The orchestras, opera companies and choirs of Vienna are either the best or equal to the best on this planet. For those who want to see the world's greatest music performed by the world's greatest musicians, Vienna is the place. Concerts and operas are performed virtually every night.
Best known are the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Staatsoper (State Opera). During the annual November through June season the Staatsoper presents more than three dozen different operas. But these two music giants are only the tip of the iceberg. The city teems with other first-rate musical ensembles: The Vienna Volksoper (people's opera) featuring lighter works, operettas, even an occasional musical, is the city's second world-class opera company. The Vienna Symphony is a number two orchestra that would be number one almost anywhere else, and the Wiener Kammerorchester (chamber orchestra) is a world-renowned ensemble that attracts big name guest soloists and conductors.
If one doesn't mind stepping down from the world's best to merely outstanding there is the Vienna Kammeroper, which specializes in rare and lesser-known works, the Vienna Hofburg Orchestra and the costumed Vienna Mozart Orchestra.
Others include the Vienna Brass Ensemble, the Vienna Concert Duo, the Vienna Concert Quintet, the Vienna Akademische Philharmonie, the Haydn Sinfonietta Wien, the Vienna Waltz Orchestra, which plays twice daily at the Kursalon, the Chorus Viennese and several others.
All that and we haven't mentioned what may be the city's best-known and best-loved group of musicians, the Vienna Boys Choir.
In addition to a vast array of home-based talent, the city attracts the finest ensembles and performers from throughout the world. At the Konzerthaus - one of the two main symphonic venues, the other being the Musikverein - we recently saw the Salzburger Camerata Academica. Though the orchestra, its conductor, and the piano soloist were unfamiliar to us, their music was superb. The performance was part of the Wiener Frühlingsfestival (Vienna Spring Festival). Our tickets cost 490 AS ($46) each.
If you're looking for something less highbrow, there are a number of cafés and Heurigen (wine taverns) where Vienna's traditional Schrammel music is played.
Whatever your choice, Vienna is a city of musical riches without peer. Even the street musicians on the Kärtnerstrasse and the Graben are a cut above anywhere else we've been.
Hotel Das Triest
Vienna's Hotel Das Triest offers better than average value in a luxury hotel. It opened last December and is barely outside the Ring, just south of the Karlsplatz. Its street, Wiedner Hauptstrasse, is the extension of the Kärntnerstrasse.
The old building, once known as the Stadt Triest, was the main station and stable for stagecoaches and horses that hauled passengers and freight between Vienna and the port city of Trieste. But today the horses and wagons are long gone. In their place is this stunning, four-star hotel, designed by Sir Terence Conran, the London-based architect-restaurateur-retailer-author who is famous in the U.S. for such coffee table books as The House Book, The New House Book, The Kitchen Book, The Bed and Bath Book and, most recently, The Essential House Book.
Das Triest is unlike any other hotel in town. Throughout are specially commissioned pieces of Biedermeier-style furniture and art - such as the mosaics on the buffet bar - that ensure the simple and clean, 90s-Jugendstil-Bauhaus design is not only visually satisfying but also whispers of Alt Wien. There are clever touches which add a note of warmth to a scheme which can be rather chilly. Trieste being a port city, Conran has cleverly incorporated such design elements as Navy blue fabrics and small, burnished metal port holes to establish a nautical motif. Corridors, for example, with their twin rows of porthole-in-the-floor light fixtures remind one of passageways aboard a luxury liner.
A swath of plain white linen as wide as the bed and draped over the high headboards is a simple decorating touch that relieves the sterility often found in this ultra-clean style.
Furnishings and construction materials are first-cabin. The look is high-tech with obligatory halogen table lamps, cyber-age necessities such as fax lines and voice mail are in all rooms and of course everything is air-conditioned.
Guestrooms are spacious and several, such as Number 506, a junior suite for 3,700 AS ($349), have been arranged to take advantage of excellent city views. The large bathrooms gleam with elegant fixtures.
