Amidst all my recent travels — from Las Vegas to Lisbon — Vienna really surprised me. From the streetside eats to the Michelin-starred dining experiences, the Austrian capital city is packed with tremendous food that is prepared with tremendous care. Here are several of my favorite places to eat while in the city.
If you're visiting Vienna, you should stay at Hotel MOTTO. It's a charming hotel right in the middle of everything. The staff are friendly and helpful and the room is just incredible. So much thought is put into every detail; for instance, instead of a mini bar, you have a cocktail-making station. The blankets were super fluffy and warm, which I appreciated. Oh, and bonus: it's air conditioned!
On the top floor of Hotel MOTTO is Chez Bernard, a restaurant you shouldn't sleep on. Hotel restaurants in the States aren't always all that, but it's a different ballpark at nice hotels in Europe. Chez Bernard is teeming with guests, no matter the time of day. And the patrons aren't just hotel guests. People hold business meetings, dates and friendly get-togethers here. The large circular bar offers a great view, and the cocktails are pretty good, too. The food is great, and the service is even better.
For breakfast, try one of the restaurant's signature juice blends — perhaps the Pick Me Up, made with carrot, apple, orange, lemon, linseed oil and agave — and maybe one of their delectable crêpes. The dinner menu offers options ranging from salmon tartare to Braised Artichoke "Noir," served with a poached egg, potato mousseline and brioche croutons.
Expert tip: Make sure to make a reservation, even for breakfast, and do it when you book, not when you get there. This restaurant is popular!
For an on-the-go iconic snack, you need to swing by the Bitzinger Wurstelstand. This is definitely a touristy spot, buzzing with action as people speaking a wide range of languages wait in line. It's conveniently located near the Opera and other hot spots for travelers. Your options are simple: Bratwurst, Currywurst, Käsekrainer or Burenwurst. The signs are in German, so if you don't speak the language, it's best to come prepared with your order to avoid delaying the line. The food is easily eaten standing at the counter or high-top table outside the stand. Bring cash because they do not accept credit cards and be sure to get a bottle of water to avoid having to wait in line a second time when you realize the salty snack requires a reprieve.
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Inside the five-star luxury Palais Hansen Kempinski hotel is a one Michelin-star restaurant, Edvard. The restaurant is a beautifully bright space with white walls, a dark floor, white tablecloths and dark chairs. Before our meal started, the main ingredients were brought to the table for display and a carefully detailed explanation. Each course has a focal point, with ingredients celebrated in multiple different forms and nothing is quite what it seems.
For example, the butter that came with the bread looked like olives, but was actually butter. Our second course celebrated asparagus, making it the star of the show and bringing in three different variations, white, green and wild, as well as an "asparagus," which wasn't actually asparagus but made to look like one. Every course was very intricate and really looked to challenge your thinking about each ingredient and food in general. Definitely worth a visit!
Expert tip: Make a day of it and visit the Palais Hansen Kempinski spa. Equipt with a host of amenities, including hydrotherapy, saunas and steam rooms, it's the perfect place to unwind and recharge before dinner. The robes are very small, so if you're a bigger person like me, bring your own.
When you imagine a bonbon, you're probably thinking of a little chocolate sphere, filled with some decadent ingredients. But at Bluhendes Konfekt, it takes on a whole new meaning. In a tiny shop that's easily missed, Michael Diewald is creating a world of bonbons made from organic fruits and foraged herbs, leaves and flowers, many from the Viennese Woods.
Each fruit, herb or flower is carefully processed, then made into a powder to coat the confections, made into a dough that becomes the center of the bonbon or sugared in order to preserve its beauty. While some are topped with a small dollop of chocolate, the chocolate is far from the star of the show, but rather an accompaniment. Stopping by this little shop is a must when visiting Vienna. The bonbons make excellent gifts to bring home that don't take up much space, but make a massive impact. Each is dressed with a sugared flower of herbs like little works of art.
Take a moment to slow down, breathe deep and drink a cup of tea at Jäger TEE, a small family-owned tea shop steps away from the opera. Jäger TEE is a tea lover's dream! There are over 300 different varieties of tea, ranging from fruit tea to oolong teas, white teas, matcha, green teas and more. The shop opened in 1862 and is now operated by the fourth-generation owners. They have relationships with tea growers around the world, allowing them to sell some of the most unique, complex and rare teas out there. In the back of the shop is a small nook where you can sit and enjoy a pot of tea. It's dim and really helps you take the moment to slow down and just drink a cup of tea.
And, it's the perfect place to find a gift for friends and family (or for yourself!)
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