Travel Spotlight

Just Back From Vienna: What’s New in Wien & Why to Go Now

In a parade of silks, jewels and political intrigue, the courts of the Habsburg monarchy in Vienna have lately made their way out of the textbooks and onto our screens—and thus, back into the discussion of the day. Centered around the intriguing figure of Empress Elisabeth, also known as “Sisi”—the second-to-last empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire*—three major film and television productions depicting the period have been released over just the past year alone: Sisi (on Disney Plus), The Empress (on Netflix) and Corsage, which premieres in theaters this Friday, December 23. But this resurgence in pop culture is just one of many harbingers of a greater promise that the Austrian capital is poised to claim our attention in the coming year. Vienna again made recent headlines when it was crowned the “Most Livable City of 2022” by The Economist’s Global Liveability Index, which ranks the quality of life in 173 cities across the world. Having held the title in the two years prior to the pandemic, the city is likely to maintain its reign into 2023, when Vienna will also welcome a new, year-long series of cultural and artistic events in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Vienna’s World’s Fair in 1873. Many consider this milestone the turning point that set the foundation for modern Vienna’s beauty and global renown (and, yes, this turning point occurred under the rule of Empress Sisi).With two of my Indagare colleagues, I ventured to Vienna late this November to get a first look at the excitement to come. With winter snows on the horizon, the days were cold, grey and hazy—a set that somehow made the gilded curls and spires of the city’s Baroque and Gothic architecture all the more imposing and entrancing. Even the chill was made romantic, thanks to the warm glow of the Christmas markets, a tradition that begins in mid-November and draws tourists and locals alike to stroll along stands of handmade ornaments, crafts and gifts while sipping mulled wine and hot chocolate and nibbling on roasted chestnuts, sugared pastries and, of course, salty-sweet sausages with mustard. After two years of intense pandemic policies, this holiday marks the official return of the markets—and of Vienna’s equally famed ball season, which kicks off in the new year with two of the biggest events, the Vienna Philharmonic Ball and the Vienna Opera Ball (celebrating their 80th and 65th anniversaries, respectively), and which concludes with over 400 fêtes in total.Alongside these revitalized classics, there is a host of new delights to discover, from a landmark luxury hotel arrival to innovative restaurants and soon-to-open exhibitions that are worth planning a trip around. Ask any Vienna local, and they will assure you that novelty is a rarity in this town—which makes the vigor of the present moment, intensified by the World’s Fair anniversary, all the more seductive. Read on for my report of the places and people to have on your radar—and the establishments in Vienna that are standing the test of time.Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to Vienna and further afield in Austria. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.Plus: We're currently creating a special Insider Journeys trip to Vienna for 2023, featuring behind-the-scenes access to the city's cultural highlights and the chance to meet with some of the creatives and families at the heart of the scene. Sign up here to be the first to receive the itinerary when it is released.Related: The 26 Best Christmas Markets in Europe

Introducing the Rosewood Vienna

And Other New Luxury Hotels in Vienna

The 1873 World’s Fair triggered a tourism and, therefore, hotel boom in Vienna—and in 1876, the city’s most iconic property, the Hotel Sacher, was born (a few decades after the eponymous cake, which began it all). The hotel became a staple of Viennese society under the groundbreaking ownership of Anna Sacher (another fascinating Austrian woman worth learning about), and, today, it continues to be one of the oldest and most respected family-run luxury hotels in Europe. 150 years later, history seems to be repeating itself, with a new surge of hotel developments—and one property appears to have already made an impact on the Old Guard scene. Opened August 1 in a restored 19th-century Neoclassical bank building (which also contains an apartment formerly occupied by Mozart), on the centrally-located, high-end Petersplatz square, the Rosewood Vienna offers a fresh, stylish take on classic Austrian glamour. The building has remained entirely Austrian, with the original design from 1835 by Alois Pichl being brought into the 21st-century by two Vienna-based firms, A2K and BEHF. The 71 guestrooms and 28 suites—including four singular “House” suites, each ranging from 995 to 1,916 square feet in size—were designed by the London interiors studio Alexander Waterworth to feel residential, yet still impeccable (your own idealized pied-à-terre). Well-considered and highly-functional pieces give shape to the handsome and otherwise understated rooms—with plum, sage, ruby and amber velvet headboards and sofas, wood-paneled walls and casement windows, patterned fabrics by Backhausen (a legendary house that decorated the homes of the Habsburgs, among others), handcrafted brass light fixtures, and brass-accented marble- and leather-clad minibars and vanities. An edited selection of objets celebrate local makers (like ceramicists and glassblowers), with a standout being the unique galleries of art that were curated by Atelier27 and include specially commissioned works. Indeed, the importance of Vienna’s artistic heritage is prominent throughout the entire property—and the creative staging of playful contemporary paintings alongside black-and-white photographs of the city’s most storied monuments will have you wandering past your own door through the halls for a closer look.The lounge in the Hoffmann House. Photo courtesy of Rosewood Vienna

