- Imperial grandeur
- City life
- Viennese waltz
The Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Hapsburgs may be gone, but this city by the Danube retains its regal air.
With its monumental palaces, gilded opera houses and stately boulevards Vienna feels like an imperial capital still looking for its long lost empire. The city’s high-brow arts scene remains unparalleled and its legendary cafés, once the haunt of Freud and Trotsky, still draw in the intellectuals for a rich Franziskaner or powerful Kapuziner – as well as people simply mesmerised by the cake trolleys. Yet among the dreamy nostalgia a new wave of stylish restaurants and cool bars is springing up and filling the Austrian capital with a energetic lease of life.
The Viennese like to waltz and Vienna’s ball season is a major part of the social scene. There are over 300 balls to choose from between the beginning of November and late June, from the excessive Opera Ball to the carefree Bad Taste Ball. See www.vienna.info for details.
- There are plenty of ranks although you can also flag down taxis in the street. If you get your hotel to order a cab for you specify if you want a regular taxi or a hotel limo service.
- Tipping culture
- Service is normally included in price in restaurants, although it’s common practice to round up the bill to the nearest €5 or leave about ten per cent.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Restaurants are busy from early in the evening with most locals eating before 20h. Most shops are shut on Sundays, even in the city centre.
- Packing tips
- Bring a high-brow book with you – preferably something by an obscure French philosopher. You won’t need to read it but it will come in handy if you want to look the part while soaking up some of Vienna’s café culture; the Viennese like to think they’re a bit intellectual.
- Recommended reads
- The Third Man by Graham Greene is set in the city and has become something of a mini industry; alternatively anything by Rousseau or Voltaire for that café posing.
- Vienna’s café culture is a fantastic experience and the list of coffees is quite baffling, from Melange (milky coffee) and Einspänner (with whipped cream) to Kapuziner (like an espresso machiato) and Maria Theresia (with orange liqueur); this is most definitely not the city to ask for ‘a coffee’. The cafés also have an equally befuddling selection of strudels and cakes. Austrian cuisine such as Weiner Schnitzel and Weiner wurstel (sausages), smoked meats, potato dumplings and strews spiced with paprika, is delicious if a bit heavy. Zweigelt reds wines from Kamptal are very drinkable.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Austria: 43. Vienna: 1.
- Do go/don't go
- Summer is inevitably busy and while winter can by bitingly cold, the days are often clear and there are always the excellent Christmas markets in December. Spring and autumn are perhaps the best seasons to visit Vienna, but avoid September when there are usually many conferences are in town.