More masterful than a Klimt portrait, Altstadt Vienna hotel captures the artistic spirit of Austria. Each of the 45 rooms and suites is uniquely decorated by prominent fashion designers, artists and architects to reflect the history and style of the neighbourhood and historic residence. The hotel houses hundreds of pieces of art, primarily by Austrian artists, and guests can tour the space with the resident art manager. Grand salon rooms await, with home-made cakes and tea. Set within blocks of the city’s cultural centre, Altstadt ensures inspiration at every turn.
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Welcome drinks on arrival. For GoldSmiths, a room upgrade (subject to availability); if unavailable, a selection of luxury chocolates or seasonal fruit basket
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £200.07 (€234), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include buffet breakfast and afternoon tea.
The house art collection includes more than 300 works, primarily by Austrian artists, and exhibitions are regularly hosted on the ground floor. Art manager Saskia Wiesenthal offers tours to interested guests.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, valet parking. In rooms: Flatscreen TV, Malin + Goetz bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each room is different and special, but the Otto Suite and Garden Suite each have a private roof terrace overlooking Vienna’s west side. The 80-sq-m Lena Hoschek suite was conceived by the eponymous fashion designer, who has decorated it in sumptuous style with vintage pieces, classic furnishings and buckets of character ‒ it’s more of a chic Viennese apartment than a hotel room.
No need to load up on reading material: staff have a full library of interesting tomes for travellers.
There is no fitness centre or spa on the premises, but the staff can arrange for personal-training sessions near the hotel and in-room treatments.
Pets weighing under five kilogrammes are welcome for €15 a night in the Classic Double Rooms. Pets are allowed in the public areas, excepting the breakfast room. See more pet-friendly hotels in Vienna.
All ages welcome, though the space is not the most pram-friendly. Cribs and cots are available on request (free for under-six; €30 for ages seven to 12; €50 for over-13s).
A model of green living, the hotel was the first in Vienna to receive the Austrian Eco Seal for sustainability. Recycling is encouraged, plants are tended with recycled water, and food is composted. The hotel serves organic, local food — including coffee roasted across the street — in reusable pottery. The bath and cleaning products are green.
Lisa’s Salon has comfortable chairs and sofas, as well as an open fireplace for cooler days.
Bring bright colours to match the boldly artistic setting.
There’s no dedicated restaurant, but a free buffet breakfast is available in the hotel’s various salons – guests can choose depending on their preference for sofas or tables. Later in the day, a small bar menu is available in the lounge, and an all-day tea buffet offers a variety of brews with afternoon cake.
The Bar at the Red Salon specialises in local wine and spirits, including Viennese wine, with typical Austrian cheese, sausages and other snacks.
Breakfast is served Monday to Friday, from 6:30am to 11am and 7am to 11:30am on weekends and holidays. Tea is served from 6am to 6pm, with cakes from 4pm to 6pm. The bar serves from noon to midnight.
The Altstadt Vienna is located in the historic Spittelberg area in the heart of Vienna.
Vienna International Airport is 22 kilometres from the hotel (a 30-minute drive).
Wien Hauptbahnhof, four kilometres away, is a major continental hub, and offers service to Salzburg, Innsbruck and elsewhere in the country. The CAT (City Airport Train) offers a 16-minute trip into the city for €11.
The hotel offers valet parking Monday to Friday, from 8am to 5pm, for €10 a transfer. The secured garage nearby charges €15 a night.
Private transfers can be organised by the hotel from the airport and the train station (€65 for up to three people; €95 for up to eight people).
Worth getting out of bed for
The Altstadt is perfectly positioned for a tour of Austria’s best art. After a leisurely breakfast in the triple-storey salon, linger to look at the hotel's extraordinary contemporary collection, then set off for the nearby MuseumsQuartier, a five-minute walk from the hotel. The eighth-largest cultural area in the world, the 60,000 sq m complex holds the Leopold Museum — home to exceptional works by Gustav Klimt — as well as modern destination MUMOK, kid-friendly Zoom Kindermuseum and several other art institutions. Across the way, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Museum of Natural History ensure a full day of cultural immersion. Around the corner from the hotel, Mariahilfer Strasse is Vienna’s longest shopping street, with large-scale department stores and cool boutiques.
Take a table in the garden at Glacis Beisl, a renovated mid-century bistro around the corner from the hotel on Museumsplatz. With diners as chic as the setting, the restaurant serves contemporary twists on classic Austrian fare. Within beautiful Stadtpark, Restaurant Steirereck is one of the city’s best restaurants, with elegant takes on classic Viennese dishes ideally paired with one of the 30,000-plus bottles from the wine cellar. Take a break from Austrian fare at Fabios in the centre of the city, where locals dig into Italian dishes at sidewalk tables primed for people-watching.
Austrian cafés, or kaffeehäuser, are ideal for lingering between tourist sites, and the espresso is especially fortifying. Café Central on Herrengasse is a destination on its own, with soaring chandelier-strung ceilings and a standard-setting sachertorte (back in the day, Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky fueled up here). Settle into red velvet booths at Café Sperl on Gumpendorfer Strasse for a retro setting with strong, possibly spiked coffee. Move over, Italian gelato and French glace: Veganista around the corner on Neustiftgasse scoops all-vegan frozen desserts in flavours like lavender, poppyseed and matcha.
