Vienna mit Schlag

On a sunny Saturday we headed to Heathrow to board our 9 am flight to Vienna. We had purchased tickets on Austrian Air, but somehow I opted for economy light tickets.  I’m still not quite sure how that happened, but it was akin to a low budget ticket where everything had to be paid for separately, none of it could be done online, and it was highly frustrating.  First bit of advice- steer clear of the economy light ticket option!


The flight was uneventful and before we knew it we were on the way to the Hotel Sacher  The airport is very close to the city center, with the ride taking us only 30 minutes.  Our driver was very enthusiastic about Vienna, and was proud to tell us that for the second year in a row Vienna was voted the most liveable city in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.  After our four day stay, I think I believe it.  

We had decided to stay at the Hotel Sacher not only for its historic significance, but also its location, and of course the famous Sacher Torte.


The exterior may look sedate, but just to the left of the entrance is a line of tourists at all times waiting for a taste of the torte.  The interiors definitely transport you to a different time.


We booked our room with  our Virtuoso travel agent, and while we almost always are assured an upgrade, in this case the hotel was quite crowded.  There were no upgrades available on the first night of our stay, so the front desk asked if we would be okay changing rooms tomorrow.  That sounded fine.

We were shown up to our room for the first night, and it certainly could benefit from a little sprucing up.  Because my son and I were traveling together I had requested a room with two double beds.  We were certainly cozy;  and anxious to upgrade the next day.


The bathroom was nice, but small.


The view of the Opera house was lovely though.


We didn’t waste much time, and set out to explore.  We were once again blessed with incredible weather.  Vienna is really a beautiful, and immaculately maintained city.  The ever present horses add to the charm.


Our first stop was Zum Schwarzen Kameel, or the Black Camel, an Art Nouveau treasure that is a classic Viennese watering hole with a constant scene and tasty light offerings to eat and drink.



Upon arrival it is a bit confusing. I believe you  reserve ahead inside, but the outside tables seem to be first come first served.  We lurked around a few tables which looked like they were finishing up, but alas, most folks seem to linger.  Ultimately, we grabbed a table inside.  There is also the option of ordering sandwiches yourself, or ordering off the menu.  We did a little of each.  My son got an assortment of open faced sandwiches, letting the woman at the counter choose what she thought were the tastiest. I ordered a salad off the menu.


You certainly can’t beat the atmosphere.


The sandwiches in the background include chopped egg, smoked salmon, a lentil salad with mayonnaise and red cabbage with tuna fish.



The food was not outstanding,  but we were glad we stopped in.


Our first taste of Viennese coffee was a good sign.  They take their brews very seriously.


We paid our bill and set off for Apple Strudel at Demel , a Viennese pastry shop that dates back to the late 1700’s.


The interiors are beautiful, and you feel as though you are transported back in time.


A souvenir from Demel is the thing to bring home, if you don’t eat it yourself first.


We perused the cases, and decided on the Strudel and a Macaron (to go).


Both items were lovely to behold, but unfortunately were a bit dry.  We regretted not ordering the Strudel mit schlag.


We sat outside this gorgeous bank to consume our treats, and then set out again for exploration.


There are stunning Art Nouveau details everywhere, and no shortage of impressive monuments and breathtaking architecture.




We explored what seemed like every inch of the center of town on foot.  It is a very compact center, and immensely walkable.  We felt satisfied with our preview, and our exercise level so we went back to the hotel to change for dinner.

We had booked a table at Mraz & Sohn, and were very much looking forward to it.  Mraz & Sohn is a two star Michelin restaurant with a relaxed air and sense of humor.  The other temple of gastronomy in Vienna is Steirereck, which seemed a bit more serious, so we went with Mraz, and were not disappointed.


We arrived early for our 8 pm reservation, and got a shot of the empty dining room.  It filled up just as we were seated. The atmosphere is very modern and spare, which allows  the food to be the star.


After we took our seats we were offered a preview of the ingredients that would be used in the dinner.  I had ordered a vegetarian tasting menu, and my son went with the normal set menu. In both cases we would receive 15 courses.


I won’t inundate you with photos of every dish we had, but suffice it to say the selections were both beautiful and delicious.  This was my smashed cucumber salad.


Tiny melon cucumbers with coconut radish sauce.


The leek noodles with Emmenthaler cheese sauce and leek oil may have been one of my favorite dishes.


