Vienna is one of those cities perfect for a weekend escape. Its timeless history, grandiose architecture, and never-ending array of things to do makes it an equally enjoyable holiday destination for first-time visitors and more seasoned travelers. A rich cultural history that dates from the Habsburg empire’s rule since the 1300s up until the end of World War I has left a lasting impact on the city’s architecture, design, and appreciation for art.
What to see
Art and culture is as much a way of life in Vienna as it is an inspiration for all the creative entrepreneurs, budding musicians, and students that call the city home. The city’s most important area, the MuseumsQuartier, is home to around 70 different cultural facilities including restaurants, cafés, and shops in addition to the classic museums. A plaza bridges two of the city’s most iconic museums: the Leopold Museum on one side, and the mumok enclosed in an imposing grey block.
Inside the Leopold Museum, you’ll find some of Austria’s masterpieces, including the largest Schiele collection in the world and many of Gustav Klimt’s most iconic works. The mumok is an important institution for contemporary and modern art with all the essentials from Picasso to Warhol and Vienna Actionism, and the museum features regular exhibitions showcasing young and emerging artists.
Art isn’t just in museums, though; you’ll find it in shops and on the streets, especially on Vienna’s main shopping streets along the Goldenes Quartier and Kohlmarkt—hotspots for the rich and famous, and all the luxury brands that accommodate them. Look for more edgy fashion along Praterstaße on the other side of the river or near the Naschmarkt. (Check out Meshit for a fun, local fashion label by Austrian designers Ida Steixner and Lena Krampf.)
Where to dine
Any local expert will tell you the best schnitzel in Vienna is at Figlmüller Wollzeile. A cavernous collection of rooms decorated floor to ceiling with bric-a-brac and wood paneling, it’s a classic Viennese restaurant that’s always busy yet somehow able to squeeze you in. A few blocks uphill, though, is the far smaller Schachtelwirtrestaurant—a one-room bistro serving local craft beers and a weekly changing menu of hipster Austrian street food.
No one does coffee quite like they do in Vienna. It’s most often served on a platter with a small cup of water. And in typical Viennese fashion, the historic cafes are most often over-the-top elegant with plush seating, rich hardwood interiors and high ceilings. Café Museum is a classic—the same place where artist Gustav Klimt used to take his coffee, while Leon Trotsky and Sigmund Freud used to take their coffee at Café Central.
These days, the bohemians, entrepreneurs and creatives of Vienna get their coffee at any number of cafés and pop-up shops. Same quality, different surroundings. Supersense serves top-quality coffee alongside vinyl and instant photo equipment.
Where to party
With all the coffee they drink in Vienna, it’s no surprise the nights run long, too. Most of Vienna’s gay nightlife takes place around the Naschmarkt, an equally interesting area by daylight when restaurants and cafés open alongside florists and fresh produce. Keep an eye out for the famous year-round same-sex crossing signals, a sign of the area’s place in Vienna’s LGBT life.
A good night out starts at Felixx or Village Bar for top-quality cocktails, cute locals and an ambient atmosphere perfect for dates or casual conversation. Later in the night, one of Vienna’s oldest gay clubs Why Not still attracts a mixed crowd each weekend with its three dance floors of wide-ranging music and free entry before midnight.
Where to stay
Vienna’s dedication to art and design extends beyond its museums and galleries. The trendy 25hours hotel brand has a longstanding reputation in central Europe for social and friendly atmospheres. A rooftop bar and unique designs in each room make it the type of place perfect for repeat visits, and its spectacular location is within walking distance of the MuseumsQuartier.
The ARCOTEL Kaisserwasser, though slightly outside of the city center, offers picturesque views from its rooftop spa and wellness center. A trip into the city is just a handful of metro stops away, and the ARCOTEL’s simple but appealing design make it an affordable option for a quick weekend break.