Art and design are a matter of taste and opinion and not everyone may share our enthusiasm, but Das Triest bowled us over. (To get an idea of Conran's design style, glance through his The Essential House Book, next time you're in a book store.)
• Daily Rates: Singles 2100 AS ($198), doubles 2600 AS ($245), suites 3700 AS to 4700 AS ($349-$443). 73 rooms, all with cable TV, voice mail, fax line, safe, radio, minibar, trouser press, direct dial phone and air-conditioning. Fitness center, sauna, solarium.
Contact: Das Triest Wiedner Hauptstrasse 12, A-1040 Vienna, tel. 1-589 18-0, fax 11-589 18 18
Rating: Quality 17/20 Value 18/20
Pension Altstadt Vienna
What some might perceive as a negative - the Altstadt's location just outside the Ring - we see as an advantage. Though hotels on or near the Graben and Kärntnerstrasse are more convenient to many of the town's main sights, they are also at the center of the city's tourism. Experiencing daily life in the Altstadt's virtually tourist-free neighborhood cafés, restaurants and stores not only makes for a more authentic travel experience but is an interesting change of pace. The Altstadt is about a 5-10 minute walk from the nearest underground station and from there all Vienna is quickly accessible.
Based on its creatively appointed guestrooms, its moderate prices and the go-the-extra-mile attitude of owner Otto Wiesenthal and his staff, this hotel was the 1994 "Gemütlichkeit Hotel of the Year."
This time around we found the rooms beginning to show traces of wear and tear but Herr Wiesenthal was as omnipresent and helpful as ever and the hotel's high-ceilinged main salon is still an inviting place for breakfast, a late afternoon cup of tea or a nightcap before bed.
One little story will demonstrate how the Altstadt looks after its guests.
We needed get to the airport for a 9 a.m. flight. The desk clerk advised a taxi for the following morning and volunteered to arrange one for us. Having had problems in the past with pre-booked taxis, we were a little nervous and called the desk very early next morning to confirm everything was still on for our 7:30 a.m. pickup. The woman patiently assured us that all was well. About 6:45 a.m., as we entered the breakfast room, a well-dressed young man introduced himself as our driver. He told us to enjoy our breakfast, there was plenty of time and, while we ate, he would be in the kitchen having coffee. Our ride turned out not to be a taxi but a car-for-hire, an unmarked, clean, late-model Mercedes. The cost, about $30, was about the same as a regular taxi. The driver and Herr Wiesenthal loaded our luggage and the comfortable ride got us to Schwechat in plenty of time for our flight.
Herr Wiesenthal is not one to be left behind. Visit the hotel's Web page and see the latest prices, color photos of the hotel, and a Vienna map showing the hotel's location.
Rating: Quality 16/20 Value 18/20
Great central location, oversized, nicely decorated rooms and caring management make the Aviano one of Vienna's top hotel values. The best rooms are Numbers 413 and 304.
Tip: If you can't get a reservation here ask for one of Frau Kafka's other pensions, the Pertschy and Christina, both of which offer good value inside the Ring.
• Daily Rates: Singles 620 AS to 760 AS ($58-$72), doubles 980 AS to 1500 AS ($92-$142). 32 rooms, all with cable TV, radio, minibar and direct dial phones.
Contact: Pension Aviano Marco d'Avianogasse 1, A-1010 Vienna, tel. 1-512 83 30, fax 1-512 83 30-6
Rating: Quality 15/20 Value 19/20
Hotel Am Schottenpoint
The dirty, cave-like entrance to this hotel, through a deteriorating old building, borders on scary. There is nothing to fear, however, and once inside the Am Schottenpoint-owned spaces, you'll find a most pleasant welcome and cozy, sparkling guestrooms that offer excellent value.
Room Number 14, a double, has a separate sitting room.
