Vienna Guide


Recommended in December. Given that every bar and cafe has a banquette or a booth I think there might be a special Austrian Interiors Police force who sign designs off before they go on site. They know what they’re doing with wood and lighting – and heating. Every street corner has a winter market dishing out the mulled wine/gluhwein like there’s no tomorrow. Immensely atmospheric.

Traditionally I’ve said don’t give me any of your small manageable cities – give me a megalopolis any day. But actually there is an appeal in a small city, especially when it’s as packed dense as this. A small city at the centre of a ruling empire helps to raise the stakes. Here are a few highlights and recommendations.

Starting with the scary Dalek air traffic control tower!

Hotel Bristol Bar. Like a film set.

Adolf Loos’ American Bar. I gasped for breath when I walked in – I don’t know what hit me first – they still smoke indoors – but this was the finest drinking establishment that I had ever set foot in. The scale, the booths, the lighting, the amber rich materials and finishes. Faultless. Can’t believe Loos died a pauper. He should’ve received a fine pension for leaving this legacy to the world.

Cafe Central. Rammed with tourists. Still worth it.

First cake (last cake).

And….another winter market! Just a little number we stumbled across opposite Cafe Central.

It’s not all choc box. A lot of socialist housing blocks of merit out there too. Below not included…

Very simple gothic cathedral. Unusual hearing a Catholic mass in German. Good people watching, lots of good looking older ladies dripping in fur and jewels.

Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek – the one and only simply stunning National Library. Have never seen anything quite like it in my life.

Caffe Palffy – one of the 2500 cafes that fly under the guidebook radar.

Pfarrwirt Restaurant – a little gem slightly out of the centre in a chi chi neighbourhood. Has some convoluted history to do with invading Turks going back to the 12th Century no less. You’ll have to work hard to find the traces but it’s a warm spot anyway which is a refreshing change to the big fancy cafes in the centre. Lovely garden for the summer.

Karlskirche was built in the wake of the devastating 18th Century plague which took vast numbers of Viennese.

Cafe Museum – another Loos joint, restrained and recently renovated to the exact original.

The Secession Museum – outraged Viennese when it was built.

A couple of extremely pretty Nouveau facades on Linke Wienzeile alongside Naschmarkt.

The Savoy Cafe on Linke Wienzeile – now a gay bar FYI. Actually really quite pub-esque.

Cafe Sperl, another of the Top 3 – great loos redeemed the mildly sulky service. The proprietor pouring over his ledger books at the entrance was a timeless image. Papers abound, billiards and some of the best booths in town.

Zum Schwarsen Kameel – The Black Camel in the old Jewish area sits firmly in my Top 3 too (actually I think I’d better push it up to Top 5). Definitely more bar than cafe it has a distinct swimming pool feel thanks to the aqua coloured bottles of home brew schnapps lining the shelves. A great mix of spaces, corners and central booth to create a more cosy nook.

MUMOK is the modern art gallery – a mini monolith in the museum district. Not the best I’ve been to but worth rattling about for an hour if you come across it.

Cafe Hawelka below feels as old as the hills. It felt like it should’ve been next to a cinema – lo and behold, it was once. Very dark – a place to hide away from the outside world.

Oh swoon – bring me a cold beer in one of these dimpled babies! A snip at 169 euros each.

A little more of Cafe Hawelka. A timeless image…

Trzesniewski is a fast food institution. The intriguingly exterior doesn’t give anything away. They’ve been peddling classic open sarnies to the rich and poor, old and young for decades. Simple, functional and retro formica interior.

Oh Cafe Pruckel how I love thee so. The most 1950s place I have ever stepped in to – it felt like strolling into a Butlins from many moons ago. Despite opening in 1903 they’ve settled on mid-century look and feel – and what a contrast in comparison to all the other caffs. Pruckel is huge, hugely popular and refreshingly un-touristy.

Hundertwasser – a couple of classic buildings towards the East of the city. The climate is beginning to look rather Berlin.

Gorgeous Kleines Cafe – faultless little bar on a pretty square.

Go to the Belvedere for all your Secession requirements. You’ll see a selection of Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. The painting that spawned many a greeting card – Klimt’s The Kiss is here.

Why – is that a Christmas market?? If there’s space to stop and stand you can bet you’ll find a gluhwein hut on it.

Great old shop fronts line the streets to set the tone. The pharmacies win out every time.

Milo Cafe below, in the Museum Quarter. A little bit airy for a cold winter’s night.

Rachel Whitread’s Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial.

Loos Haus in a rich green marble.

Naschmarkt – a brilliant food market with ancient miniscule pubs and good Asian food.