The lounge in the Hoffmann House. Photo courtesy of Rosewood Vienna
For an ultra-luxe escape, the presidential suite, Hoffmann House (named for the visionary Viennese modernist architect and designer), stands at an impressive 1,916 square feet, with a private entrance, and it includes a master bedroom, a living room and entertainment area, a French balcony with prime views over Petersplatz, a dining room with seating for eight guests, and a kitchen—as well as a commissioned chandelier by the famed firm J.L. Lobmeyr. For a larger party, Hoffmann House can be connected to up to seven additional guestrooms.

With the rooms and suites covering four of the hotel’s seven floors, the remainder of the building is occupied by a conservatory-inspired tea and coffee salon (in the lobby lounge) and the signature Asaya Spa (the first at a Rosewood property outside of Asia), which extends over the fifth and sixth floors, with four treatment rooms for diverse wellness programs, a relaxation area, and a sauna, steam bath and therapeutic shower. Also on the sixth floor is the main restaurant, Neue Hoheit, a brasserie serving refreshed, seasonal takes on typical Austrian and European fare. The space is sleek and striking, with abundant light and exceptional views over the rooftops of Petersplatz and the city center—which can best be enjoyed (in warmer temperatures) on the leafy outdoor terrace (which also has a private “Secret Garden” space).
The interior design, envisioned by another respected Viennese firm, Kroeland, presents a contemporary take on the traditional Vienna coffeehouse, with warm woods and crimson-leather banquettes, classical Austrian millwork, black-and-white checkered marble floors and a tempting glass-encased wine gallery. Up a discreet staircase lined by Fornasetti plates (whose signature maiden seems to both welcome and gate-keep in a series of saucy looks, as you ascend in search of your aperitif…or nightcap) lies the speakeasy-style cocktail bar and rooftop. Continuing the ambience of the brasserie, with a stronger Art-Deco gloss, the bar offers a wonderful selection of signature cocktails and wines, mapped across Austria, as well as international spirits. Both the restaurant and bar are open to non-guests (though guests are favored for seating), which creates a pleasantly blended and lively atmosphere. The address is already gaining popularity with discerning residents, and international visitors—especially those seeking a more updated, but still graceful, Vienna home base—are sure to become regulars themselves in due course.Also on Our Radar: New and Expected Arrivals—
Hotel Motto (Opened Fall 2021): A charmingly feminine, 1920s Paris-inspired boutique hotel with a fun rooftop restaurant on Mariahilferstrasse, the biggest shopping street in the city. Highlights include fun floral wallpaper, a mix of contemporary art and vintage furniture, and an on-site organic bakery.Hotel Zola (Opened Fall 2021):

A zen-like, adults-only boutique property with 24 rooms and suites in the Second District has a bohemian-chic vibe and a creative international restaurant, Zazatam.

The Leo Grand (Opened Spring 2022): Just steps from the Rosewood, The Leo Grand is a playful, vaguely Baroque boutique property. The Leopold Suite offers unique penthouse views (which can also be enjoyed in the standalone soaking tub, lofted above the bedroom). You can’t miss the bright-red lacquered façade when passing by.

