There are only a few places in Europe which exude charm and sophistication like Vienna, with its striking architecture and numerous historical landmarks. Contrary to popular belief, Vienna is not just for old people who get excited about dressage horses.
Like its German-speaking cousin Berlin, Vienna loves techno and the city isn’t short of good clubs offering great nights. Combine that with the many fantastic restaurants on offer, a central bar scene known as the "Bermuda Triangle" and a couple of Christmas markets for the cultural tick list, Vienna begins to appeal to a much younger, and more dynamic audience.
Getting around needn't be a logistical nightmare or cost you a small fortune in Uber fares. The best option for travellers is to get the 'Vienna Card' which allows you to use the all public transport freely and qualify for discounts at key sites and attractions. Vienna's Tube network is one of the best in Europe, if not the cleanest (TFL take note). Consisting of five lines, the cities metro system is quick too, providing frequent transportation between some of the cities most famous landmarks, whilst boasting some of its own "Art Nouveau" stations which have been designed by Otto Wagner.
With so many landmarks and historical buildings, it could get a bit 'monotonous' if you're not a big fan of architecture. But if you do visit any of these sites, get yourself to Schonbrunn Palace to check out the sheer opulence on offer with a grand tour around its 40 rooms, luscious gardens and its various summer houses. This palace even has its own zoo, which is bound to bring out the inner Emperor or Empress in you. But If you want to capture the architectural splendour all at once, then just head down to the city centre which is rich in beautiful architecture, Baroque castles, picturesque gardens, and some late-19th-century grand buildings with a whole host of historical monuments.
If like me, you have to please the "inner kid" in yourself, then you have to get yourself up and around "Wiener Riesenran's" giant Ferris wheel. They say if you haven't been on this Giant Ferris wheel whilst in Vienna, then you haven't really been to Vienna at all. As you can expect, this is one of the busiest attractions Vienna has on offer, so booking ahead is advisable if you want to catch a glimpse of Vienna in all its breathtaking glory.
Ok, so you're bored with all this sightseeing and larking around on Ferris Wheels and you just want to get your "drink on". We hear that, but Vienna isn't really known for its vibrant bar scene. There are a few "drinking tours" which will bring you to some of the more American and "touristy" type drinking dens, but if you're after a well-made cocktail, and don't want to be chocking on second-hand smoke all evening then try and find Tür 7 bar. Yes, we did say "try and find" as it's known to be the best speakeasy bar in Vienna. They don't advertise, it's hidden in an alleyway behind a very inconspicuous door and it only holds 36 patrons. Once you ring the doorbell, you'll be greeted by the well-dressed owner, "Gary" who'll escort you to your seating area and discuss with you what concoction might take your fancy, tailoring it to your individual request. They don't really have a menu, but he'll whip you up anything you desire and is a true "mixologist" in every sense of the word, in fact, he his has been described as a bit of a legend in those parts.
The place itself is intimate and cosy, giving you the option of slip off your shoes if you want to feel a little more acquainted with your surroundings. This joint is a world away from the Amercian type drinking establishments dotted around the city and one where you will be able to actually enjoy a conversation without losing your voice by the end of the night. This bar is a great little find and serves some of the best cocktails in Vienna, once you actually find it that is!
Austria is more widely known for its excellent selection of Austrian craft beers, and with many options on offer, it's quite difficult to make a choice of where to go. But, if you do take your beer game seriously, and want a good selection of hearty food to go with it, then 7 Stern Braeu has to be the place for you. This place has been described as beer drinkers paradise, with a huge selection of beers on offer, from traditional Austrian brews, their ever popular chilli beer, flavoured with jalapenos, hemp-based beer aka beer with marijuana (yes, marijuana) and the highly recommended "rauch" smoked beer. All the beer is brewed in-house and the food comes in pretty large portions too. This place is very popular and gets extremely busy at the weekend so booking in advance is again recommended especially if you want to be seated.
You can be spoilt for choice here, and Vienna has something to suit all tastes and budgets. If you're like me and go a bit 'OTT' on the beers at the 7 Stern Braeu, then get your hangover fix at 'Schachtel Wirt' for some great inventive local dishes. It's a small joint that's cheap, quick and friendly and the food is extremely flavoursome. It's quite hard to find a table at peak hours as its popular with tourists and locals alike, so opting for a quick takeaway in Chinese style boxes for a truly satisfying lunch could be the best option. This is traditional Viennese street food at its best.
