Michelin starred cuisine, quirky bars and cafes, musical performances, Christmas markets and cultural experiences galore: Vienna delivers all this and more. Having lived in Austria for a few years as a child and having returned during many teenage summers, I remembered Vienna in a very different light. It took me exploring it as an adult to truly appreciate just how much this magnificent city has to offer. I recommend any (and all) of the following for a fun and culture-packed few days in the capital.
A whimsical sweet shop cum cafe/restaurant.
Pop in to the shop downstairs for all manner of sweets, cakes and chocolate, or take some time and head upstairs to the grandiose dining room gilded in gold and adorned with vintage portrait paintings and draping curtains. Dine on classic Austrian dishes, and fantastic freshly baked desserts. Note: Google says it's permanently closed but this is a mistake. It is still open and going strong!
If 'tis the season to be jolly, then Vienna is the place to be.
If you're going to Vienna around Christmas time, take full advantage of the multitude of jovial, festive markets set up all around the city. Feast on all kinds of meat, kässpätzle (my favourite - it's like mac 'n' cheese but made with a delicious soft egg noodle and often topped with crispy onions), some very potent gluhwein, hot potatoes, sweet bakery treats and countless more decadent snacks.
VIENNA STATE OPERA
All dressed up with somewhere very special to go.
The Vienna State Opera is a magical experience from start to end. Attend a performance and enjoy watching not only the singers but also the attendees, many of whom dress to the nines. My next mission: to attend the Vienna Opera Ball one day.
DAS LOFT, SOFITEL
DAS LOFT, SOFITEL
Don't forget to look up...though it's not likely you'll miss it
An otherwise simple and elegant bar on the 18th floor of the Sofitel has a pretty trippy twist - just look up at the brightly coloured nature-inspired ceiling, which features animated videos in technicolour. There are also extensive views of Vienna, though I have a feeling things would look even better during the day or at sunset.
A melting pot of food, drink, music and interior design.
Beautiful gothic interiors with atmospheric low light, decent cocktails at reasonable prices and a fun, buzzy vibe. We stayed for 3 or 4 drinks, enjoying the live music and friendly bartenders. Go early to avoid missing out on seats.
Number 9 on SP's Top 50 Restaurants in the World list.
Modern design and refined cuisine in one of Vienna's most stunning locations, in the heart of Stadtpark, with white-gloved service that is both professional and good-naturedly playful. It's well worth carving out a good three hours to enjoy one of the top 10 restaurants in the world (San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, 2016).
We'd booked a little too close to the time we had to leave for the airport and so had to rush out at the end of our meal rather abruptly (we literally just made our flight). It certainly was a hell of a way to conclude our trip to Vienna on this occasion. So, having been reminded of just how culturally fascinating the city really is, I'm making it a mission not to let another 8 or so years pass by before I return again.