Dodging Vienna’s crowds unearths some gems

Dodging the peak season crowds at Vienna, Austria, can be quiet an art.

But, if you do a little exploring, there are some real gems in this most elegant of cities.


Hofburg Imperial Palace

One of Vienna’s finest attractions is the Hofburg Imperial Palace, with its striking architecture, statues and stables harking back to the luxury of the Hapsburg Empire.

Reluctant to join busy organised tours of the palace rooms, we wandered instead around the cobblestone square and spied the Cafe Hofburg near one of the main gates.


Courtyard Hofburg Imperial Palace

A quick check on Trip Advisor and we settled in for coffee and Apfelstrudel, as grand as any we’ve tasted in Austria.

It was the perfect way to chill and avoid the bustle.hofburg-cafe

Likewise with the Naschmarkt, a popular shopping/market area just outside Vienna’s Inner City.

We spent some time there, but finally escaped to quieter side streets, where we were delighted to come upon Crossfield’s Australian Pub, on Maysedgasse 5.

What a place!

The pub not only serves typical Australian fare – including kangaroo burgers – but also boasts drinks such as ‘Kakadu Ale’ and the exotically-named ‘Snake Bite’, which we discovered was a ‘middy’ (about 285ml) of cider, accompanied by a middy of Forsters beer and raspberry.


Crossfield’s Australian Pub

Each ‘Snake Bite’ cost a little more than five Euros and certainly had a different taste.

Viennese cuisine is exceptional and the city boasts some of the finest restaurants you’ll ever encounter.

We’ve tried traditional Wiener schnitzel (veal coated in breadcrumbs and fried) followed by Millirahmstrudel (milk-cream strudel) but, when last in Vienna, we fell back on an old ploy called ‘follow the locals’.

Vienna university is located in the inner city and – knowing that students are usually able to sniff out a good, cheap meal – we followed a group of students to a small licenced cafe in the shadows of St Stephen’s Cathedral.


Traditional Apfelstrudel

There, we were able to get a hearty meal, accompanied by a few ales, for a particularly good price.

This ploy is thoroughly recommended. We’ve even eaten at university canteens, where the cost is usually very low.

Another shopping area in Vienna that is popular with tourists is the MariahilferstaBe.

We avoid the crowds by heading for the Raimundhof Passage, a cute little walkway that yields some lovely shops and destinations known mainly to the locals.

One of our favourite stops down the passage is Sir Hardy’s Tea, an olde world tearoom that serves some awesome brews.

Again, we thoroughly recommend.


Review: Hotel de France, Vienna

Right in the heart of romantic Vienna on the Danube sits the truly memorable five-star Hotel de France.

Located on the famous Ringstrasse, one of the most striking boulevards in the world, the hotel offers a high standard of luxurious accommodation and facilities close to transport and sightseeing attractions.

With a history that stretches back to the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna, the Hotel de SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESFrance is part of the Gerstner Imperial Hotels and Residences Group, known for providing high quality accommodation in iconic buildings and setting across Austria and the Czech Republic.

Grand foyer

The luxury and elegance of the Hotel de France is obvious the minute you arrive.

Visitors step into a grand foyer, bathed in warm light and exquisite furnishings.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

And the first impressions continue throughout the hotel, which boasts 194 rooms and suites decorated in quality traditional and modern styles.

Efficient and warm welcome

On arrival for our stay, we were greeted warmly by reception staff, who booked us in quickly and efficiently.

Without asking, we were given a map of central Vienna; shown the location of major attractions; and given information about the nearby light rail, metro railway, shopping and banking districts.


Our room contained all the luxury and facilities that you expect at a five-star hotel, wrapped in old world charm.

Bright, large and spacious yet insulated from street noise, the room was perfect for recharging the batteries after a long flight.

A superbly comfortable bed beckoned, preceded by a long soak in the bathtub, which was complete with snuggly bathrobes and slippers.

The room was also fitted with satellite TV and a tea/coffee-maker and there was free wifi and plenty of power points for recharging phones, an electric razor and our iPad.

Now that’s a breakfast!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

One of the highlights of our visit to the Hotel de France was the high quality breakfast included in our room rate.

Rarely have I seen such a variety of food on offer at a buffet breakfast – including a huge range of fresh fruit and cheeses – and the friendly staff were on hand to top-up your coffee cup as often as required.

Location, location, location

The Hotel de France is well located to view the stunning city of Vienna.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Trams glide past the front of the hotel on the city’s efficient light rail network, while there is an underground station almost across the street.

Newcomers to Vienna often marvel at the city’s sparkling clean and modern rail system.

The stations almost shine; rail routes are colour-coded for ease of use and – like many European metro systems – there are remarkably sleek and steep escalators descending to the underground platforms.


A short stroll to sights

The Hotel de France is only a short walk to some of Vienna’s most striking buildings, including the city’s university which was inaugurated in 1884 and St Stephen’s Cathedral, widely regarded as Austria’s most eminent Gothic edifice.

An incredible sight in daylight, Stephansdom is lit by brightly-coloured spotlights at night, creating a rippling rainbow effect over the stone towers and walls.

A glass of wine and thee

After a day of sightseeing and dinner in one of the world’s most romantic and inspirational cities, there’s nothing more relaxing than sipping a good wine in the Hotel de France’s  Atrium Bar.

Also stylishly furnished with warm lighting, the bar features piano music and offers views of the glass-covered atrium.

Take a bow Hotel de France for providing classy and luxurious accommodation with more than a dash of traditional Viennese hospitality in one of the most memorable destinations on the planet.

Was the hotel difficult to reach?

No.  Vienna has a highly efficient public transport system and  the Hotel de France is on a major street in the centre of the city.

See how to get there.

Would I return?

Certainly.  I don’t see how anyone could become weary of Vienna – and the quality, professionalism and charm of the Hotel de France only adds to that experience.

Read more about the hotel and see how to make a reservation.

Exterior photo of hotel courtesy of Hotel de France

European hotels