Grilled cauliflower with hazelnut satay sauce was excellent. The vegetarian tasting menus are often a study in creativity- and also don’t make you feel like you are going to explode after dinner!


The selection of cheeses were stellar.  They were ripened to perfection, and if you look to the far right of the selection you will see the stinkiest of stinky choices.  Irresistible!


We were on to palate cleansing with a pineapple apple sorbet served in the apple.


A layered apricot surprise was also refreshing.


The tea service was like something out of a chemistry lab.


With the bill we were given a grab bag of treats to bring home, including a clear message to legalize pot.  As we hoped, the restaurant did not take itself seriously, but the food they presented was absolutely perfect.  Each course was delectable and creative.  We loved this meal and would absolutely recommend it.


We tumbled into our cozy beds and went right to sleep, ready for the next day.  We were scheduled to meet out guide at 9:30 am, so we set our alarm to give us plenty of time to enjoy the hotel breakfast.  The Sacher is justifiably proud of their breakfast service.  The buffet is very extensive.


This is just a mere fraction of the offerings.


My favorite, the nut and seed bar.


The coffee was eye opening and piping hot- just perfect.


My breakfast, saving up for later.


My son’s breakfast (just kidding, sort of).  The highlight of breakfast at the Sacher is to be able to help yourself to as much of their famous Sacher Torte as you would like, mit schlag!  You avoid the lines, and the tourists, and can just go to town.  The torte is very chocolatey, and a bit dry.  The dryness is taken care of by the mounds of whipped cream (schlag).  The schlag is also very beneficial to coffee or hot chocolate.


We had packed up the room before we headed for breakfast in anticipation of them moving our things while we were gone.  At 9:30 we headed to the lobby to meet our guide for the day.  We had a very ambitious itinerary, and hoped to fit a lot in.  A good guide can really make a trip, while a bad guide can be disastrous.  Thankfully this guide was worth every penny.  We found him through our travel agent, who has used him many times before.

Our first stop was to see Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze at the Secession.  As an aside, a fabulous novel to read before a trip to see Klimt’s masterpieces in Vienna is Stolen Beauty.


The Secession is a spectacular biulding.  I am a huge fan of Klimt, so seeing the Beethoven Frieze in person, and immersing myself in all the nuance was really a thrill.





If you are unfamiliar with this work of art, you can learn more about it here. Literally we could have spent a couple of hours on just this work, but we had lots more to see.

The famous Naschmarkt  is just outside the Secession, so we paid a visit to the bustling market and refueled with a quick pastry.  It was laden down with poppy seeds, and very tasty.


We worked our way from monument to monument, getting background on some of Vienna’s more illustrious residents.

Maria Theresa

We paid a visit to the Art Museum to see some of the masterpieces, including Canova’s Theseus and the Cenatur.


Kaiser Franz Joseph is the person to thank for this stunning Art Museum.


As you would expect, there are an exceptional number of treasures housed in this museum.  We had a terrific overview from our guide Gabe.

The Four Element by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer

Just when our heads couldn’t absorb another thing we stopped for lunch in the very genteel museum cafe.  After lunch we headed over to the State Hall in the  Austrian National Library  It is a showstopper!  As the story goes, it is the inspiration for the library in Beauty and the Beast.





It really is a sight to behold.  We weren’t sure what could top this, but we found something.  After the library we went to view the Hapsburg crown jewels in the Imperial Treasury.  They were truly jaw dropping.

We arrived here just 20 minutes before closing, so we did the abbreviated  tour.  While we were unable to linger, we did absorb the full impact of all the riches.




It was not just about 6pm, and we had tickets to the Opera, so we said our goodbyes to Gabe, and thanked him for an incredibly informative and entertaining day.  We hope to be able to book him again in the future.  We sped back to ur hotel to get changed, and check out our new suite!


When we arrived back we were given the keys to our new room and were were assured our bags had  made the move earlier in the day.  That was a relief since we had about 5 minutes to change as we were meeting friends for drinks before the Opera,

We entered our room and were very happy with  our new accommodations, but….no luggage!  This was annoying, but a call to the desk quickly remedied the situation.





Under time pressure, we transformed quickly from tired tourists to Opera Lovers!  we had a quick drink in the Hotel’s Bleu bar- a very atmospheric setting, and then headed across the street to the Opera House.  Our location couldn’t be more convenient for Opera Buffs.