The Almanac Palais (Opening February 2023): An anticipated addition to the grandeur of the Ringstrasse, the Almanac will be located within the restored Henckel-Donnersmarck palace, offering five-star luxury, a sprawling spa and interiors by Jaime Beriestain.

The Hoxton (Opening Late 2023): This trendy brand is set to arrive in the Stadtpark later this year within the former headquarters of Austria's Chamber of Commerce. In addition to a coffee bar and speakeasy, the hotel will also house an auditorium and cultural space for live performances and events.

Mandarian Oriental Vienna (Opening Late 2023): This top-notch group will also join Vienna’s new wave of hospitality in a restored heritage building in the First District. It will also include private residences along with the usual Mandarin Oriental amenities.

Plus: This December, the iconic Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express launched a new winter route for the very first time between Paris and Vienna, which departed December 17 and 18. If you missed this dream voyage, we recommend marking your calendar now for 2023—or 2024!

Related: Upon Arrival: Vienna

Contemporary & Classic Cuisine

Where to Eat and Drink in Vienna Now
Perhaps because of its proximity to its culinary star neighbors Italy and Slovenia (and France, just a quick trip west across the Alps), Austrian cuisine and wine are often overlooked by food-focused travelers—ill-advisedly. Yes, the classic dishes—kaiser rolls, schnitzel, boiled beef, sausages, goulash, apple strudel, Sacher torte (washed down with espresso, Grüner Veltliner or a lager)—are all abundant, and well-enjoyed in locales both high and low. But these familiar names represent just one small slice of what’s happening in the Vienna scene, right now.Few people are better equipped to lead an introduction to the world of Viennese food and wine than Dr. Bianca Gusenbauer-Hoppe, a fascinating native of the Upper Austrian region of Mühlviertel, who began her career at cooking school in Vienna. Her résumé has collected quite a few items since then—including a Masters and PhD in Economics and Business, jobs in banking and then climate consulting, a few (successful) entrepreneurial ventures, extensive global travel and the publication of several cookbooks—and now she has returned to her roots in food, as a state-certified tour guide offering “food safaris” and immersive cooking classes (contact Indagare to learn more and book). On a wonderfully indulgent half-day tour with Bianca, we traced the origins of Viennese cuisine from the city’s early days as a Roman settlement (which introduced highly advanced wine and bread production, as in Italy), through evolving influences imported by Central and Eastern European immigrants and the Jewish diaspora (with a highlight being the Polish-originated “second breakfast,” a typical snack of light, open-faced “Trześniewski” sandwiches and a small “Pfiff” beer, usually enjoyed around 10:00 a.m. and immensely more invigorating than a second coffee)—to the present moment, when traditions are being reimagined through the lenses of global exchange and organic, sustainable practices. This year, for the first time ever, a Viennese restaurant was awarded a Michelin Green Star, a particular distinction recognizing excellence in sustainable gastronomy (won by TIAN, an airy, vegetable-forward restaurant in the First District from Chef Paul Ivić). The city as a whole recently announced its plans to become entirely carbon-neutral by 2040, with urban farming and sustainable agriculture playing a key part in achieving that goal. Hidden in the streets of the busiest districts, travelers can find organic gardens, greenhouses and apiaries—with Wald & Wiese, which keeps its own bees on a local rooftop, being a must-visit spot for honey and honey-infused products, as well as local delicacies like truffles and mustards. Within Vienna’s limits, just a quick tram ride from the historic center, there are nearly 5,000 acres of fields and vineyards—many of which supply the top restaurants (this year, a combined 74 restaurants in Vienna and Salzburg were named to the Michelin guide—and you can discover a few of my favorites below). Also among these acres are approximately 640 wineries, where buzzwords like “natural,” “low-intervention” and “biodynamic” actually mean something: thanks to a 1985 scandal in which several Austrian wineries were found to have illegally added a toxic substance to improve the taste and appearance of their wines, Austria today has some of the strictest, most exacting wine production standards and regulations in the world. It’s taken decades for the industry—and its reputation—to recover, but a visit to a tasting room like Wein Fein Kost (which sits upon original Roman foundations and is a treasure trove of both classics and funky natural varietals) or a bistro like Konstantin Filippou’s O boufés (where the robust list spotlights inventive local vintners and is as much a highlight as the cuisine) quickly reveals just how much we’ve been missing out on.Vienna Restaurants Spotlight: Mainstays and Newcomers to Know—The Blaue Bar at the Hotel Sacher (left) and the Bank Bar at the Park Hyatt (right). Photos by Elizabeth Harvey
The Blaue Bar at the Hotel Sacher (left) and the Bank Bar at the Park Hyatt (right). Photos by Elizabeth Harvey
Traditional Viennese Cuisine: Drei Hacken; Trześniewski; Café Landtmann; Restaurant Ofenloch; Zum Schwarzen Kameel; Palmenhaus City Classics: The Blaue Bar at Hotel Sacher; Fabios; Steirereck; Pramerl & the Wolf; DO & CO (Albertina and Stephansplatz locations); Meierei; Motto am FlussNoteworthy Newcomers & Stylish Scenes: Die Sattlerei; Restaurant Konstantin Filippou and Bistro O boufés; TIAN and TIAN Bistro am Spittelberg; Skopik & Lohn; Wrenkh; Restaurant and Bar Motto; Belly of the Beast; Brasserie Casino Zögernitz; Stadler & Thomas; Café Ponykarussell (at the Prater)For Cocktails & Wine: Die Sattlerei; Alma; Roberto American Bar (three locations); Loos Bar; Barfly’s; X Bar; Kleinod; Krypt; Hannelore; The Bank Bar at the Park Hyatt. Plus—For Beer Lovers: Ottakringer BreweryBest Markets: Kutschkermarkt; Brunnenmarkt; Meidlinger MarktRelated: Vienna's Coffee Culture

