It doesn’t take long for Vienna to steal your heart. It is a fabulous city with a rich heritage and is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. While my husband and I were happy to wander Vienna’s elegant streets and admire the beautiful buildings, others come to attend a performance at the famous State Opera House or at one of the concert halls to listen to the music of Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven. During the celebrated three month ball season, many come to Vienna to attend one of the extravagant formal balls. My husband and I may not have waltzed the night away but we had a great visit. We especially enjoyed the incredible Imperial palaces of the Habsburg Emperors that have been transformed into wonderful museums.
We arrived in Vienna late in the afternoon after a beautiful drive along the Danube River that runs through the Wachau valley a little more than an hour outside the city. Vienna is divided into different districts with many good hotels in each but for our first visit to the city we wanted to stay in the Innere Stadt (1st district). This historic district in the very heart of the city has a wonderful amount of palaces, museums, and churches to visit. This is also where you will find lots of restaurants and cafes, many on pedestrian only streets, to enjoy after a full day of sightseeing.
We decided on the Bristol Hotel. The hotel is located just across the street from the Vienna State Opera House. The doorman quickly greeted us, took our car and had the luggage delivered to our room while we registered at the front desk. The Bristol Hotel has a nice mix of history and modern comfort and felt very welcoming.
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When making our reservation, I able to choose between staying in one of their classically designed rooms or one of their new Art Nouveau rooms which was my choice. Upon being shown to our Bristol Suite, I was thrilled. Our corner room was filled with light from floor to ceiling wrap around windows that looked out at the Opera House. The living area was not only beautifully designed but was very comfortable with a seating area in front of a bookcase wall with a fireplace and TV, a desk behind the sofa and a small dining table set up with an Italian coffee maker.
The separate kingsize bedroom also had a floor to ceiling window looking out at the Opera as well. I guess you could say that staying in this beautiful suite made me feel like Cinderella…all I needed was to be able to go to one of Vienna’s famous balls.
The hotel’s location was great as most everything we wanted to see was within walking distance.
On a rainy day…yes, the clouds and rain continued to follow us from Berlin, Prague, the Bavarian Forest and now Vienna, we bought tickets through the hotel’s concierge for the hop on, hop off bus tour. One of the bus stops was right in front of the Opera. The bus tour was a good introduction for our first visit to this beautiful city.
The Karlsplatz tram and U-bahn interchange was just steps outside the Bristol Hotel and was very useful for going to the sites that were not within walking distance, such as the impressive Schoenbrunn Palace.
After a full day of traveling, we wanted to find a cozy little restaurant where we could relax and have a good dinner on our first night in Vienna. I asked the concierge at our hotel and he recommended an Italian restaurant called Sole just off the main shopping avenue that was within walking distance of the hotel.
We were warmly greeted and shown to one of the last available tables in the tiny restaurant. After a delicious meal, the owner, Aki Nuredini stopped by to make sure that we enjoyed our meal and offered us after dinner drinks. Aki, such a warm and sincere gentlemen, treated us as kindly as the famous opera singer who was dining at a nearby table. His restaurant is a favorite with singers, conductors and musicians that perform in Vienna as well as politicians and actors. I can certainly see why it is a favorite, it feels like your home away from home.
The fine food and the personal attention shown at the restaurant had us returning on our last evening in Vienna for another meal. This was the first time in all the years of traveling that my husband and I returned for a second meal in a city we were visiting so that lets you know how much we enjoyed Sole. At the end of the evening, Aki walked us out and wished us safe travels.
While Vienna is both an elegant cultural and musical destination with fine restaurants, it is also is known for its traditional coffee houses, pastries such as apple strudel and a famous chocolate cake called Sachertorte and Wiener schnitzel. You can have a good meal in a Michelin rated restaurant or at a simple café, there is surely by something on the menu to please your taste.
My husband and I have traveled to Austria many times spending days in the Tirol and the Lake District. We enjoyed the cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck as well as many small villages but we never visited Vienna. Why did we wait so long…I can’t really say. We only had two full days to visit this beautiful cosmopolitan city and the weather was not ideal yet Vienna captured our hearts. I hope that we get the chance to visit this delightful city again on a future visit to Austria.