The Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations is a monthly event that connects travellers with locals in 1:1 conversations at traditional Vienna coffeehouses, in English.
I am a native Viennese and love Vienna even more since I moved away, though I frequently visit my home town and family there. My dad used to chat with locals whenever we went on holidays abroad, and we made many friends all around Europe. I realised, though, that many travellers find it difficult to connect with residents.
I had the idea to run the Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations when I read about conversation meals held for locals in Vienna last year. They were so popular that they sold out, with more than 100 locals on the waiting list for the next events.
The Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations also enable travellers to re-invent the world-famous and UNESCO-recognised Vienna coffeehouse culture, echoing a time when Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt and Stefan Zweig met acquaintances in cafés to exchange ideas and debate.
Last year my husband and I went on a self-guided cycling tour through the company Donauradfreunde. It started and finished in Salzburg and followed the Tauernradweg for about 200 miles. We were a bit nervous as we had never done a cycling trip before but despite being surrounded by stunning mountainous scenery, the route itself was surprisingly flat. It was also almost entirely on very well-maintained cycle paths, away from the traffic and our luggage was transported for us from hotel to hotel. The bikes were waiting for us at our first hotel and looked as if they were almost brand new. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would do it again like a shot!
As we arrived in Vienna on 22 Dec the snow started to fall. We walked through the city to the Christkindl Market, Christmas lights everywhere. Roast chestnuts and gluhwein. Each window of the town hall decorated as an Advent Calendar and each day a window is opened, to reveal a painting which will be sold later in aid of a children's charity.
Christmas Eve, frosty cold under a blue sky, we drove an hour south of Vienna with friends and their children high into the mountains for sleighing - with much falling around in the deep snow. Oh such fun!
Christmas day we went to St. Barbara, a small Ukranian orthodox Catholic church - beautiful voices in harmony - magical. Afterwards we ate close by at the Hotel Post: goose with all the trimmings and chocolate gateaux. In the afternoon we walked in the snow in the enchanting Schoennbrunn gardens, then coffee and kuchen in Cafe Gloriette.
A Christmas we'll remember always.
BA from Heathrow to Vienna
Train from Vienna to Semmering for day trip - one hour
Google map: bit.ly/SQe8LT
Bar "Posaune" offers a different and innovative touch to pub food in Austria. You have freedom of creating your own meal for as little as €3, and the basic choices are pizza, pasta or traditional "kartofel". You can choose from a wide range of toppings and make a great combination of food and flavours for the same money or adding just €1. In this way, one adds a personal touch to it and transforms the art of eating into indulging without concern of spending too much money. The pub atmoshpere also contributes to a relaxing meal out! Enjoy!
Zinzendorfgasse 34, 8010 Graz, Austria
Google map: bit.ly/YoTUHG
About a 10 minute drive from Kitzbühel, this is a great place for recharging your batteries with yoga. If you’re staying nearby you can come for a yoga class, but the best thing is to stay for a weekend or longer to really get the benefits of the yoga practice. They take a holistic, classical approach to yoga, so in addition to twice daily yoga classes we did meditation and mantra chanting mornings and evenings. The vegetarian meals are excellent, and you have time between classes to explore the surrounding countryside and enjoy the view of the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. It may sound like a busy schedule, but I was surprised by how invigorated I felt after just a few days of following it.
Film-lovers cannot miss ‘The Third Man’ Guided Walk in Vienna. This unique tour will trace the steps of Orson Welles (as Harry Lime) and Joseph Cotten (as Holly Martins) and will take you to most of the film locations in central Vienna, put the movie in a historical context and tell you curiosities about the filming, Orson Welles and the locations themselves. It will even take you to a special location where the film’s famous soundtrack is played by a scitar player, creating a truly special atmosphere. ‘The Third Man’ was shot on location all over the Austrian capital and this walk will give you a great insight of the locations of this classic film and what it was like to live in post-war Vienna. This guided walk was created by Dr. Brigitte Timmermann, the founder of Vienna Walks & Talks and it runs Mondays and Fridays at 4:00.
Mondays and Fridays at 4:00pm.
The tour starts at: U4 Station Stadtpark, Exit Johannesgasse.
Time: 2 to 2.5 hours
Magistrat der Stadt Wien, Wien Kanal
+43 1 4000 3033
Google map: bit.ly/GT8Jg8
Vienna’s Naschmarkt is more than an antique market. It is a mixture of Austrian traditions, antique dealers, fleamarket and food stalls. Located by two beautiful art deco houses built by Viennese Jugendstil architect Otto Wagner it runs every Saturday and it dates back to the 16th Century. Here you will find antique dealers selling everything from old postcards, books, militaria, porcelain, Austrian glassware, gramophones dating back to the 1900s and old dolls to stalls set up by Easter European sellers who come to Vienna for the weekend to sell vintage clothes, bric-a-brac, exotic goods and curios. The market has a very vibrant atmosphere where Austrians and tourists alike soak up the rich diversity of stalls looking for that special find. By the end of the day stallholders lower their prices considerably (sometimes as low as 50 cents of a Euro) and right before closing time sellers even offer some items for free.
