Eat Traditional Austrian Fare
There are certain musts in Vienna – soak in the coffee culture, roam the Ringstrasse and of course, taste wiener schnitzel. Specializing in Viennese cuisine, Plachutta restaurants have a reputation as the go-to for authentic Austrian fare.
One of the few restaurants that serve authentic wiener schnitzel using veal, Plachutta takes great care in their meat, using beef with the AMA Quality Seal, (the highest quality seal for food in Austria) for the Tafelspitz (boiled beef), another signature of the restaurant.
Lead by Ewald Plachutta, the ‘the Doyen of Viennese Cuisine’ who has been awarded several honours including the Golden Honorary Medal of the City of Vienna, the restaurant has several locations throughout the city.
I was thrilled that it was chanterelle season when I had lunch at the sleek Gasthaus zur Oper. A special menu with mushrooms in every conceivable preparation was available but I settled for the delicious creamy chanterelles with potato dumplings.
Another day, just a short walk from Stephansdom, I enjoyed the tangy onion and potato salad with fresh shrimp sautéed in butter and lemon at Plachutta Wollzeile.
Plachutta is nearly a cultural institution in Austria and another item for your Vienna checklist.
Do a Museum Crawl
Vienna Historic Sites and Museums
Classically European, with welcoming and friendly people, Austria’s capital feels airy, clean and uncrowded despite a population of almost 2 million. Everywhere your eyes wander the architecture of the city delights.
While Romanesque and baroque architecture abounds (and among the best preserved in Europe), the Secession, Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station, and the Kirche am Steinhof are prime examples of art nouveau.
The heart of Vienna, once a defense fortress was razed in 1857 and in its place, the Ringstrasse, a broad boulevard with shops, monuments, hotels and parks was built. This area is now the home to the Imperial Palace, city hall (Rathaus), Burgtheater, and is a short walk from gothic Stephansdom or St. Stephen’s cathedral.
Tradition is still upkept, as the city is home to over 200 19th century-style balls every year, inextricably linked to the country’s rich musical heritage.
For your museum crawl start off at the MuseumQuartier home to Mumok (Museum of Modern Art) which houses 20th and 21st century artwork and Leopold Museum home to modern Austrian artists including Schile and Klimt.
Then take in Kunsthistorisches Museum home to Pieter Bruegel’s Tower of Babel, ancient artifacts and a Hapsburg collection of art (think a mini Louvre).
A must see is Hofburg once home to the powerful Habsburg dynasty (rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire), and now the residence of the President of Austria. Catch a glimpse of the regal white Lipezanner stallions in the Imperial horse stables and if ecclesiastical and secular jewels interest you, visit the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer (Imperial treasury) for a jaw dropping array of artifacts including the Imperial Crown , giant narwhal tooth and agate bowl thought to be the holy grail.
Steps away is The Sisi museum devoted to Empress Elisabeth of Austria (a celebrated royal) including a look inside the life of the shy melancholic ruler with over 300 items including wigs, clothing, beauty recipes and a replica of a section of her imperial railway carriage.
Enjoy Cafe Culture with Coffee and Cake (and more tasty treats)
Walk down any street in Vienna, stop into a café, bakery or coffeehouse and there’s sure to be something amazing on the menu. What’s different at Demel is the attention to detail – a cursive D, emblem of the company forms the door handle, sweets are handmade, intricate sugar work graces window displays, custom cakes are daintily painted by hand, and chefs prepare apple strudel right before your eyes. There’s even a marzipan museum in a former cellar.
Head Chef Dietmar Muthenthaler has spent decades with the company (the parent company is Do&Co) that was once purveyor to Vienna’s imperial and royal court. He prompts me to make a selection from the tantalizing counter display and guides me through umpteen wood paneled rooms to a quiet spot to taste sachertorte (much moister than elsewhere), Russische Punschtorte (one of the best meringue cakes I’ve tasted) and the signature Dörytorte (a light mousse cake).
“My first contact with Demel was when I was learning to write my signature. I traced the D from Demel and still write it the same way to this day,” he says, intimating the brand’s long connection with Austrians.
Feel like a King or Queen for the Day
The 1,441-room former imperial summer residence of Schloss Schönbrunn features a maze of stately apartments, gold and wood rooms, a chapel and thousands of historic artifacts. While you could spend hours in the Baroque gardens outside, make time to check out the Carriage museum with an elaborate collection of carriages used by the imperial family and Viennese court.