Actually, the sorry building that fronts to the street creates a quiet refuge from busy Währinger Strasse. Am Schottenpoint is well outside the Ring, four underground stops from the Stephansplatz center.
• Daily Rates: Singles 890 AS to 980 AS ($84-$92), doubles 1180 AS to 1400 AS ($111-$132). 17 rooms, all with cable TV, radio and direct dial phones. There is a small bar.
Contact: Hotel Am Schottenpoint Währinger Strasse 22, A-1090 Vienna, tel. 1-310 87 87, fax 1-310 87 874
Rating: Quality 14/20 Value 16/20
We last reviewed this hotel in 1991 and other than the renovation of a few rooms not much has changed. It still seems a bit stodgy and lacks freshness and vitality. The central location, however, is ideal and the newer rooms, although pricey for a hotel of this caliber, are spacious and attractive.
There's really nothing much wrong with the Wandl, it's just that there are better choices in this part of Vienna.
• Daily Rates: Singles 950 AS to 1300 AS ($90-$123), doubles 1500 AS to 1800 AS ($142-$170). 138 rooms, all with cable TV and direct dial phones. Bar and restaurant.
Contact: Hotel Wandl Petersplatz 9, A-1010 Vienna, tel. 1-534 55-0, fax 1-534 55 77
Rating: Quality 11/20 Value 10/20
Pension Neuer Markt
Space is at a premium in this centrally-located, fairly-priced second-floor pension that has a strong English-speaking following. Hallways are narrow and guestrooms smaller than average. Management is friendly but brisk, and made a point to tell us returning customers often ask for specific rooms; requests they are usually unable to fill. It never hurts to inquire, however, and room Number 16 is one of the larger ones.
• Daily Rates: Singles 700 AS to 880 AS ($66-$83), doubles 980 AS to 1380 AS ($92-$130). 37 rooms, all with cable TV, radio and direct dial phones. Hot meals available throughout the day.
Contact: Pension Neuer Markt Seilergasse 9, A-1010 Vienna, tel. 1-1-512 23 16, fax 1-1-513 91 05
Rating: Quality 9/20 Value 13/20
Occupying the first and third floors of a stylish old building near the Kunsthistorisches Museum, this place has Viennese character and a charming owner, Frau Elvira Scheyrer, but is so much in need of renovation that we really can't recommend it. Most guestrooms are huge with high ceilings and vast floor space. Often, however, a lack of furniture makes these big spaces seem barn-like.
The owner spoke to us of imminent improvements. When that happens the Museum will be worth what it charges.
• Daily Rates: Singles 800 AS to 1180 AS ($75-$111), doubles 1250 AS to 1600 AS ($118-$151). 15 rooms, all with cable TV, radio and direct dial phones. Parking 150 AS ($14) per night.
Contact: Pension Museum Museumstrasse 3, A-1010 Vienna, tel. 1-523 51 27, fax 1-523 44 26-30
Rating: Quality 5/20 Value 7/2
We arrived in town late on a cold wet Sunday night hungry for some Viennese cooking. Because of the weather we didn't want to go far and the woman on duty at our hotel, the Pension Altstadt Vienna, suggested the nearby Spatzennest.
It was exactly what we were looking for. A busy, neighborhood bistro frequented almost entirely by local residents and specializing in traditional dishes.
We opened with fresh mixed vegetable salads, then tucked into Zwiebelrostbraten (steak topped with fried onions) and Wienerschnitzel and finished with fresh strawberries and ice cream. With the meal we drank half a liter of local red wine and with dessert sipped a glass of port. The bill for two persons was 503 AS ($47).
Service was quick, friendly and efficient.
For those who want good food but don't need fancy surroundings and shun high prices, the Spatzennest is a great choice. We only wish it were around the corner from our house.
• Spatzennest, 7th district, Ulrichsplatz 1, tel. 526 16 59, Sun.-Thurs. to midnight.