The World's Fair

What's New in Arts, Culture and Shopping in Vienna

In tandem with the 150th anniversary of the World’s Fair, an abundance of openings and special exhibitions are accentuating Vienna’s already overwhelming offerings across fine arts, fashion, design, music and dance—a legacy that remains from the Austrian Empire’s peak (and its fruitful competition with France). Centered around the theme of “Visions and New Beginnings,” the 2023 culture calendar is a celebration of these deep foundations—with a few twists. Up close in the galleries of the Belvedere. Photos by Elizabeth Harvey

Up close in the galleries of the Belvedere. Photos by Elizabeth Harvey
At the Belvedere, one of Vienna’s two must-visit palace-museums (the other being Schönbrunn), the 300-year anniversary of the palace’s construction will be honored in 2023 with a new year-long exhibition that explores the museum’s impact on Viennese art and architecture, and its changing roles throughout history, from a royal summer residence to an agent of the Nazi state’s art looting in the ‘40s—to a symbol of preservation and progress (“The Belvedere: 300 Years a Venue for Art,” on through January 7, 2024).Today, the Belvedere displays many of Gustav Klimt’s most important works—including The Kiss—and this year will also present a special exhibition born from a collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam: “Klimt. Inspired by Van Gogh, Rodin, Matisse…” This examination of the icons who influenced the master of Viennese Modernism, and of the master himself, will be on display from February 3 to May 29, 2023. It promises to be an exhibition worth planning around.
Earlier this year, a new museum was opened after much anticipation: The Heidi Horten Collection, which displays the extensive private holdings of Heidi Goëss-Horten, a singular woman in the arts and one of the world’s few female museum founders. With several hundred paintings, sculptures and other works, the collection will highlight the artistic developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with pieces by such names as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall and Gerhard Richter, and many more. The museum’s first exhibiton, on through April 16, 2023, pays tribute to Heidi herself, while also exploring the importance of the feminine image in art, haute couture and photography.Women will also be celebrated this year at the Vienna Museum of Technology in an exhibition on through May 2, 2023: “Women at Work – 150 Years of the Women's Pavilion of the Vienna World's Fair,” looking at the female artists that presented in 1873 and their changing role during the 19th century’s industrialization.At the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK), interior design fiends will be pleased by another World’s Fair-inspired showing, opening June 7, 2023, that will display the treasures of Viennese handicrafts, with a spotlight on the glassworks of the legendary J. & L. Lobmeyr (which also celebrated its 200-year anniversary this coming year). A wonderful glass collection is also on display at the Leopold Museum—where Max Oppenheimer and Gabriele Münter shows will open in late 2023.And finally, the world-famous Vienna music scene will receive a new venue in 2023: The House of Strauss, a museum and concert hall dedicated to the life and legacy of Johann Strauss Jr., the “King of the Waltz” and composer of The Blue Danube, Die Fledermaus, Kaiser-Walzer and some 500 others.Shopping Spotlight: Favorite Finds in Vienna—Between museum and monument visits, the design and fashion scene in Vienna also warrants a considered look (is there ever enough time?). Indagare can connect you with specialist shopping guides who can tailor tours to your interests and tastes to make the most of your exploration, whether you seek historic ateliers from Vienna’s founding families, vintage treasures or contemporary creators. Contact us to learn more and book, and explore some of my favorite shops below.

