STAY in Vienna:
Having booked into the Imperial, you cannot climb any higher on the luxury scale: The magazine Condé Nast has twice voted it the world's best Hotel. It's the place of choice for the rich and powerful, and since it's foundation in 1863 it's a popular address for state visits. You won't believe it, but it can even get more decadent that a double in the Imperial. Take the biggest suite, for example, which measures 230 sqm. A personal butler is included in the dizzying price. This was to the taste of, among others, the tragically stellar King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who stayed here. The café is also open to all who don't need or want any butler. The melange (Austrian for cappuccino) is delicious, even if with a slightly luxurious aftertaste. The night in a double starts at 323 euros.
The hotel has 25 rooms that are so cosy that you immediately feel at home. The rooms are tastefully furnished and situated around a living-room, where a minibar and a well-stocked library invite you to stay for a while. And if you don't want to leave the house at all, you'll never get bored. The hotel has its own cinema showing Austrian classics. Moreover, there is a spa to relax and a wonderful garden, which makes you forget that you are in the middle of a big city. Tipp: Just around the corner you find the star restaurant Hollmann Salon. A night in a double starts at 140 euros.
The Méridien is the youngest of the extravagant houses at the ring road. The lack of tradition is balanced with super modern design and fancy styling. The furnishing in the rooms is minimalist but tasteful, and at night the hotel bar Shambala turns into a happening club scene: DJs such as Rodney Hunter and Erdem Tunakan make you dance with an international crowd. If you are mildly hung over the next day you might want to visit the fitness area: One round in the pool or a relaxing steam bath will refresh tired spirits. A night in a double starts at about 180,- euros.
SHOPPING in Vienna:
They have become something like a plague: T-shirts with supposedly funny lines. The advantage with the shirts in the Gloom: These really happen to be quite funny and make for a great gift. More interesting are the individual pieces by national and international young designers such as UlliKo or the Piratin. On top of that you have tights from London. Unnecessary, you think? Super funky, we say. For the little ones there are romper suits, onesies and shirts with perky quips or adorable prints. The good news: Gloom even has its own online shop. The bad news: It doesn't offer all the treasures that you can find in the shop. So: Go and hunt.
Disaster Clothing has become an institution in the Neubaugasse. Any one, whether teenager or a bit more mature, will find something here, provided they're looking for something cool. Pieces by established labels, such as Custo Barcelona, Desigual, Amarillo Limon and Skunk Funk are on display next to young Austrian designers such as Elke Freytag, lila, Maronski, Dejan, and Esca. The standards include Freeman T. Porter, Kyuichi fairtrade and biocotton Jeans. You always find something, because there is always something different to choose from in the DC, and always in limited edition. The shop complements and changes its stock every two weeks, so feel free to stop by more often than once.
The name says it all: Sandra Haischberger truly produces the finest of the fine things out of porcelain in her studio. Delicate white is adorned with birds and insects, English lace patterns from the Tudor period are kissed back to life and fragile vases are waiting for flowers to be put in. On top of that many lamps, cups and bowls, everything made in extremely limited editions, and thus really something special. The surprise: Haischberger's art is still affordable.
EAT in Vienna:
Club Sunshine in the Meierei, Roxy in the Opernpassage, Babenberger Passage at the Volkstheater and the radio station 98.3 Superfly - the Viennese party crowd associate these names with Sunshine Enterprises. Now, also the Albertina Passage Dinner Club is on the agenda of the lifestyle label. Located in a former pedestrian subway at the Viennese State Opera, it hosts jazz shows on an own stage, and offers a cigar club, a smokers' bar and culinary creations by Alexander Kumptner, a former student of celebrity chef Reinhard Gerer. Inspired by Quentin Tarantino's Jack Rabbit Slims Twist Contest the architects at Söhne & Partner have created the low-keyed venue for up to 300 guests. These amuse themselves in intimate boxes, sipping cocktails like Persian Mule or Espresso Martini and indulging in raw wild salmon with black avocado and glazed snails with parsley sauce. After a live programme the DJ puts on tunes and provides the right mood for a night out that will last until the early morning hours. That's simply Sunshine Enterprises.
The fine Flein is located in the magical garden of the French cultural institute and is certainly one of the most charming restaurants in the city. Somehow it feels as if you were sitting at your friends' place and that they just happen to be phenomenal cooks. The menu changes on a daily basis and most of the dishes have a French touch. Although it was mentioned in the Gault Millau, prices have remained quite fair: There is nothing that costs more than 20 euros, and the flavour experience is invaluable. The lunch menu, in particular, is a great value. Small tip: In the summer, don't get put off by the mosquitoes in the garden. You'll find mosquito deterrent in the bathrooms, on the house.
Maybe even the furnishings are made of sugar? The delicacies in the display cabinets definitely are. They don't only look indescribable, but also taste like that, too. The place has a long tradition, having been chosen to be the k.u.k. Court bakery. The candied violets are a decadent relict from the past, and a unique specialty that you won't get anywhere else. The Anna Demel cake is also notorious, a piece of art made of chocolate and truffles. Tip: The extra charge for the tradition is included in the price. It's worth it for the sweet stuff, but not so much for the savoury snacks on offer.
SIGHTS in Vienna:
Long live the central cemetery? the song by the Austropop legend Wolfgang Ambros hits the nail on the head. Admittedly, the quote is so Tuesday, but it really is one of the most beautiful places in the capital. If you like cemeteries in general, you have to take a walk there, in order to get some of the morbid charm of Vienna. Three million - some of them famous - names have been chiselled in stone, thus Vienna counts more dead than living inhabitants. With a list about who's been put to rest where, you can start on a vivid grave tour, in search for Mozart, Beethoven and Falco in sometimes quite sumptuous gravesites, as well as the Presidential Vault with the remains of Dr. Karl Renner and Thomas Klestil. Well worth seeing is also the Jewish part of the cemetery, the resting place for Buddhists and the phenomenal Art Nouveau church by Otto Wagner. Tip: You either resign yourself to only seeing parts of the cemetery, or you go to the most favourite sites with the bus line 11.
It is the biggest museum of contemporary art in Central Europe. And Vienna's greatest. The MUMOK is always worth a visit, if only for its architecture. And inside it's just as impressive, since the curators can draw from an extensive collection and present interesting focal points. There are five levels with works by Pablo Picasso, Nam June Paik, Andy Warhol and Günter Brus, ranging from Pop Art to Photorealism and from Fluxus to New Realism. The collection on the Viennese Actionism is a must.
The Freihausviertel is not a sight that you'd find on page one of your guide. It's more a highlight for the advanced visitor to Vienna, who has ticked off Hofburg and Co. and now has time to enjoy. The programme: A stroll through what is probably most creative and hip neighbourhood of Vienna. Near the Naschmarkt you will find small shops, beautiful cafés and good restaurants, in the Schleifmühlgasse reigns contemporary art. A mild summer night visiting vernissages, sauntering from gallery to gallery with a glass of wine in your hand - it sure won't get any better than that.