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.
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
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
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
Stayed at one of two lovely "modern Habsburg" studios with ViennaFlatSeven over Easter. I really enjoyed the warm reception, and the Neubau neighbourhood, especially the cafes, and the apartment was of fantastic quality and not full of cheap Ikea like much of the rest.
I'm already planning my return to Vienna, for more of the excellent antiques markets!
From €90 a night.
This place is just wonderful - peaceful and perfect in just about every way you could ask of a bed and breakfast!
Excellent and responsive service from the owners before you arrive.
Clear instructions on how to get to the property. Fantastic room accomodation which is immaculately clean. Exciting and varied breakfasts served with quiet friendly service (the best homemade muesli I ever had.)
Life lived with a Viennese family - at its best.
Five minutes walk, at most, from the metro (come down the stairs at the very far end of the platform, go out the left door, down a path, turn right, second on the left) and then only nine minutes to the city center.
One of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on.
The food was creatively and skillfully prepared without being unnecessarily fussy; the ingredients were intensely flavorful; the kitchen in Mr. Bauer's hands was clearly superbly trained in the classics while not being afraid to exercise its creative flair! The service for our table of six was warm and very polite without being intrusive. The small restaurant (~ 30 seats) with its simple but warm decor provided for a very cozy ambience. I also ate very well at RieGi and Osterreicher im MAK, but Restaurant Bauer stands out and easily joins its rank among other one Michelin-starred restaurants I have dined at elsewhere in Europe. A truly memorable experience!
Walter Bauer Restaurant: Sonnenfelsgasse 17, +43 (1) 5129871
Google map: tinyurl.com/y97zmm5
The Alte Backstube is another excellent restaurant in the historic Josefstadt area of Vienna offering classic and traditional Viennese cuisine. The restaurant is set well back from the street in a seventeenth century building and its atmosphere is pleasingly intimate and removed from the bustle of the city.
The prices are reasonable, the wines and beers include very good Austrian varieties, the service is friendly, helpful and prompt, and above all the food is outstanding. Highly recommended.
These two great buildings contain wonderful art collections. The Albertina has been thoroughly refurbished in recent years and now offers the Batliner Collection, great paintings from Monet to Picasso, which are on permanent loan to the museum, in addition to its own great collection. The Batliner is a very comprehensive collection and each piece is of the highest quality.
The Palais Liechtenstein shows the collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, brought together over five or so centuries and, in many instances paintings bought directly from the artists themselves - that's class! This collection is very rich in Seventeenth century work, especially that of Rubens and Van Dyke.
The Albertina is at Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Wien, a short distance from the Opera House, so any of the trams travelling around the Ring will drop you there.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ykoxuur
The Palais Liechtenstein is at Furstengasse 1, Wien. www.liechtensteinmuseum.at
Not closely served by the U-bahn, but a short walk from the Franz Josefs Bahnhof (S-bahn).
Google map: tinyurl.com/yzep4qc
The Natural History Museum, which was opened in 1889, is one of two enormous and beautiful buildings which face one another across gardens in the city centre - the other is the Art History Museum.
The staircase is very grand and Italy must have been emptied of all its marble to create this building. The view from the cafeteria on the (main) first floor, down through a circular eye some 20 feet across to the entrance hall far below is both spectacular and scary. There is a net drawn tightly across this space presumably to stop people throwing cakes down onto elderly American tourists just entering the building.
On the day I visited the museum there was a delightful half-scale air balloon tethered in the stairwell midway between the floors which added to the sense of enjoyment and well-being one should feel in such a wonderful place.
The collections include geology, natural history, anthropology and archaeology. There are said to be 20 million exhibits here. One of the most famous is the tiny but very sexy Venus of Willendorf, a mysterious and magical female figure from the Upper Palaeolithic period.
As with all museums these days, the place was teeming with children and young people (followed by anxious or exhausted teachers), but that is as it should be. The place is being used as a treasure house, which is precisely what it is.