Studio Palatin:Discover Barbara Doyle’s one-of-a-kind, handcrafted lamps and candlesticks (made from porcelain, bronze, gold, silver and glass) at her new workshop in the First District (Kleeblattgasse 9). If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to meet the artist herself: a Vienna native and longtime New York City resident, she is also a docent for the Decorative Arts Department at the Met and splits her time between the cities. You can also find Studio Palatin at the Augarten Vienna Porcelain Manufactory, a spectacular site both for shopping and historical touring. Founded in 1718, the manufactory is the second-oldest porcelain producer in Europe. Every piece is made on site, by hand, by a team of less than 30 (a behind-the-scenes tour will truly blow you away). For a unique souvenir, take home one of the manufactory’s signature gilded Champagne bowls—a design that was commissioned by Louis XVI to mimic the exact size and shape of the bosom of his wife, Marie Antoinette (who, you may remember, was in fact Austrian).Contemporary blown-glass stunners at Studio Comploj. Photos by Elizabeth Harvey

Contemporary blown-glass stunners at Studio Comploj. Photos by Elizabeth Harvey
Studio Comploj:The Tyrol-born craftsman Robert Comploj produces and displays his contemporary, colorful blown glass pieces in a studio in the Seventh District (and you’ll also find his gorgeous work throughout the new Rosewood).Vienna Unique by Astrid Zinniel: Right next to the Rosewood, this fabulous boutique curated by Astrid Zinniel features art, décor and antiques (including Lobmeyr glassware—and Studio Palatin lamps!).Felicitas Home Stories: A delightful boutique packed with charming décor and vintage finds, particularly Italian glassware.SKREIN*: Handcrafted, structural jewelry—and sparkling gems.Window shopping. Photo by Elizabeth Harvey
Window shopping. Photos by Elizabeth Harvey
For Fashion: Schella Kann, Anton Meyer, Henryks, Spodd, Inouïtoosh, Amicis Deuxieme, Ferrari Zochling, Eigensinnig, Sagan, Schau Raum and Ina Kent. Many of these are located on a wonderful shopping street, Spiegelgasse. In general, the First, Sixth and Seventh Districts are known for their boutiques.For Décor and Gifts: Stillsegler, Tessuti, Palais Interiors, Die Sellerie.Christmas markets are open for the season! Photo by Elizabeth Harvey
Christmas markets are open for the season! Photo by Elizabeth Harvey
Top Christmas Markets:Rathausplatz, Spittelberg, Maria-Theresien-Platz, Karlsplatz, Schönbrunn, Belvedere, Stephansplatz.Related: What’s New in Paris: What to See & Do, Where to Eat, Stay — Fall 2022