A bearded, urban mountaineer is talking excitedly at Mr Smith in the airport gents. It wasn’t a long flight to Vienna, but the rugged Austrian is drinking copiously from the tap as if he has just trekked here from Innsbruck. Mr Smith (also dressed in unnecessarily hardy outdoor wear) explains that he can’t speak German. 'Ah…’ the lumber-sexual smiles, gesticulating to the tap, ‘Austrian tap water – the best in the world!’
Sure enough, when we open the door to our suite in Hotel Altstadt 45 minutes later, what should be sitting on the exquisite marble-and-teak occasional table but a decanter and two gold-rimmed glasses, alongside a printed exhortation from the management to: ‘Fill up your source of life.’ ‘We love tap,’ it says. ‘Drink Viennese water and enjoy the energy of the Alpine springs.’ (Was this what the novelist Stefan Zweig meant when he said that the city had ‘sperm in the air’?) Shoving Mr Smith and any unaesthetic travelling debris into the cupboard in our exuberantly wallpapered entrance hall, I drape myself onto the cream chaise longue with a glass of this elixir.
Named after the Jewish-Austrian architect and designer who fled Vienna in the 1930s, the Josef Frank suite is the latest addition to Hotel Altstadt. Created in 2016 by Svenskt Tenn – the Stockholm design firm Frank helped make so iconic – it showcases the colourful style of the father of Swedish modernism. Mid-century furniture and modernist lamps clad in Frank’s wildly florid textiles are wittily juxtaposed with the grand ceilings and high windows of this turn-of-the-century town house, originally an Austro-Hungarian industrialist’s palais.
Mr Smith creeps out of the cupboard to find me Googling Svenskt Tenn lampshades – dangerously, you can buy most of our suite on their website – and whisks me out for pre-opera apéritifs. Shortly, we are crammed into the epicurean warmth of what is best described as a cheese, ham and wine womb talking to a middle-aged couple about Brexit. They’re astonished to find two Brits sardined amid the handful of locals catching up over cured meat. But thanks to Hotel Altstadt’s insider guide, here we are in Urbanek, a tiny speciality stall in the Naschmarkt, enjoying truly echt ‘Wiener Schmäh' (Viennese banter).
Walking home through the city’s formidable architecture, we feel we’re in Vienna a hundred years before. And, as we climb up Hotel Altstadt’s grand staircase to bed, we feel more like residents than tourists. This likely has less to do with the ghosts of old Wien, than with owner Otto E. Wiesenthal’s commitment to ‘the art of hospitality’. A travel-weary former businessman, he wanted to create a sense of home from home in his hotel, and it does exactly that: throughout our stay I am oblivious to any other guests and float across its parquet floors with patrician propriety.
Waking up the next morning from the kind of sleep you dream of, I pad across a mock animal-hide rug (Frank’s playful finger-up to game hunters) to the retro coffee machine to pour the grunting Mr Smith an espresso. I draw the curtains and, as if by magic, the whole city is covered in snow. Coming to Vienna in late December at the height of advent, we had anticipated the glitter and glühwein of Christkindlmarkts, but this feels like we've won the yuletide jackpot. We rush to breakfast as giddy as children on Christmas morning.
Breakfast doesn’t disappoint. Served in a series of grand rooms decorated in Altstadt style – Ringstrasse Vienna with a modern and playful sensibility – it is a smorgasbord worthy of the name. It’s not that there’s an excessive spread, it’s that everything is just right: granola that likely came from an Alpine health farm; superior stollen that wonderfully has not. We plump for a table by the 10-foot Christmas tree, our festive-season harangued immune systems revived by an organic vitamin-juice shot before we order the day’s eggs.
Finally managing to step full-bellied into the frozen air, we stomp through five minutes of snow to the Museumsquartier, occasionally nipping into the shops of Boboville, Hotel Altstadt’s arty environs. After a day imagining ourselves in the world of Klimt, Schiele, Wittgenstein and Schoenberg, we slip into Freud’s favourite hangout to analyse our plans. We realise it’s the 19th December and most restaurants are fully booked. Mr Smith has dangerously low blood-sugar levels, so I order him one of Café Landtmann’s famous Mozart cakes and ring the hotel. Five minutes later, they confirm our reservation.
And so, we find ourselves sitting amid the Doric columns of Emperor Francis Joseph I’s private coach entrance to the 19th-century Burgtheater. This is Vestibül: Christian Domschitz’s modern-Viennese restaurant. And thanks to the hotel’s superior staff, we’re sat in its historic marbled interior, pairing the exquisite tasting menu with Austrian wines.
Just as we’re planning to move to Vienna while we’re still in the EU, somehow it’s nearly time to leave. After a walk through the mist to The Third Man’s iconic Ferris wheel, we enjoy our last moments by the hotel’s fireplace, eating home-made cake. We may not speak fluent German, but we’ve picked up one word describing Vienna’s satiated, cosy pleasure. Forget hygge, it’s all about gemütlichkeit. And Hotel Altstadt has it in strudels.