36 Hours: Vienna
FOR years, Vienna has lingered in the fading glory of the fin-de-siècle era, understandably satisfied with the grandeur of its Hapsburg-era architecture and parks. Now a new wind is blowing through this imperial city, with the opening of dazzling hotels, new and renovated museums and a reinvention of the gasthaus, that ubiquitous pub where Viennese artists and philosophers, workers and shopkeepers linger over schnitzel and beer well into the night. This year, the city celebrates the 150th birthday of its most famous artistic export, Gustav Klimt, whose gold-toned paintings will be on display at 10 of the city’s museums.
1. EXPLORING THE QUARTIER
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the MuseumsQuartier, the former Hapsburg stables turned culture plaza. Mumok (Museumsplatz 1; 43-1-52500-0;mumok.at), the museum of contemporary art housed in a basalt lava cube on the plaza, has a new director, Karola Kraus, who has already made her mark with a show called “Museum of Desires,” which reorganized the five-floor permanent collection of modern art. Wander the galleries, then stop at Café Halle (Museumsplatz 1; 43-1-523-70-01;www.diehalle.at.) for a mini-obstkuchen (fresh fruit tart, 2 euros, or $2.56 at $1.28 to the euro). The romantic yet modern restaurant, its walls hung with billowing sheer curtains, is tucked into the former private quarters of the emperor. Downstairs, photography exhibitions in theKunsthalle Wien (Museumsplatz 1; 43-1-521-89-33;kunsthallewien.at) draw crowds.
Café Sperl (Gumpendorferstrasse 11; 43-1-586-41-58;cafesperl.at) is among the most iconic of the city’s legendary turn-of-the-century coffeehouses, with velvet banquettes where you can have a small brauner (espresso) for 2.60 euros. Then cross the street to Phil (Gumpendorferstrasse 10-12; 43-1-581-04-89; phil.info), a Berlin-style bookstore/music shop/coffeehouse with mismatched furniture, D.J.’s and a late-night bar ripe for experiencing the newer side of Vienna’s cafe culture.
3. TRADITIONAL, OR NOT
For classic Viennese cuisine at an old-is-new-again gasthaus, head for Schilling (Burggasse 103; 43-1-524-17-75;schilling-wirt.at), distinct for its 1950s fixtures and traditional dishes like Kalbbutterschnitzel (veal butter schnitzel, 14.50 euro) and böhmische palatschinken (a dessert pancake with plum sauce, 6 euros). Some Viennese swear the future is places like Skopik & Lohn (Leopoldgasse 17; 43-1-219-89-77; skopikundlohn.at), which kicks Austrian food (and prices) up a notch with dishes like Arctic char over creamed yellow beets (19 euros) in a wildly artistic space, with walls covered in black scribbles. Grab a drink nearby at A Bar Shabu (Rotensterngasse 8; 43-650-544-59-39), with small bites, wine, beer and absinthe menu (glass, from 4.90 euros).
4. DECISIONS, DECISIONS
Fluc (Praterstern 5; fluc.at) is a club built in a former pedestrian passageway at the Prater metro stop with a stage for live music, D.J.’s and large beer steins (about 3 euros). Or, to experience the new underground scene, go to Brut (Lothringerstrasse 20; 43-1-587-87-74;brut-wien.at), a center for “international, experimental and innovative performance art” (i.e., general mayhem) held in the cellar of the Wiener Konzerthaus (entrance 6 to 30 euros). Looking for calm? Have a drink at Motto am Fluss (Schwedenplatz 2; 43-1-252-55-11;motto.at/mottoamfluss), a new bar on the Danube Canal.
5. TO MARKET
Order an espresso (3.50 euros) and breakfast at one of the dozens of restaurants that line the edge of the century-old Naschmarkt before the crowds arrive. The open-air market is a mile long, stretching between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse U-bahn stations. Filled with stalls stocked with produce, baked goods, flowers and spices, it is easily one of the best inEurope. On Saturdays, hawkers selling antiques and bric-a-brac branch out for another mile.
6. ROYAL AFFAIR
If you’ve seen one royal boudoir, you’ve seen them all, so skip the Imperial Apartments and head to the magnificent State Hall of the Austrian National Library (Josefsplatz 1; 43-1-534-102-52; onb.ac.at; 7 euros) tucked inside the Hapsburg palace complex in the First District. It was built by Emperor Charles VI in the late 17th century, with a soaring frescoed ceiling, 200,000 books dating from 1500, and antique globes scattered about; you’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside a storybook. Then stop at Café Braünerhof, (Stallburggasse 2; 43-1-512-38-93), the late novelist Thomas Bernhard’s favorite cafe to while away an afternoon. On Saturday afternoons, classical musicians play, and the waiters are appropriately rude.
7. SHOP AROUND
In the Seventh District many shops carry maps showing all the locally made and European sourced clothing shops. Try Camille Boyer (Lindengasse 25/2; camilleboyer.at) for buttery soft, dove-gray hobo bags from Lumi (175 euros). Or Buntwaesche (Lindengasse 31-33; 43-664-780-44-61; buntwaesche.at) for super-soft cotton children’s clothing in adorable prints (T-shirts from 20 euros). Wabisabi (Lindengasse 20; 43-664-54-51-280; alle-tragen-wabi-sabi.at/) sells Japanese-style geometric-cut women’s clothing, entirely in black and white. Across the street at Werkprunk (Kirchengasse 7/11, enter at Lindengasse 23; 43-1-990-64-32; werkprunk.com) sisters Jasmin and Silvia König make jewelry out of sterling silver and semiprecious stones (35 to 700 euros).