Feb 20, 2013

Vienna hearts winter: Black Book Travel Guide

By: Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington Author: Elle Canada Credits:

Feb 20, 2013

Vienna hearts winter: Black Book Travel Guide

By: Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington
Vienna is one of those rare cities that seems to have never-ending beauty, from the ornate and intricate buildings to over-the-top pastries and cakes, to the city’s love affair with classical music. If you’re in need of a dose of all things pretty, Euro-chic and classic this winter, look no further than a quick jaunt to Vienna.

1. Take in a classical performance
It’s not hard to imagine where Mozart got his inspiration. Music is at the heart of Vienna – the opera house is always filled with concertgoers, the Stephansdom Cathedral ( puts on stunning musical performances (including enchanting Christmas concerts), and you can almost hear a string quartet playing while you stroll the streets. The State Opera House (, which was gutted after being set alight in the Second World War, has pre-war beauty on the outside and a distinctly ‘50s vibe inside with mod concert rooms. It can be tough and/or pricey to get a ticket to a concert or to see members of the Vienna Philharmonic, but standing-room-only tickets are often sold just before a concert. Then you can have a chance to hear works by Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Werner Pirchner, Johann Strauss, Günter Seifert, Charles Gounod, Jacques Offenbach and Johannes Brahms.

2. Visit Manner Stephansplatz
Pop into the Manner chocolate and candy shop in the centre of Vienna just off the major shopping street. It’s a warm retreat where you can pick up some goodies to take home with you – chocolate wafers, cream-filled cookies and other traditional treats. The store is small, the lines are long, but if you’re trying to warm up, we say there’s no better place to do it than in a queue next to chocolate and candy.

3. Fill up on pastries and traditional Viennese fare
Nothing will get your warmer than a slice of rich chocolate torte – or so I think. Vienna’s famous Sacher Torte is a layered creation that tugs at a chocolate lover’s heart by the strings. Pick up your own cake, or try a slice at the famed Hotel Sacher in the city centre.

Vegetarians, cover your eyes. Vienna is known for its sausage stands that serve up countless numbers of sausages, in countless ways. If you’re dying to try this classic Viennese treat, ask for a platter with a sampling of different sausages (think traditional bratwurst, spicy, smoky, cheese-filled and white sausages. Hit up the Albertinaplatz stand just outside the Opera House ( for a true taste of the Vienna-style street meat.

Veggie lovers, keep your eyes covered. Carnivores, you need to get a sampling of Vienna’s world-famous schnitzel. But be warned – it seems to only come in a very large size (but perfect for sharing). Order up a side of warm Viennese potato salad (tossed with vinegar, oil, spices and onions) for a finishing touch to the traditional meal. Our pick for the best? Plachuttas Gasthaus bei der Oper, close to the Opera House and the Cathedral, where they do a modern twist on Viennese classics.

Sip on lattes, take in art and visit the snow globe museum on the next page ...

View our Black Book Travel Guide to Paris here

4. Visit the snow globe museum

You’re in the land of the snow globe. You didn’t know? It sounds kitschy, I know. And, to be honest, the museum is tiny, yet quaint, and outside the city centre, but certainly worth a quick visit – even if just to pick up your own true Vienne snow globe from their huge selection. Vienna is the originator of the souvenir fave, and you see the true quality once you pick up a Viennese snow globe (notice how those snowflakes fall ever so gently, thanks to a secret a family recipe).

5. Grab a coffee … but not to go
Unlike in North America, people in Vienna take the time to sit and enjoy their coffee in cafes and coffee houses. You won’t see anyone walking around with a Starbucks latte in hand. Visit one of Vienna’s classic coffee houses, settle in and sip on an espresso, hot chocolate or a cappuccino or two to beat the chill. View some of our favourites here.

6. Pop into a museum
Vienna is home to some of the most beautiful and interesting art in the world, and world-class exhibits roll through consistently. Here are the major museums to visit if it’s too cold to walk outside anymore (or if you’re just an art lover).

The Albertina
The museum is centrally located and is home to one of the largest graphical collections in the world. An afternoon here will also have you pondering Monet, Baselitz and Picasso’s masterpieces amongst many other beautiful works. Be sure to check out the glorious staterooms, too, where royalty once lived and played.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum)
It’s not only spectacular to look at from the outside (the grounds make the perfect picnic spots in the summer, and a snowy wonderland in the winter), it’s also home to some of the most coveted pieces of European art. The added bonus? There’s an amazing arboretum restaurant nearby called Palmenhaus. Step in for a warm-up with fresh greenery and a bowl of hot squash soup.

Getting there:
It’s easy with so many flights flying direct to Austria’s biggest city, plus the endless connecting flights you can hop on. Whether you’re making a stopover in Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich, flying with Lufthansa to Vienna is easy and will take just eight hours.

Where to stay:
The Viennese find beauty in so many ways. You can easily book yourself a room at a traditional, European-style hotel, or you can try something slightly edgier. The ultra sleek, ultra modern Sofitel ( in the city may seem stark with mostly all-white rooms (with a few all-grey and select all-black rooms), but there’s really no better way to capture Vienna’s skyline. Floor-to-ceiling windows let the light flow in come morning and the nightlights shine once it’s dark. It’s also perfectly located next to the Schwedenplatz transit station and hotspot coffee shop/restaurant Motto am Fluss.

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Vienna hearts winter: Black Book Travel Guide