For a more sophisticated dining option that's oozing with Viennese finesse and splendour, try the double Michelin starred eatery known as 'Steirereck im Stadtpark'. The former "milk pumphouse" may not be cheap, but its regarded as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. The food itself is creative but not overly fussy, the produce used is quality and all sourced from its long-standing local suppliers with service that is professional, attentive and relaxed.
Recommendations here are the various tasting menus on offer and the suggested "wine pairing" will bring out the flavours of both the food and wine. Each dish is served with a card, listing the ingredients used so you can match them to the flavours tasted and if you decide to go there for breakfast or lunch, you will be amongst the beautiful backdrop of Stadtpark which gives this place an unrivalled ambience that many of its local competitors try hard to match.
Apart from the beer, Austrians take their coffee seriously, and if like me, you like to pair your hot beverage with a nice slab of cake or moist pastry, then 'Café Landtmann's' coffee house is a must for a mid-afternoon pit-stop. With a 140-year-old history, this grand cafe has been frequently visited by illustrious clientele from Freud to McCartney and apart from the varied selection of coffee, spiced teas and hot chocolates on offer, the cakes and Viennese pastries served here are extremely luscious.
Nothing gets you in that Christmas spirit than a good old Christmas market and with it being the festive season, you'll be spoilt for choice with the markets this city has on offer. Each one ranges from size to specialities, with most offering a great selection of Austrian wares, food, beers, traditional hot punches and more spiced teas. The most celebrated, or "touristy" one is The Viennese Christmas Market which is set against the stunning backdrop of City Hall. Outside you find all the usual ornate gifts and decorations and inside City Hall, you'll find the ground floor dedicated to kids games, toys and Christmas activities. This runs from the 17th of November up until boxing day with free entrance on the weekends.
If fine Christmas decorations and handicrafts take your fancy, then the popular Christmas Village at the world famous 'Belvedere Palace' is the place to get to. There are over 40 stalls of crafty goodness which should please the most discerning of you crafty folk out there with some exceptional culinary delights to boot. This all runs from the 26th of November until Boxing day and entrance is free.
The Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market is one of the most popular due to its stunning location. Apart from all the beautiful clutter to spend your euros on, you'll be spoilt for choice with all the wonderful food waiting to be digested, with delicious Crepes or baked potatoes with a massive choice of fillings from salmon, ham to Nutella or cheese or traditional pretzels, roasted chestnuts, gluhwein and hot soups with cabbage, freshly fried Carp and plenty of German and Eastern European lunchtime snacks. Schoenbrunn Palace Christmas Market location is both intensely magical and mystical due to the dominating presence of Schoenbrunn Palace as its backdrop and the quality of the craft and decorations on sale is good and reasonably priced. With a live choir and a giant Christmas tree full effect, this place is bound to sprinkle the tinsel in your life, even if it is a bit of a trek on the metro. This runs from the 26th of Nov up until Boxing day.
If you do have any energy left and need to dance away some of those calories gained with all the beer and food consumed, then Vienna does have a good selection of hotspots which are not cheesy and attract quality deejays from around the globe. Just like Berlin, Vienna's dancefloors favours Techno as its music of choice so there's good chance you come across a quality night which will run can run until 5 or 6 in the morning.
If your lucky enough to actually be over there this coming weekend (Dec 2nd), then catch acclaimed and accomplished Parisian maestro, DJ W!ld, as he graces the city for one night only, bringing his dark and hypnotical house and acid vibrations for Superfaiths 5th birthday at Pratersauna, a minimalistic modern art space which runs until 6 in the morning. This Contemapry venue reopened recently and has benefited from an upgraded sound system to host their weekly program of carefully selected international talent. On the 29th of December, they finally welcome the illustrious selector, Seth Troxler, through its doors, for a night that's set to be its biggest to date.
"Donau", which is named after the river that runs through the city, is a dimly lit techno bar that has some of the cities best underground deejays rotating and a sausage stand upstairs in case your appetite gets the better of you. If your the inconspicuous type, then "Grelle Forelle" is one those dark and shady places to catch some good electronic music, including techno of course. Just don't go taking any pictures, photos are a strict no-no inside their house.
"Flex" is one of Vienna’s more well-known clubs and sits inside a disused metro tunnel. The programme can be a bit varied but you'll have a few techno acts to watch if you time it right. If you're into smaller, sweatier venues, then check out "Celeste". It's usually very busy as its also a popular place to get a good drink which also runs until 5 - 6 in the morning.