Favourite restaurant of notoriously well-fed and well-drunk Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl as well as his predecessor the late Helmut Zilk. Whenever I'm home, I go to this place at least twice, it's really great, and filled with locals. The food is traditional Viennese/Austrian, the Schnitzel is delicious. In fact I have never been disappointed and have eaten myself up and down the menu. It's also got an excellent wide-ranging selection of (mostly Austrian) wine, with knowledgeable, friendly waiters eager to give you tips. A main dish tends to cost €13-19.
I can't wait to go back!
Drahtgasse 2 1010 Vienna, Austria
Google map: bit.ly/x7cHjX
The snow filled cobbled streets of Salzburg are the perfect location for a Christmas market. Every stall is packed with festive treats, from soft and chewy iced gingerbread and hundreds of varieties of marzipan to Amaretto flavoured mulled wine. The air is filled with the aroma of Christmas trees and gluwein, wrap up warm, listen to the choir singing Christmas carols and treat yourself as you wander through the fairy lit streets of this magical place.
Beautiful Christmas markets in a picturesque setting where you can follow climbing a snow laden hill to a stunning fortress with a warming and fortifying drink of gluhwein to power you through the atmospheric market selling a vast array of hand crafts and delicious foods.
The World of the Ice Giants, some 20 km south of Salzburg, is a natural ice cave inside a mountain in the Alps, the largest one in the world. David Attenborough included this spectacular cave in his series Wonders of Nature.
It's absolutely breathtaking. You are guided through the first kilometer of the cave 400 meters underground, walking around huge ice formations shaped like fairytale castles, vast cathedrals, and sparkling palaces. There are huge stalagmites and stalactites - everywhere you look is a spectacular natural wonder. It is permanently frozen inside so very cold even in the summer - you need to wrap up well for this unique journey through an icy Neverland.
Eishoehlenstrasse 30, A - 5450 Werfen
Just a short bus ride from Mayrhofen followed by a chairlift leads you onto the Hintertux Glacier. Once up there you will find the Spannagelhaus which is at the entrance to the underground Spannagel cave – the largest and most important cave in the Tyrol. There is a charge of around 10Euro for the tour and you are kitted out with hard hats and waterproofs and you’ll need them for the adventure to follow!
There are wonderful rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, ribbon marble and crystals to be discovered as you feel like a real caver (there’s even a couple of places you have to squeeze through the rock!) exploring this secret underground world. While there it is of course worthwhile exploring the glacier, admiring the views and having a coffee at the excellent mountain huts that Austrians seem so good at providing in even the remotest of settings.
The hotel is the perfect mixture of traditional Austrian and modern facilities. The new design rooms and the spa with indoor and outdoor pool has been a highlight for the whole family. The food was delicious and the hospitality of the family Fischbacher and their hotel team has been outstanding. Just perfect for active families who like to ski in the alps or like to be active in nature in summer.
We enjoyed a fabulous 10 day stay at Gasthof zur Post in July 2011 with our four-year-old son. The Familie Kohlmayr and their staff were so friendly and hospitable that they made us feel that nothing was too much trouble. We enjoyed delicious real Austrian food and drink throughout our stay and the grill night at the Kohlmayr's Mountain Cabin is one of of best memories of the holiday. The Gasthof is in a wonderful location among the mountains and yet is so convenient for so many nearby places of interest and enjoyment.
If you fancy a break from Austrian cuisine, or even if you don't, go here - it's fantastic. There's a huge enclosed garden which is lovely and shady on a sunny day. There's Austrian and Turkish beer. And there's a huge menu with a staggering range of Turkish food. As an added bonus (well, I thought so) all the dishes which are usually made with lamb - koftes, shish kebabs etc - were veal-based instead. The prices are excellent too. And everything comes with mountains of bread.
A traditional Viennese cafe on the Ring, with cake, main meals, wine and beer - but also live piano music for most of the day. The portions are generous and the food is excellent. They also do great breakfasts.
We stumbled into this bar/restaurant on the Schwarzenbergplatz completely by accident - it was the first place we'd seen and we were starving - but we felt that we'd got very lucky! The traditional Austrian food (schnitzel, goulash, lots of different sausages) is very tasty and reasonably priced, and the beer is truly excellent. Plus the staff were friendly and remembered our orders when we came back. Which we did several times in our short visit to Vienna.
Schwarzenbergplatz 3, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Google map: bit.ly/k7JndA
I spent a nice winter holiday in the Alberg area (Austria), skiing on the ski slopes in St. Anton, Zurs and Lech. The ski slopes in St. Anton were nice, good sightseeing, difficult enough but the maintenance of the slopes was missing. I didn't see a single snow groomer in three days, nor traces of any in the morning.
In Lech, instead, the slopes were very well maintained and the snow groomers were there, on duty.
If you are traveling by car, I advise you to have winter tyres, as the road between St. Christoph and Lech is always frozen.
The Austrian cuisine was delicious, and we discovered that it has more dishes than only schnitzel!
Benedictine abbey, church, library, gardens, overlooking the Danube. The library contains thousands of books from the 1500's onwards, and it was there that Umberto Eco did research for his novel The Name of the Rose.
I recommend arriving by ship - there are daily cruises from Vienna.
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