Vienna is one of the most beautiful old cities in the world. In my mind, it rivals Paris although much smaller. For four days we explored different parts of the city and fell in love with the culture and people.
We stayed at the Park Hyatt which is a converted Art Deco bank, and door overlooking the indoor pool is one of the old vault doors to prove the point. It has been beautifully redone with all the modern amenities in the rooms – beautiful deep bath tubs with separate shower with waterfall and hand sprayers (and a full marble bench to relax while steaming yourself. The rooms are exquisitely decorated and security is extreme – keys are needed for elevator and hall door before you use it for your room. But it is the helpfulness of the staff as well as the wonderful bar and excellent food and the location that make it even more special.
Within ten minutes one can walk to the Hofburg, the Spanish Riding School, St. Peter’s Cathedral and Opera as well as every famous designer store. (One of our favorites was the Louis Vuitton that had blinking eyes on the boxes in the display windows. Some would blink once then twice and some would do three and four blinks.)
We were there to celebrate a friend’s birthday so food and drink, as well as fun entertainment, was on the agenda. This included a marvelous dinner at the Park Hyatt bar and dining room and we can recommend all of the menu but especially the lobster! It also included a carriage ride around the center city and a tour of the Lippizaner stables as well as seeing their show. Seeing so many horses perform exquisite moves and riders who do not let you see how they communicate with the horses (including riding the horses without stirrups and having them leap through the air) is an amazing experience. Since cameras clicking and flashes going off might disturb the horses, no one can take pictures once the horses are brought in to perform, but you can see from the picture of the empty arena that it is fully decorated and the chandeliers are such that they could be in any palace in the world. The riding school has a fascinating history that includes their being saved in World War Two by General Patton and Colonel Reed in what was called Operation Cowboy.
While in Vienna, one must go to Julius Meinl which is a gourmet food store which also serves a great lunch including beef tartar and sausages with fresh horseradish and mustard. And the Opera House is truly amazing. The acoustics are perfect even if one is seated in the “nose bleed” seats. We were lucky to see and hear Edita Gruberova who performed arias from multiple operas and who added arias for seven curtain calls. At the eighth, she gave up and retired for the evening. One of the famous sites in Vienna is the Hotel Sacher (home of the Sacher torte) which until I stayed at the Park Hyatt was my favorite hotel there. It is the traditional hotel and is beautiful and steeped in history and if the Park Hyatt hadn’t been created several years ago, I would have stayed there. It is worth a trip to the bar – which is a dark turquoise and is very elegant – if you’re not staying there.
Some other things to do in Vienna if you are have time are: visit the Imperial Crypt at the Capuchin Church and Monastery. It is where the Hapsburg Emperors and Empresses (as well as mere Dukes and Princes) have been buried for centuries. Even Emperor Maximilian of Mexico is interred there; go see St Peter and St Stephen Cathedrals which are beautiful); visit the Center Cemetery which is slightly out of the city but where Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, and Strauss are all buried within 50 feet of each other; go to the Belvedere which is an amazing museum a little off the beaten path but with glorious gardens; and don’t forget the Dorotheum which is the auction house that was established in 1707 and which has multiple floors full of jewelry, oriental rugs, statues, silver and furniture for sale or just to ogle.
Next time Munich and the Nürburgring!