Rating: Quality 11/20 Value 15/20
The style is not very "old Vienna" at this beer restaurant near the Molkerbastei, a relic of the old walled city. The trendy bar could be in Chicago or Los Angeles and the dining area decor is too "franchise" for our taste. The food, however, is a different story. Schnitzel, Tafelspitz (boiled beef), baked Emmenthaler, Pommes Frites and Apfelstrudel all passed the moderately-priced-but-satisfying test with flying colors.
• Zum Leupold Schottengasse 7, tel. 1/533 9381-12
Nudel & Strudel
Another Beisl where you won't find many tourists, this one inside the Ring near the University, is the tiny, quirky, Nudel & Strudel, unique for the hundreds of pieces of old hardware framed and hung on the walls. There is a daily special that includes soup and entrée for about $7.
• Nudel & Strudel, Schottenbastei 4, tel. 1/533 6128
For 100% authentic neighborhood Beisl atmosphere, try the down-at-the-heel Rippel. It, too, is near Pension Altstadt but is only a place for a beer or two and maybe a sausage and pommes frites. Find someplace else for that special anniversary dinner.
There is a dirty, herringbone wood floor, a small bar with a couple of beer taps and a coffee machine, a few wooden tables, plants in the windows, scattered magazines and newspapers, a clock set onto the sawed-off end of a wood barrel and pictures of soccer teams. Every half-hour or so the proprietress leaves her cigarette and wine glass at the Stammtisch (special table for regular patrons) to stoke a small coal-fired stove. On tap is the local Gösser Bier and Budvar from the Czech Republic.
• Gasthaus Rippel, Neustiftgasse.
Here is a listing of other restaurants specializing in inexpensive, but hearty Viennese food. We have highlighted our favorites.
• Figlmüller 1st district, Wollzeile 5, tel. 512 61 77, daily to 10.30 p.m. Main courses from about $8. Famous for huge portions of Schnitzel. (Editor's Choice)
• Reinthaler, 1st district, Gluckgasse 5, tel. 512 3366, Mon.-Thurs. to 11 p.m., Fri. to 4 p.m. Daily specials from about $7.
• Smutny, 1st district, Elisabethstrasse 8, tel. 58713 56, daily to midnight. Daily specials from about $9. Serving Budvar and Pilsner Urquell on draft. Interesting tile decor. (Editor's Choice)
• Hansy, 2nd district, Praterstrasse 67, tel. 214 55 72, daily to 11 p.m. Set meals from about $7.
• Schweizerhaus 2nd district, Strasse des 1 Mai 116 (in the Prater), tel. 218 01 52, mid-March to the beginning of November, to 11 p.m. Set meals from about $7, known for Eisbein (pigs knuckles) and potato pancakes.
• Bierteufl 3rd district, Ungargasse, tel. 7126503, to 1 a.m. Set meals from about $8. 100 brands of beer.
• Weinhaus Wild, 3rd district, Radetzkyplatz 1, tel. 712 57 50, daily to 11 p.m. Set meals about $7. Local wine.
• Weissgerber Stube (Hotel Biedermeier) 3rd district, Landstrasse Hauptstrasse 28, tel. 716 71-514, daily to 10 p.m. Set meals from about $8.
• Weidinger, 4th district, Danhausergasse 3, tel. 505 56 97, Mon.-Fri. to 11 p.m. Set meals about $7. Garden dining.
• Altes Fassl 5th district, Ziegelofengasse 37, tel. 55 42 98, Tues.-Sun. to 1 a.m. Main courses from about $10. Garden restaurant featuring Viennese specialties.
• Silberwirt 5th district, Schlossgasse 21, tel. 55 49 07, daily to midnight. Viennese pancakes served under old verandas
• Blauensteiner, 6th district, Wallgasse 32, tel. 56 41 8B, Tues.-Sat. to 11 p.m. Main courses from about $8. Near Raimundtheater.
• Kauzchen 7th district, Gardegasse 8, tel. 526 48 66, daily to 2 a.m., Sat., Sun. to 4 a.m. Set meals from about $9. Varied clientèle.
