Last weekend I had the chance to explore the beautiful capital of Austria. It's true what they say about visiting Vienna: you will eat endless amounts of cakes, you will be tempted to buy a ball gown and gloves for the upcoming ball season, and when you aren't wandering around one of the many impressive museums, re-fuelling with a large tasty schnitzel is a must.
|Schnitzel: it's what the Austrian doctor ordered|
72 hours isn't nearly enough time to see all the sights of Vienna. If you are thinking of heading to Vienna soon, here is what I recommend packing into your itinerary:
LET THEM EAT CAKE
I've never been to a city where cake eating was a daily ritual and necessity - and yet, the people of Vienna are very trim and energetic. Must be something in the Viennese coffee! Here are some tasty treats you cannot leave Vienna without trying.
|Apfelstrudel - one of your five a day?|
Sachertorte is such a typically Viennese pudding that it should really be pictured on their bank notes. There are different recipe variations, but essentially Sachertorte is a double sponge cake with a layer of apricot jam underneath thick chocolate icing. It is delicious! Hotel Sacher is an institution in Vienna but it is also a tourist trap. When I saw a line out the door of visitors waiting to buy a piece of Sachertorte, I went to Demel instead for my afternoon Viennese cake fix.
Originally founded in 1876, Demel is a world famous Viennese chocolatier, pastry, and cake shop. Vienna takes its coffee very seriously and there are more than a dozen different types of coffee available in Demel's bustling cafe. The selection of cakes, chocolates and pastries are incredible, but save room for the signature violet and blueberry ice cream! If you're lucky enough to have a sneak peek downstairs, you will encounter a land of couture Demel cakes worth a staggering amount with A-lister client testimonials on the wall from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Muhammad Ali, Elizabeth Taylor and more. The cakes are almost too pretty to eat:
There are plenty of luxury designer shops and chain fashion stores to choose from in Vienna's 1st district, but my attention turned to local designer Lena Hoschek. A former intern of Vivienne Westwood, Lena's designs are fabulously flirty and feminine with influences from the 1960's.
|Photo credit: lenahoschek.com|
Just trying on one of her yellow and white picnic chic dresses made me feel like Mad Men's Betty Draper. The search for the perfect summer party dress is now over! Realising my credit card sadly couldn't take any more damage from Lena Hoschek's latest collection, I headed over to the super hipster 7th district and perused some vintage shops...
...where I quickly realised that the 80's are back - Vienna Calling anyone?!
Sadly these leopard wedge Gaga-esque beauties weren't available in my size:
Bring a sweet treat back home to your loved ones with Austrian Mozartkugeln Chocolates, which are sold in every shape imaginable and make great presents. There are chocolate stores all over Vienna, but I always find myself shopping for goodies in a local grocery store no matter where I travel.
|The Vienna grocery store chocolate selection!|
Yes, I am drinking the Park Hyatt hotel Kool Aid as their PR, but it's hard to beat staying in the brand new Park Hyatt Vienna, which opened last month. The hotel is exquisite from top to toe and the location is very central.
The 100-year-old building was formerly a bank, so there are lots of historical Viennese influences discreetly displayed throughout the hotel. History buffs will have a field day here! The charming hanging artwork pictured in my room is actually an enlarged typically Viennese brooch.
For a dining experience you won't forget, try The Bank restaurant, which is elegant and glamorous in appearance with a WOW, I want to try everything! menu to match. I feasted on grilled beef tenderloin Rossini with madeira sauce and summer truffle on top of potato gratin. It was easily the best steak I have ever had.
Even if you aren't necessarily a spa person, you have to check-in to the hotel's Arany Spa for a swim in the golden brick lined pool, where the bank's vault was once located. This is as close to gold as I will probably ever get!
Fashionistas will love the hotel's very chic Coco Chanel inspired mirrored staircase.
Make your way up the stairs in the afternoon to find an array of cakes, pastries, chocolates and more. I'm telling you, it is a mystery that everyone in Vienna is so thin!
|Lemon drizzle cake with cherries and eclair|
|Three flavours of summer truffles, swoon!|
Vienna is home to so many historical buildings and museums that it's hard to know where to start. If you're tight on time and weather permits, I would suggest walking around the city for a dose of culture and fresh air. St Stephen's Cathedral is absolutely marvellous and well worth a visit. It's in the centre of the city with a massive spire, so you can't miss it!
We beat the afternoon heat in the Belvedere museum and admired one of the latest 'must-see' exhibitions in the museum's Austrian gallery, Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. It's there until the end of August 2014, so go quickly to avoid disappointment!
I was most impressed with the stunning Austrian Parliament Building on Ringstraße boulevard and can only imagine how gorgeous it must be inside.
You can't help but love Vienna's fashionable street cart horses, which wear these colourful headpieces to keep the flies at bay- the stylish way! For a dose of serious horsey culture, book a tour of the remarkable Spanish Riding School in advance as tickets sell out quick.
After a day of sightseeing, you can treat yourself to a super healthy vegan, rice milk, coconut milk or oat milk ice cream at Veganista, which is the health-conscious hangout in the 7th district's Neustiftgasse street. The basil flavour (aka 'Basilikum' in Austrian) is one of their specialty flavours.
A trip to Vienna wouldn't be complete without a coffee stop in the historic 130 year old Cafe Central, which is famed for once being a popular meeting place amongst Vienna's poets, artists, writers and philosophers. The building's remarkable architecture will take you back in time and the menu isn't too shabby either.
Vienna offers so much: history oozing from every corner, some of the world's best music, delicious food, a vast selection of museums to explore and brilliant shopping. I can't wait to return for a longer visit and hopefully one day attend a Viennese ball. I may have to lay off the chocolates if I want to fit into my ballgown though!