Lay of the Land
“Vienna wasn't just a city, it was a tone that either one carries forever in one's soul or one does not. It was the most beautiful thing in my life.”~Sándor Márai, Embers
Vienna has 23 districts (Bezirke), and its snail-like layout reminds one of Paris. The Historic Center of the city is in the first district, where the Sacher hotel and the Albertina are located (until the mid-19th century, the first district made up the entire city). It is encircled by the Ringstrasse, a wide, leafy boulevard, which snakes past a wealth of glorious buildings that reflect architectural styles from the Baroque to the present. Vienna is a small-enough city that most everything in the Historic Center can be reached on foot.
Other interesting districts include 6 (Mariahilf) and 7 (Josephstadt), where many of Vienna’s designers have their boutiques. These districts are located just west of the Museumsquarter. The Danube forms the northeastern border of the first district, but across the river sits the up-and-coming Leopoldstadt (2nd district), which is home to some excellent boutique shops, restaurants and the storied market. The Sofitel, which sits right on the Danube, draws locals and visitors to its acclaimed restaurant and bar on the top floor with great views.
Indagare Tip: The official Web site of the Vienna Tourist Board (www.info.wien.at) is comprehensive, helpful and updated often. You’ll find articles on everything from history to emerging design districts, as well as up-to-date information about opening hours and special events.
When to Go
Vienna hosts one of the world’s best Christmas markets, which run from the middle of November until Christmas, and the city is exceptionally festive during this time. The ball season is in January and February, when hundreds of fairy tale–like balls are held most nights over a series of about two months. Spring and fall are lovely seasons in Vienna and while the summer does not get too hot, it is important to note that many cultural institutions like the opera and concert halls are shuttered in the dog days. To make up for this, it seems, charming and trendy waterfront bars and dining eateries have popped up along the Danube Canal that offer lovely warm-weather distractions.
Staff Quotable: “Whenever I visit Vienna, I am impressed by the city’s ability to balance its history with a vibrant contemporary scene. You can see incredible art and architecture but there are also cool restaurants and shops, and new neighborhoods are constantly popping up. And the food – the city is one of Europe’s most underrated in terms of restaurants. I dream of lunch at Meierei, and it’s always my first stop when I go back.” ~Simone Girner, Creative Director