• Stadt Krems 7th district, Zieglergasse 37, tel. 93 72 00, daily to midnight. Main courses start at about $8 at this 150-year-old Beisl.
• Schnitzelwirt 7th district, Neubaugasse 52, tel. 93 37 71, Mon.-Sat. to 11 p.m. Heavy on the Schnitzel for about $7.
• Zur Stadt Brünn, 8th district, Strozzigasse 36, tel. 42 03 88. Tues.-Sat. to midnight, Sun. and holidays to 3 p.m. Set meals from about $7. Garden restaurant in the Josefstadt.
• Waldviertler Eck, 8th district, Pfeilgasse 27/corner Albertgasse, tel. 42 32 93. Mon.-Thurs. to 11 p.m. Fri. to 3 p.m. Set meals from about $7.
The Vienna Card
For those who plan to be in Vienna for more than a day or two, the Vienna Card for 180 AS ($17) is a must. It provides 72 hours unlimited access to the city's public transportation system plus discounts at dozens of museums, galleries, theaters, music venues, cafés and shops. The card can be purchased from your hotel, at Tourist Information Offices (1st District, Kärntner Strasse 38, daily 9 a.m.-7 p.m.), at Vienna Transport (Wiener Linien) sales counters and at other information offices (Stephansplatz, Karlsplatz, Westbahnhof, Landstrasse/Wien Mitte) or prior to arrival with a credit card by telephoning 43-1-798 44 00-28.
Besides the Vienna Card, the following public transport tickets are available:
1. 24-hour ticket 50 AS ($5)
2. 72-hour ticket 130 AS ($12)
3. Single ride tickets (block of five) 85 AS ($8)
4. There are also four and eight-day ticket strips.
Here are examples of the discounts offered with the Vienna Card:
2. Schönbrunn Palace - to 21%
3. Schönbrunn: Zoo -22%
4. Museum of Fine Arts -to 22%
5. Imperial Apartments, Imperial Palace -21 %
6. Ethnological Museum, Imperial Palace -20 %
7. Austrian Gallery, Belvedere -16 %
8. Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) -20 %
9. Museum of Natural History -20%
10. Historical Museum, City of Vienna -50 %
11. Clock Museum -50 %
12. Museum of Military History -50 %
13. Kunsthaus Wien/Hundertwasser Museum - to 25 %
14. Kunsthalle Wien and Museum Quarter -30 %
15. Sigmund Freuds House -to 38 %
16. Academy of Fine Arts -33 %
1. Guided Walks in Vienna -20 %
2. Giant Ferris Wheel -20 %
3. Danube Tower -23 %
4. DDSG-Blue Danube-Schiffahrt, sight-seeing by boat -10 %
1. Konzerthaus -10 %
2. Volkstheater -10 %
3. Ronacher -10 %
4. Marionette Theater at Schönbrunn Palace -10 %
5. Vienna's Summer of Music -20 %
1. Department stores Steffl, Herzmansky, Gerngross, Stafa -10 %
2. Hübner watches and clocks -10%
3. Köchert Jewelry -10%
Staatsoper, Volksoper: For postal bookings not later than 3 weeks before the date of the performance write sterreichischer Bundestheaterverband, Hanuschgasse 3, A-1010 Wien. More info: fax 431/514 44-2969, tel. 431/514 44-2960
Theater an der Wien, Raimund Theater: Wien-Ticket, A-1060 Wien, Linke Wienzeile 6, fax 58830-33, Credit card: tel. 431/58885
Wiener Kammeroper: A-1010 Wien, Fleischmarkt 24, tel. 431/513 60 72, fax 431/512 44 48-46
Ronacher: Etablissement Ronacher, A-1010 Wien, Seilerstätte 9, tel. 514 02, fax 431/514 11-522 (Internet: http://www.ronacher.co.at/ronacher)
Performance Tickets On-line
Those with access to the Internet can purchase tickets on-line to more than 4800 Vienna cultural events from Carta Austria (http://w3.carta.co.at/carta/events/homepage_e.html). Pay with a credit card or mail a check. Tickets are mailed or can be picked up at Carta's Vienna office or at the box office just prior to performance.
