Written by Adrian Brijbassi, Vacay.ca and TopRestaurantsInCanada.com Founder
Vienna is the epitome of a winter wonderland. The Austrian capital’s annual Christmas market dates to the 13th century and has become so popular that it attracts more than three million visitors each year. While touring, you’ll likely fall in love with this gorgeous city on the Danube River and its many, many cultural gifts.
Here’s a great way to spend 72 hours in Vienna:
Built in 1876, the revered Sacher is famous for all sorts of reasons. The hotel of choice for the world’s luminaries visiting Vienna, Sacher is located in the city’s first district and close to major attractions, and it’s famous for one delicious treat you will indulge in time and again. The chocolatey Sacher Torte is a dessert of legend — and available day and night at this elegant, 149-room hotel. Room rates often start at 500 euros per night.
The only Viennese restaurant to land on the World’s 50 Best List, Steirereck offers epic dining from chef Heinz Reitbauer and his talented brigade. Foodies rave about the restaurant’s signature dish, char cooked in beeswax table side and served with yellow carrot, pollen and sour cream.
The Viennese coffee tradition is thriving. At Cafe Hawelka, the melange (similar to cappuccino) flows forth while the conversations that have enthralled artists, writers, musicians, and philosophers at this famous spot continue on strong.
The Kunsthistorisches (or Fine Arts Museum) is home to several extraordinary pieces of art work collected by the Hapsburg dynasty. Among the pieces you’ll enjoy are Canova’s “Theseus Slaying a Centaur,” self portraits from Rembrandt and Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting.”
Dating to 1618, Zum Schwarzen Kameel (or The Black Camel) serves delicious and interesting finger sandwiches in a room adjoining a formal restaurant. Ludwig von Beethoven was among its distinguished guests. The finger sandwiches cost about 2 euros each.
The Christkindlmarkt is one of the most famous winter attractions in Europe. For 2015, the market runs now until December 26 at Rathausplatz, a lovely public venue. You’ll find souvenir shops, delicious street food, entertainers and an exquisite light display. In addition, there’s a Christmas Village and New Year’s Village at the city’s Maria Theresa Plaza.
By Sunday morning, you will have no doubt enjoyed your share of Sacher Torte. So, you will have to saunter over to Demel Cafe to try the chocolate cake that is the rival to the hotel’s dessert. The food fight between Demel and the Hotel Sacher has been so intense that it led to legal action and years of bitterness. The two properties are much more congenial these days, though they will continue to vie for your affection.
Like just about every European city, Vienna features a beautiful historic centre with spectacular architecture and a towering church spire looming over everything. You’ll find loads of history and significant attractions, such as Mozart’s House and the Spanish Riding School, home to the Lipizzaner stallions. Still, to really see what makes Vienna special, you’ll want to get away from the crowds outside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and beyond the Ring Road, which circles the old city.
The new part of Vienna is filled with cool stores, innovative restaurants and fantastic bars. Among the places to shop are Park, which features new fashions, and Flo Vintage, home to an assortment of fashions from various eras.
Gustav Klimt completed his most famous work, “The Kiss,” in 1908. It is on display at Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, along with dozens of other immaculate pieces of art. At the Belvedere, you’ll learn a lot about the scene in Europe during the early 1900s and about Klimt’s crucial role. He founded the Vienna Secession, an association that propelled the modern art movement. The Belvedere owns more than 20 of his works.
Le Loft offers panoramic views of the city from the 18th floor of the Sofitel Hotel. The cuisine features modern European dishes while the cocktails offer a range of classics and signature flavours. Oenophiles will be struck by the massive wine collection, housed in a four-metre-tall vault.
The open-air Naschmarkt includes more than 120 market stands and a ton of excellent street food and delicacies. You’ll get in some last-minute shopping as well as a parting taste or more of this sensational city.