Why Go Now / Vienna Waits for You

The Paradoxical CityIn Vienna, always remember to look up. Photo by Elizabeth Harvey
In Vienna, always remember to look up. Photo by Elizabeth Harvey
Despite the fact that there is obviously so much going on in the city, I fear while writing this that my Austrian readers will turn up their noses at the suggestion that Vienna is having a “moment.” As I mentioned earlier, in Vienna, novelty is not the norm—and for some residents, it’s even undesirable. This is what sets this city apart from the rest of the world’s culture capitals. In Vienna, respect for traditions and mores runs deep. The establishment is the rule—not something to be resisted. Throughout my conversations with our local hosts and guides, the words they most frequently used to describe their home were traditional, polite, conservative, specialized, classed, closed, regulated, private, strict. In one of the city’s best-known musical descriptions—”Vienna Waits for You”—Billy Joel’s lyrics were said to be inspired by the reverence for the elderly that he witnessed during his time in the city: in Vienna, what’s old is cherished, not hidden away or cast aside. Others understand the song to mean that Vienna will always be there, unchanged and ready to welcome you, after you’ve had your adventures elsewhere. And yet—this discussion was had while drinking a funky natural rosé produced by two young farmer-sisters (the 2019 Rennersistas “Waiting for Tom”), over a cooking class in a hybrid event space (Andante)–led by the head chef at a new-age, farm-to-table restaurant, whose background includes time in both the Seychelles and Detroit (Karl Wrenkh, of Wrenkh). Despite the restrained and careful culture, new things are happening in Vienna—a lot. In such a cradle of arts and intellectualism, it’s inevitable. It’s a complete paradox, and once you notice it, you see it everywhere: in the restaurants, in the galleries, in the streets—even in the depictions of Sisi, who is shown at once to be an untamed, rebellious free spirit (in The Empress) and a trapped, restricted obsessive whose eating disorder was so intense that she shrunk her own waist down to a mere 16 inches in circumference (in Corsage). The contradiction is maddening (and is perhaps why Freud was so prolific here). Throughout my stay in Vienna, my American mind both marveled and was vexed, as I wondered: How much more would be created, if they were freed from the rules? But is it in fact the respect for tradition that’s the secret to their great success? I suspect there is no answer—just a constant suspension of the tension between institution and invention, regulation and creativity, old and new. And it’s what keeps the world coming back for more, century after century.Related: Vienna: Recommended Books & Films

Extend Your Stay

A Few Favorite Places to Pair with a Vienna ItinerarySalzburg, Austria:

Discover the Indagare Guide to Salzburg.

Lech, Austria: Learn more about our upcoming ski-focused Insider Journey to Lech with SNOW Magazine this March.

Kitzbühel, Austria: Learn more about this lively ski town in our article What to Know – Kitzbühel.

Munich, Germany: Discover the Indagare Guide to Munich.

Bruges and Antwerp, Belgium: Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @Indagaretravel on Instagram for the latest Belgium travel intel, coming soon!

Related: Best Winter Vacation Ideas for 2023: 23 Trip Ideas from Antigua to Zimbabwe

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to Vienna and further afield in Austria. Our team can match you with the itineraries, accommodations, reservations and guides that are right for you.

Plus: We're currently creating a special Insider Journeys trip to Vienna for 2023, featuring behind-the-scenes access to the city's cultural highlights and the chance to meet with some of the creatives and families at the heart of the scene. Sign up here to be the first to receive the itinerary when it is released.

* An Austrian History Refresher: Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) and ​​Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Habsburgs (1830-1916) ruled over the Austrian and then Austro-Hungarian Empire during the latter half of the 19th century, including Vienna’s Belle Époque period (which saw the creation of the famous Ringstrasse and gave us Klimt, Wagner and Brahms, among others). In 1914, the emperor’s indicated heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo, provoking the outbreak of World War I. Emperor Franz Joseph I died in 1916 (Elisabeth had been assassinated prior to the war, in 1898) and was succeeded by Charles I, who was dethroned and exiled just two years later, upon the 1918 armistice—marking the dissolution of the empire, the end of Habsburg rule and the establishment of Austria’s first modern republic.

Related: The Indagare Holiday Gift Guide 2022: Our Favorite Gifts for Travelers

This article was created in partnership with the Vienna Tourist Board and published by Indagare Travel.

Published onDecember 22, 2022

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