We had purchased tickets (online, and with ease) to an Opera we were told was very lighthearted and relatively short! We were to see L’Elisir D’Amore (The Elixir of Love).  While we are not Opera Buffs, we thought we couldn’t visit Vienna without experiencing the Staatsoper Wien 

The Opera House itself was very ornate and visually impressive.  The acoustics are celebrated all the world over.


It was Saturday night, and every seat was filled.


As an added bonus, each seat had electronic subtitles so we could be sure to follow the story onstage.


The Opera was indeed quite entertaining.  We were very glad we had gone.  When it ended at 9:45 we were  hungry, and so quickly made a reservation at the nearby Plachuttas Gasthouszur Oper literally a 5 minute walk form the Staatshoper.  The restaurant was packed, we weren’t the only ones craving Schnitzel.


I decided to stay on the light side, ordering Salmon trout tartere and cucumber salad (with sour cream), while my son ordered the Wiener Schnitzel and potato salad.  This was not meant to be a leisurely meal.  Within minutes we had our dinner set before us.


My meal was not too bad.  I tried to order the healthiest option on the menu, and I think I succeeded.


The Schnitzel was also not too bad.  I had heard this was the most classic Schnitzel in Vienna, but I find that a bit hard to believe.  It was adequate.  Not outstanding in presentation or taste.


Satiated, we headed back to sleep.  We had had an outstanding day. On Sunday morning we woke up to another full agenda.  The first order of business was a light breakfast.



Another slice of Sacher Torte and some sausage. Why not?  The drink on the right is what is left of a smoothie, which balanced out the butter and fat.


All fueled up, we headed towards the Belvedere Palace, which houses an incredible collection of art, and the world’s largest collection of works by Klimt.  The Palace itself, as well as the grounds, are breathtaking.

The entrance to the collection



We were advised to get there early in order to avoid the crowds flocking to see The Kiss.  We did just that.  We booked our tickets at 10am, and were successful in being able to admire this work of art without throngs of people around us.  It is truly beyond description.


There were many other works by Klimt, as well as other masterpieces.

Adam and Eve

I really enjoyed seeing Jacque Louis David’s Napoleon at the St. Bernard Pass.


After about two hours we headed towards the Albertina Museum  which is currently showcasing the works of Albrecht Durer.  The show is well worth seeing.


Albrercht Durer was an engraver with no equal.  The detail on his works is staggering.


There is also an extensive permanent collection of Modernist art which is really impressive.  If you are an art lover, Vienna really will not disappoint.  We had devoured lots of art, but now our stomachs told us it was time to devour lunch.


We walked to Cafe Landtmann, an institution since 1873.  We were lucky enough here to score the perfect outside corner table.  The restaurant was full, with a combination of tourists and locals.


We could have spent hours here admiring the scenery and people watching.


The menu was brief, but the illustrated guide to pastries and coffee was especially helpful.





We enjoyed one Ubersturtzer Neumann (Schlag!!) and a Haferlkaffee as we decided what to eat.


We really enjoyed studying this menu.  After much deliberation I chose the Landtmann Kugel- an orb of chocolate mousse hidden away in GLUTEN FREE spongecake, encircled with apricot jam and marzipan, and then rolled in cocoa.  Dreamy! My son stuck with the Strudel.



I bided my time with the salad, waiting for dessert.  My son had goulash which he deemed to be excellent.


So Good!
The best Strudel yet
All gone

We really enjoyed Cafe Landtmann. The service was very professional, the setting was glorious, and the food (and pastry) did not disappoint.  We liked this better than Zum Schwartzen Kameel.

We had heard excellent things about the Natural History Museum, so that was our next stop.


This museum was truly remarkable.  Their collection is so extensive and all encompassing.  It seems as though there is no creature or element that has been left out.  The interior is dazzling as well.


From dinosaurs to butterflies to weird looking fish, there is something for everyone.




We spent two hours here, but could easily have spent more if we had more time. As it was, it was approaching closing time, so we walked back towards our hotel.   Before we got to the hotel though, we had to stop at Bitzinger’s for a wurst.  They are reputed to have the best of the wurst in all of Vienna.



My son decided to try the Kasekrainer mit brod , it was a very hearty snack.


This sausage was very hot and the meat was studded with Emmenthaler cheese.  When you take a bite the cheese comes oozing out.  It was quite something to behold.  It was also really good.  He only ate half as we had another big dinner planned.


After about an hour to digest the sausage, we were on our way to dinner at Apron.  Apron is so innovative yet approachable.  Their food is a balance of playfulness and professionalism, as is their service.  I think it is still somewhat of an upstart in Vienna, but it was outstanding.