The Vienna Tourist Office has all the opera, concert and theater schedules plus hotel and restaurant information. Some important parts are in German but it is nonetheless very useful.
Frau Monika Koppl charges 1,156 AS ($109) for three-hour tours for from two to 40 persons. Tel./fax 022/43 35960.
Blue Danube Radio
Radio broadcasts in English, 6 a.m. till 7 p.m., are heard on Blue Danube Radio, 103.8 MHz and 92.9 MHz in Vienna. Programs include news, regional information and a broad music selection.
Tax Free Shopping
In Austria, Value Added Tax (VAT) is included in the listed sales price. As a non-European Union citizen you can reclaim the VAT when you leave the European Union (EU). The VAT rate is 16.7 % of the sales price. Travelers that spend more than 1001 schillings (VAT included) at Europe Tax-free Shopping (ETS) affiliated stores are entitled to have up to 15.5 % of the sales price refunded.
Mozart Week 97
From March 23 through 29, at the Palais Palffy, members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra offer a blend of well-known "hits" and rarely heard Mozart chamber music. The Neue Wiener Barockensemble will perform the Mozart Requiem and a concert performance of the opera Il re Pastore at the Kölnzerthaus.
Tickets: Mozartwoche 97/Klangbogen, Laudongasse 29, A-1080 Vienna, tel. 1-4000-8410 (including credit card reservations), fax 1-4000-7217.
The Sound of Easter in Vienna
March 22 to April 1, 1997
The Vienna Philharmonic leads off this festival with the St. John Passion by J.S. Bach at the Musikverein. The finale is Mendelssohns St. Paul Oratorio performed by Camerata Academica. Events between include a concert of waltzes by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Schubert's Lazarus Oratorio and Wagner's opera Parsifal by the Vienna State Opera.
Order tickets beginning January 7 from: The Sound of Easter/Klangbogen, Laudongasse 29, A-1080 Vienna, tel. 1/4000-84 10, fax 1/4000-7217.
This website offers an extensive list of small Vienna cafés and restaurants. http://stud1.tuwien.ac.at/%7Ee9125830/lokale.htm
Another site contains a list of hikes around Vienna. Written in English by a native German speaker. (http://tph.tuwien.ac.at/~svozil/wan/wan.html)
The river boats of DDSG-Blue Danube Schiffart offer a number of river cruises, most are just a few hours in duration.
The Vienna-Dürnstein-Vienna trip operates Saturdays and Sundays costs 240 AS ($23). Kids under 10 travel free and at half price between 10 and 15 years of age. The boat departs the Vienna/Reichsbrücke station at 0900 and returns there at 8:15 p.m. There are stops at Nussdorf, Greifenstein, Tulln and Krems on the outbound leg and at Krems, Tulln and Nussdorf on the return.
Daytrips to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, depart at 7:15 a.m., return at 9:15 p.m. and cost 240 AS ($23) half price for children 6 to 15.
Also available are a number of evening cruises that get underway at 6:30 p.m. and end at 11 p.m. For example, the Candlelight Cruise on the Danube includes dinner, live dance music and a glass of champagne for 790 AS ($75) per person. Other evening dance cruises that do not include dinner start at 200 AS ($19).
Contact: DDSG-Blue Danube Schiffahrt Handelskai 265, A-1020 Vienna, tel. 0222/272 50, fax 0222/727 50440.
* Hofmann, Paul. The Viennese: Splendor, Twilight and Exile. Doubleday, 1988
* Morton, Frederic. Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914. MacMillan, 1989
* Scherman, Thomas K. & Biancolli, Louis. The Beethoven Companion. Doubleday, 1972