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08.12.2015
Oliver says no matter how much you try to educate customers about the nuances and subtleties of coffee, a€?There are those who still like their coffee with milk.a€? Like me. I spend 72 hours walking this capital city, and Ia€™m delighted to find that it has more than a few of my favorite things: funky clothing shops, contemporary design stores and so many independent bookstores that I want to weep with joy.
My first full day in Vienna, Alexa Brauner (alexabrauner.at), a Viennese design and architecture connoisseur, takes me on a walking tour. Alexa and I spend the morning walking into shops, and I follow her lead, greeting shopkeepers with a€?grA?ss gott,a€? a decidedly Austrian salutation that has a range of meanings and emotions behind it, but mostly a€?may God greet youa€? or a€?God bless you.a€? We walk toward the city center, past Mariahilfer Strasse, Viennaa€™s largest commercial street. The exquisite design continues at A–sterreicher im MAK (oesterreicherimmak.at), the museum restaurant named after its star chef, Helmut Osterreicher. I tell Alexa Ia€™m surprised by the number of vegetarian options on menus in Vienna, after expecting largely sausages and schnitzels.
After lunch we pop into the Post Office Savings Bank, designed by Otto Wagner, the architect and city planner who has had the most lasting impact on Vienna.
Alexa and I stop for coffee, hit another dozen stores (a€?grA?ss gott!a€?) and end up in the city center, at Graben, the bustling main square. We peek into MA?hlbauer (muehlbauer.at), the century-old hat shop whose customers include Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep and Yoko Ono. And the Adorable Award goes to WieWien (wiewien.at), a gift shop with a large book section in back. Ita€™s hard to think of Austria and film without two classics coming to mind: The Sound of Music and The Third Man.
In warmer months, you can re-enact the Orson Welles chase scene on a Third Man Sewer Tour (thirdmantour.at). Ia€™m at the bar of his tiny coffee shop, Alt Wien Kaffee (altwien.at), where the slow roaster sits just inside the front door.
But after checking in at my hotel, Altstadt Vienna (altstadt.at), I make a reckless decision to leave the list behind. She says ita€™s important to understand that before the Iron Curtain started coming down in 1989, there was no exchange of artistic ideas in Vienna, and there was only one gallery in the entire city.
Next is Das MA¶ebel (dasmoebel.at), a furniture and accessory gallery where I find terrific pastel-colored boxy stools, mirrors in the shape of Eastern European countries and an egg holder that looks and feels like a putting green. Therea€™s a Lobmeyr chandelier crafted from glass bottles, and the faucet in the restroom sink is a fountain of water that shoots up through a grate. She says the cuisine here (the only international cuisine named after a city rather than a country) is more sophisticated than that in other parts of Austria, since ita€™s so close to Italy. On the way there, I stop and buy an irresistible dress by a Hungarian designer at punkish Disaster Clothing (disasterclothing.at).


In theory, according to the Vienna Tourist Board, Vienna could supply its own demand for fresh vegetables and wine. The best example is at the showroom of Gabarage Upcycling Design (gabarage.at), which uses industrial waste as raw materials for creative designs. Go into any coffeehouse, and youa€™ll find a dozen newspapers and magazines available for perusing. I go there with my friend Julia, a Viennese photographer, and we browse a large collection of cookbooks. Again, I find beautiful books: new and rare, including a 1959 edition from Czech photographer Josef Sudek for about $1,300 (okay, ita€™s nice to at least browse). Wallets, T-shirts, music, jewelry (including a fabulous Ferris Wheel ring for $115) are all displayed in 1950s-era suitcases. I am told a coffeehouse should be considered a second living rooma€”as comfortable and relaxing as your own home. But the best discovery of all is that my favorite hot chocolate of the trip (I had about six cups of heisse schokolade in three days) isna€™t from a coffeehouse at alla€”ita€™s in a disposable cup at this store, served thick and creamy with plenty of milk and sugar.
Neither is well known in Vienna, but for cult followers of the latter, there are plenty of ways to get a fix during your visit. Ita€™s centrally located in the Seventh District, just a 10-minute walk to the Museums Quarter and shopping on Mariahilfer Strasse. Located downtown near the Karlsplatz, the Terence Conran-designed property is considered Viennaa€™s design hotel masterpiece, filled with pieces from international and local artists. Ita€™s the perfect spot if youa€™re looking for cool design, innovative architecture, great colors and clever functionality while saving your euros for shopping in the Seventh District. Located about 25 minutes from the city center, the property owners call it a€?the worlda€™s first urban zero-energy balance hotel.a€? Solar panels produce enough hot water for the entire property, and rain is collected to irrigate the gardens. And I fall in love with Viennese hot chocolatea€”a perfectly sweet, milky antidote to the espresso.
The museum, built in the 1870s neo-Renaissance style, is free on Saturdays and located adjacent to the University of Applied Arts. The menu offers traditional and contemporary Viennese fare, so therea€™s beef goulash on the former and herb-filled ravioli and pickled pumpkin salad on the latter. While traditional Viennese cuisine is hearty, meaty and often breaded, therea€™s a new movement to eat less meat, which I learn has as much to do with the environment as human or animal health. Stephena€™s Cathedral (stephanskirche.at), the countrya€™s best example of Gothic architecture and the venue of Mozarta€™s wedding. Then I grab a book and easily sink into one of the sofas in the hotela€™s Red Salon, where evenings mean hot drinks, freshly made cakes and a visiting Dalmatian curled up by the carefully tended fire.


I find bags, light fixtures, jewelry, shelves and a recliner, all made from, well, garbage.
There are bookstores aplenty and book sections in restaurants, gift shops, galleries and clothing stores.
If you do nothing else, take a ride on the giant Ferris Wheel (prater.at) that was used for a famous scene with Welles and Joseph Cotten.
Several of the 42 rooms and suites have been redesigned by Italian architect Matteo Thun and Viennese furniture designers. This summer, rooms will be cooled with ice-cold groundwater, and two wind turbines will be installed on the roof. Headed back to the airport, you can check in and get your boarding pass at the downtown Wien Mitte CAT station. Ia€™ve barely sipped it before I realize it is by far the strongest caffeinated product to ever touch my lips. But in just two decades, a once-dark city has sprouted communities of young artists, musicians and designers. MAK has a valuable collection of Wiener WerkstA¤tte furniture, oriental rugs and precious textiles, porcelain and glass. Ita€™s no surprise that this city of 1.6 million ranked first in Mercera€™s 2009 Quality of Living Survey for expatriates. My chestnut dumplings, sitting atop a bed of lentils and greens, were worth the trip to Europe alone. There are also a handful of chocolate shops that exhibit their wares so artfully, youa€™d think they were displaying fine jewelry.
You can also take a bus (20 minutes; $9 one way, $16 round trip) or taxi (about $50) from the airport. The neighborhood with the most creative energy and commerce is the Seventh District (7tm.at), where we start our walk, outside my hotel. Charles (saintcharles.at) empire, which has an old-style pharmacy, spa and restaurant all along the same street. Thata€™s the case at Fruth Chocolaterie (fruth.at), where delicate chocolates are shown in old-style cabinets.
I stop in the famous 1786 chocolate shop Demel (demel.at) and hang out in the back of the shop, watching pastries and cakes being made.



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