Naturhistorisches Museum, Burgring 7, Vienna. Take any of the trams travelling around the Ring, the circular street which forms the city centre - you can't miss the museum. It offers good disabled access, there are excellent lifts to all floors, and the audio guide is highly worthwhile. Excellent too are the museums shops.
Google map: tinyurl.com/yfzazrv
This is an excellent restaurant where the decor is early Twentieth century Bohemian and the cuisine, likewise, hails from Prague, with a hint of Old Hapsburg Vienna.
The restaurant has an intimate atmosphere and you will do well to book a table beforehand. My son and I dropped in on a freezing Monday evening, and Zur Bohmischen Kuchl was nearly full with, I may say, local people from Josefstadt - a very good indicator of the quality of the food and drink.
At the end of our meal we were introduced to a liqueur from Prague called Becherovka. Wags describe it as tasting like cinnamon-flavoured kerosene! No, it was much better (and perhaps more powerful) than that. An excellent finale to a great meal.
Zur Bohmischen Kuchl, 1080 Wien, Schlosselgasse 18. Tel+43-(0)1-402 57 31
Google map: tinyurl.com/yg98dgp
The Leopold Museum was opened in 2001, in a brand new building (a large white cube), in the Vienna Museums Quarter. The museum is based on the former private art collection of Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold. It has since become the most visited museum in the Museums Quarter. Why? Well, because it houses the largest collection of paintings and drawings by that unique artist and general all-round bad boy, Egon Schiele. However in addition to the works by Schiele, which are all exceptionally fine and fill out a view of the artist along with examples of his work at the Belvedere, also in Vienna, there is a great collection of work by other late Nineteenth and early Twentienth century artists, including Klimt, Kokoschka, Kolo Moser and Richard Gerstl.
The museum has a good cafeteria, and an excellent shop which offers scholarly material, exhibition catalogues and postcards.
When I first visted Vienna some twenty years ago I found it somewhat staid and dull. Perhaps I had been unduly influenced by what I had heard and read about the place. The well-travelled visitor regarded Berlin as THE place to go, not Vienna.
Whatever the case, on a recent visit I found Vienna to be lively, well supplied with a range of good bars and restaurants, hotels at various price levels, an excellent public transport system, and offering an enviable number of world-class museums and galleries. There appeared to be a good number of young people there, in contrast to the view expressed in some guide books that the city is dominated in numbers by the very old.
For example, the Natural History Museum has a special Darwin exhibition on at the moment, and the day I went it was full of enthusiastic young people of all ages, noisy, busy, keen. They were allowed to use cameras and phones and were photographing themselves among the exhibits, even handling the woolly mammoth (I don't think it was real). Some indeed were sliding down the marble staircase which in this building is as high as Beachy Head - I don't think that was allowed, but no-one appeared to be rushing to stop them! So, not so staid as the former reputation...
Vienna, capital of Austria. www.wien.info
The Vienna Card offers 72 hours travel on the city's transport network, including buses, trams, S and U-bahns. It also offers reduced rates on some commercial tour buses and trams, and reduced prices on entry to the city's many museums and galleries. A set of coupons comes with the Vienna Card booklet offering discounts on a range of shops, restaurants and bars. At 18.5 euros, (in 2009, up to March 2010) the Card is very good value for three whole days in Vienna. Don't forget to validate it by punching the card when you first get on the bus, tram or whatever. It is not valid until you do.
The Vienna Card (Wien-Karte) is available online before you travel. Or, when you get there, at your hotel or from Tourist Info, Albertinaplatz (Corner Maysedergasse), Vienna. www.wien.info
In the film The Third Man, shot on location in Vienna in 1949, we see Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles, hiding in the doorway to Anna Schmidt's apartment. This doorway is located at: Schreyvogelgasse, by the Vienna University and the Liebenberg monument.
Schreyvogelgasse, by the University and the Liebenberg monument below the Molker-Bastei.
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