna Boys’ Choir; the building is fantastic.”

Heinz Reitbauer

Chef at Steirereck

“My favorite part of Vienna is the Prater, a public park in the second district. It’s the perfect escape from the city. In the summer, I like to visit Schönbrunn Palace, a Rococo-style residence where the Hapsburg rulers used to vacation. The best part is the Kronprinzgarten, with rare citrus fruit trees that smell heavenly. Nothing is more relaxing than a walk through the French Baroque gardens on the grounds of the Belvedere, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s 18th-century summer retreat.”

Coffee Break

Where to sip a traditional Melange? Three Kaffeehäuser we love.

Café Prückel: Across from the MAK, you’ll find this slice of 1950’s nostalgia, with a large terrace and menu featuring regional dishes such as soused herring. A pianist serenades guests in the evenings.

Café Sperl: A go-to spot for the city’s literati, Café Sperl has intimate, velvet-lined booths and is the ideal place to linger over the newspaper and a piece of Sacher torte.

Café Weimar: For over a century, operagoers have been stopping in at this classic café to sample its famous apple strudel after catching a performance at the nearby Volksoper.


Schönbrunn Palace

A prominent tourist attraction in Schlosspark since the 1960's, the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs is a true Baroque palace. Within its lacquered and gilded walls are 1,441 rooms filled with priceless artifacts of Austria's longest reigning royal family. Intricately painted ceilings, enormous mirrors, and crystal chandeliers adorn the immense Rococo-styled interior of the palace, where Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Sisi once lived. More than 400 acres of manicured gardens, fountains, and sculptures surround Schönbrunn, a climate-controlled palm house, with plant species from rain forests around the world being one of the most unique.

Belvedere Museum

Numerous works by Klimt (including his masterpiece, The Kiss), Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka.


Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Founded in 1692 by court painter Peter Strudl (who would later become Baron of Austria), the Academy of Fine Arts remains one of Vienna's most prestigious schools. Over 900 students attend the academy, where they are immersed in a variety of art disciplines in a research-oriented environment. The campus itself spans 33,500 square meters and comprises five buildings that include a museum, where Hieronymus Bosch's famous Last Judgment Triptych is on display. Among the facility's prominent features are top-of-the-line sound and video studios, plus the country's largest collection of drawings (at least 150,000 are catalogued in the academy's library).

Altstadt Vienna

Rote Bar

Part of Hotel Sacher Wien, Rote Bar has a more relaxed, yet still luxurious, dining experience than its sister restaurant, the Anna Sacher. The Rote has two dining areas: the conservatory, with its black and white tiled floors and views of the Opera House, and the main dining room, with plush red furnishings. The menu is made up of traditional Austrian and Viennese fare with offerings that include tafelspitz, a dish of simmered beef with horseradish and applesauce, and wiener backhenderl, a deep-fried chicken dish. Live piano music begins nightly at 7 p.m.

Hotel Sacher Wien

Hotel Imperial, a Luxury Collection Hotel

MAK: Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art

The Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art focuses on the importance of design, and its holdings include furniture, china, and textiles dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. Exhibits have showcased works from notable artists, such as Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffman, and collection highlights include Bentwood chairs by Thonet, Biedermeier sofas, and the 1926 Frankfurt Kitchen designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. Guided tours are available in German at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and in English at 12 p.m. on Sundays.

Café Bräunerhof

Café Prückel

Café Weimar