As part of a five-day sojourn in Vienna while in town for the Life Ball, I checked out some of the city’s accommodations. For a classic luxury experience, I recommend the Hotel Imperial, Vienna (from $473/night). The famous Sacher Hotel, Vienna (from $440/night) and Hotel Bristol, Vienna (from $409/night) are also strong contenders, but choose the Imperial if you like rubbing shoulders with world leaders (President Clinton bunked here during the ball). One can save some money and still have a top-rate experience at Le Méridien Vienna (from $188/night), the Life Ball’s host hotel. I stayed at this luxe modern property and enjoyed the excellent service and a comfortable room. One of my favorite places to eat in the city is Österreicher im MAK (pictured), a modern take on an Austrian guesthouse situated in the Museum of Applied Art and one of this year’s Smart Luxury Awards winners.
Helmed by star chef Helmut Österreicher, Österreicher im MAK offers both traditional and new-fangled Austrian specialties and has a lovely garden to boot. I also enjoyed Schon Schön, an improbable combination of clothing boutique, hair salon, and restaurant, where superb continental cuisine is served at one long communal table. Danieli, just off the main pedestrian zone of Kaertnerstrasse, is an Italian spot popular with tourists but worth a visit for its terrific pizzas and antipasti. Be sure to try the regional wines, including those that feature the famous grüner veltliner grape.
The best way to take in the city’s architecture and history is on a bike tour. It’s also an easy way to view the Danube and stop off, in warmer weather, at the beach cafés along its banks. Other must-see sites are the Leopold Museum; the Hundertwasser House (a colorful apartment building designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser); Belvedere Palace; and the Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer home of Austrian monarchs in the city's outskirts that’s reminiscent of Versailles.
Take a break from sightseeing to sample the famous Apfelstrudel at one of Vienna’s amazing cafés. Two of my favorites are Zum Schwartzen Kameel and the Kleines Café. There is also The Demel, which is perhaps the city’s most famous.
Vienna is a pleasant place to visit any time of year. I also recommend combining a visit with a tour of nearby Bratislava, Slovakia, and Budapest.
From the 2009 Smart Luxury Awards issue of Sherman’s Travel magazine.