Culture and coffee in romantic Vienna

If you enter the words “elegance” and “romance” into Google, there’s a good chance the answer will be “Vienna”.

Throw in sophistication, culture, history and coffee houses and you’re getting close to the charm of the Austrian capital on the Danube.


A cityscape characterised by magnificent baroque buildings has something for everyone – from outstanding museums and galleries; striking palaces; a famous opera house; and the gothic Stephansdom, or St Stephen’s Cathedral.

Culture oozes from the cobblestones  walked at times by the likes of Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart and Haydn.

Today, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  is world famous, as is the Vienna Boys Choir.

Stunning Schoenbrunn Palace – with its Gloriette monument, maze; Palm House and zoo –  is recognised instantly, as is the eye-opening Hofburg Imperial Palace.


And tucked between the famous buildings is the quaint Vienna beloved by the locals, with coffee houses, tea rooms and wine taverns standing side-by-side with modern restaurants and shops.

Whatever your taste, Vienna is a feel-good city.  The uniquely Viennese charm is the perfect medicine for whatever ails you.

You lose your breath at the beauty of Italy; you marvel at the grandeur of London; you glow at the romance of Paris; and you sway to the beat of New York City.

In Vienna,  you feel a better person just for visiting.







Romance Vienna

Take a sneak peek at Weiner Staatsoper

If you are visiting Vienna, make sure you find time to visit the city’s grand opera house, which hosts  one of Europe’s most glittering social events each year.

In February, the internationally-renowned Vienna Opera Ball is  staged – an event that attracts visitors from around the world, notably prominent names in business, show-business and politics.


The red carpet event, which is deemed the epitome of Ball culture, is more than years old.

However, you don’t need to attend the annual Ball to appreciate the magnificent Weiner Staatsoper, a 146-year-old building located on Vienna’s Ringstrasse Boulevard.


We toured the building on our last visit – and were enthralled by the stately stone exterior and the neo-renaissance style inside.

A highlight of the interior is an area known as the Tea Salon, which was formerly the Emperor’s Salon.


The ceiling and walls of the former Imperial Box are decorated with 22 carat gold leaf.

We were also shown sculptures, magnificent wall embroideries from the Giani studio, and tapestries bearing the initials of former Emperor Franz Joseph I.

The 120-metre intermission halls are also particularly striking and connect to frame the sweeping main staircase.

Originally called the Weiner Hofopen or Vienna Court Opera, the building was renamed in 1920 when the Hapsburg Monarchy gave way to the First Republic of Austria.


Damaged by World War II bombing, the Staatsoper was rebuilt to its former glory by 1955.

We were told that the opera house is one of the busiest in the world, producing about 300 performances a year – broken down into 50 to 60 operas and 10 ballet shows.

The main performance hall holds 2,100 and there is a giant screen on an outside wall designed to bring opera to the masses outside. Weiner Staatsoper is also known for its emphasis on providing music theatre and training for children.


Naturally, such a prestigious opera house has featured many big named, including appearances by Maria Callas, Christa Ludwig, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras and Luciano Pavarotti.

Vienna Vienna Opera House

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.


Clock watching: where to see the best

Regardless of whether they’re majestic, historic or just plain quirky, the world’s best known clocks keep pulling in the visitors.

Here’s a list of some of the best we’ve seen. Let us know which beauties DSCN0727we’ve missed.

Big Ben

Obviously, the daddy of all clocks is this one in London, England.

Nick-named ‘Big Ben’ this is said to be the biggest four-faced clock in the world. The tower at the Houses of Parliament was built in 1858.

These days, you can get a great view of Big Ben from the London Eye, on the opposite bank of the River Thames.

Prague Astronomical ClockIMG_0178

Almost as famous, this is a medieval astronomical clock in the capital of the Czech Republic.

First installed in 1410, the clock is the third eldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one that is still working.

Mounted on the wall of the city hall in Prague’s Old Town, the clock or Orioj, features an hourly parade of figurines known as the ‘Walk of the Apostles’.

A skeleton representing death strikes the time.

The Eastgate clock, Chester UKP1010001

This clock and gateway mark an entrance to the original  Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.

The Chester landmark is believed to be the most photographed clock in England behind Big Ben.

The original East gate was guarded by a timber tower, which was replaced by stone in the 2nd century.

Today’s gate dates from 1768 and the clock was added in 1899 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier.

World clock, Copenhagen, DenmarkDSCN0784

Jen Olsen’s World Clock or Verdensur is an astronomical clock in the Copenhagen City Hall.

Dating to 1955,  this clock boasts 12 movements and more than 14,000 parts.

Displays on the world clock include lunar and solar eclipses, position of stellar bodies and a perpetual calendar.

The Anker clock, Vienna, AustriaSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Known as the Ankeruhr, this colourful clock  was designed in 1911 and completed three years later.

It shows the time by moving different historical figures across the clock face every hour.

The best time of day to see this clock is noon, when all the figures are on display.

Vienna’s Anker clock is located in the Hoher Markt.

Grand Central Station, New York, USAIMG_0139

This four-metre (13 foot) clock decorates the facade of Grand Central Rail Station facing 42nd Street.

The clock is a popular landmark and meeting place for New Yorkers and has appeared in many movies and television shows.

It is the world’s biggest collection of Tiffany glass.

The Corpus Christi Clock, Cambridge UK

Located in the British university city of Cambridge, this clock is certainly eye-catching.images

Opened in 2008, the clock is called the Chronophage, which means ‘Time Eater’ in Greek.

If the gold-coloured disc doesn’t catch your attention, the big grasshopper certainly will

The grasshopper moves around the disc, gobbling up time right before your eyes.

World Time Clock, Berlin, Germany

Standing10 metres tall, the World Time clock is also a popular meeting point in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.Weltzeituhr or Worldtime Clock, Berlin

It features a revolving cylinder with the world’s 24 time zones. The current time in each zone is visible.

The clock is topped by a model of the solar system, which revolves once a minute.


Other notable clock that we’ve seen, but not photographed, include Saint Mark’s clock at Venice and the Olympic Torch and Clocktower at Barcelona, Catalonia.

We’ve been told that the Santa Maria Cathedral clock in Comayague, Honduras is well worth seeing and the said to be the oldest functioning clock in the Americas. Love to hear your thoughts.

Europe Scandinavia US

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