You can order a la carte, or go with a set menu.  We opted for the 5 course tasting, and they incorporated our (my) dietary restrictions in with no problem.


The restaurant is justifiably proud of their staff.


They are on display throughout the meal, almost like a theatrical performance.



The raw milk butter and sourdough bread with carrot and sunflower seeds (I had my own gluten free bead) was accompanied by a candle made of nut butter.  As it melted you are meant to dip your bread in the melted nut butter combined with parsley juice on the bottom.  It may sound weird but it was delicious, and fun!


This dish was called Red Beet Flower with Szechuan Snow, it was sweet and savory and crunchy and icy.


These delicacies  were beet skins filled with goat cheese


The food’s beauty was on par with some of the artwork we saw during the day.


These scallops were sublime, and the purple sauce only added to it.



On to the cheese course! Another array of dairy delights.


The cheeses were complimented with local nuts and honeys.  There was not a drop left.


Next came a convoy of desserts, each one a pleasure.




Dinner at Apron was a gastronomic thrill.  We loved everything about this restaurant, the food and presentation, the service and the relatively low price.  I hope it receives the acclaim it deserves.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.  After a very leisurely three hour dinner, we walked back to the hotel.

Monday was our last day in Vienna.  We had a 5 pm flight back to London, so we were able to secure a late checkout and squeeze in one more activity.  We had planned a food tour with Vienna Urban Adventures.   Our tour was led by Wolffi and another gentleman who was somewhat new to the company.  They were both very knowledgable and personable.  There were 10 other guests who we met at St. Stephen’s Cathedral at about 9:30 am.  Soon after introductions we hopped on the train to head to one of the districts out of the city center.  I am not generally a public transport person, but it was clean and easy to navigate.


Our first stop was Groissbock Cafe.  We were able to sit outside while Wolffi ordered coffees and treats for us to try.


The coffee was served with a generous serving of Schlag.


The specialty of the house were donuts called Krapfen.  They were light and airy and not overly sweet.



There were cakes to try, as well as their version of strudel.  It wasn’t the best example we tasted.


After about 45 minutes at Groissbock ( a bit too long) we went to a very local food market filled with gorgeous vegetables.  There were loads of mushrooms, as the season had just begun.



The market was filled with locals gathering their provisions.  Everything looked tempting, though we didn’t taste too much.  We continued on to a wurst stand where we were able to try a couple of different wursts along with freshly grated horseradish and spicy mustard. We also got a taste of an herbal soda called Almdudler  which is hugely popular in Austria, and  was really good.




We did some more walking after lunch, with no real destination except towards the bus.  This food tour was different than others I have taken in that a lot of the time was spent walking, and not actually eating or learning about local cuisine.  It was a bit frustrating.  We finally ended up at the bus stop.

Our guide Wolffi

Our destination was a food stand that specialized in goulash and roast pork.  It had an excellent reputation, and there were many people who seemed like they were regulars who were eating there.  We ate outside, standing up, which was fun.  The proprietor took great care in the preparation of his daily specials.




My son said the food was excellent.  Because I am not eating meat, Wolffi got me a plate of really excellent falafel from the food stand next door.  I was happy!


Everything was washed down with Sturm with is available only in the fall after the harvest.  It is basically fermented grape juice, or unfinished wine.  It is low in alcohol, and delicious.  It comes in both red and white varieties.  We preferred the red.


Our last stop was a Turkish restaurant called Kent.  We stopped here for tea and some traditional breads.  IMG_1105.jpeg


It was pleasant sitting outside in their garden, but I’m not really sure how it fit in with Viennese food.  There was one more stop for ice cream, but we had to go gather our bags and head to the airport.  The Urban Adventure tour would receive a B- if I was assigning it a grade.  It was slightly subpar as far as food tours go.  We were not unhappy we went, but I don’t think I would recommend it.

Our trip had come to a close, a lucky thing since I don’t know if we could eat anymore.  We did stop in to the fabulous Julius Meinl food store on our way back to the hotel to admire their offerings.  The people who use it as their neighborhood market are really fortunate.


We adored Vienna.  It is a fabulous 4 day excursion, and we easily could have ventured further into Austria if we had more time.  If you love art, food, and history, you will be in heaven.  One bit of advice:  shed some weight in anticipation of your visit.  This is not a lo-cal destination.



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