We spent 8 days in Salzburg and Vienna… here's my take...
1. Hotel – The Good & The Bad
We stayed at the Sacher Hotel, which of course was lovely. It’s on the river bank in an ideal location of town, especially if you are a tourist. The “infamous” Sacher torte is part of the hotel’s reputation, however I will say that –at least from my experience - you will have a wonderful torte experience if you try the smaller individual petit four-type sized ones (fabulous) as opposed to a regular-sized slice of torte (dry & crumbly). The reason I know this is that they were renovating and had left a huge platter of various chocolates in our room as compensation (fine with me! ) and so I had 3 of the individual ones which were heavenly in comparison to the regular slice I had later on. As for accommodations, the hotel is first-class all the way EXCEPT I found it RIDICULOUS that this 5-star establishment does not provide an iron. I ended up calling the concierge for an iron, and his exact words explained that their insurance does not allow ironing in the room, but “as a service to our guests because of this, we provide ironing for our guests”. So I assumed (my mistake) ironing would be at a minimal fee, at best. Wrong. I just about fell over when I got the bill later, LOL. I will say the hotel’s service is impeccable, and my 4-year old son was in heaven with his own little cot, robe, satchel and huge chocolate-egg-with-a-toy-in-it every night on his pillow. The interior is divine. The riverfront café is lovely. The staff is so friendly and helpful. Overall it’s a lovely, first-rate place.
2. An Unexpected Gastronomic Experience
HANGAR 7. Wow. Wow. Wow. If someone would have told me that I was going to have one of the most innovative food experiences of my life in Salzburg, of all places, I would never have believed it! We ended up going there with some friends who live just outside the city, and I was blown away. Not to mention the architecture. We grabbed a table in the Mayday Bar (we had children with us, but this is a good option anyway if you don’t want to break the bank and prefer a more casual atmosphere) and I chose the “Beauty” menu, while my husband had the “Brain” menu and his friend had the “Mood” menu. You can look up these menus online but the food combinations were completely amazing, so I ventured out and tried it all. I would love to eat at this place and try every single thing, especially at the Ikarus restaurant. (There is a different, renowned chef there every month, I believe). Anyone visiting Salzburg simply needs to try some of the menu options at Hangar 7 just for the experience alone, IMHO. Had I known Dietrich Mateschitz (CEO, Red Bull) also owned the restaurants Carpe Diem & Afro Café in old town, just a short walk from our hotel, I would have definitely gone!
3. Other good food experiences
Next to Sacher Hotel is a restaurant/coffeehouse called Café Bazar. It’s the best cappuccino of my life and I loved the “Great Gatsby” feel of the place. Their menu isn’t huge, but everything is good. We frequented it for breakfast & lunch. Take your time there, read the paper. Gaze at the river. A lovely dinner place was the Stadtkrug restaurant, which was part of their hotel off the Linzergasse. I had a delicious melon shrimp soup for an appetizer, which was a surprising selection, at least for me. Charming atmosphere and wonderful homemade bread, vegetable sides, main courses, etc. Good service, too. Our Salzburg friends also insisted on taking us to Gasthaus Kuglhof as they raved about their authentic Bavarian fare, and we had a wonderful meal outside on their huge pebbled patio (with playground for the kids) and a fantastic view of the Untersberg. Great place, fun atmosphere! The night we were there, they had a special-of-the-night grill special. Yum. On a side note, everyone in Salzburg seems to drink Aperol spritzes, the neon-orange drink you see everywhere. I eventually tried one, pretty good
4. The Rest of It
Keep in mind that we had a 4-year old boy in tow, so we didn’t attempt some of the more obvious activities in Austria (i.e. classical music, etc). We did visit the Hohensalzburg castle, of course, and this is worth it for the view alone. Basically we walked from the Sacher hotel to the funicular and it was a fun walk through shops, the museums, cathedral, etc, to get to the castle. We visited the Museum of Modern Art (our son particularly loved it) and Mozart’s Wohnhaus which was interesting and worth a tour. At my husband’s prodding, we also did Panorama’s Sound of Music tour. The guide was pretty hilarious, and while it’s a bit touristy for my taste, it certainly was humorous and if anything is a fun way to see other parts of the city/countryside. After seeing the town of Mondsee, the last stop on the tour, I would have loved to just grab a room for a night or two there, and spend it paddling around on one of its many boats around its pristine lake. But alas, we did not have the time. As for shopping, I didn't do much, except I will say the Christmas store in the old town section of Salzburg has some of the most beautiful “egg” ornaments you’ll ever see. They sell them in egg cartons and had I not had a child to contend with while traveling, it would have been worth dragging these delicate beauties home as a permanent souvenir. That’s pretty much it - much of our time was spent with our friends there, so we didn’t see quite as much as I had hoped, but I must say that I absolutely fell in love with Salzburg, what a charming & friendly place!
We barely had two days in Vienna due to my husband’s work schedule there, but here are the brief highlights…
1. The Hotel – Hotel Hangover, That Is
It’s a long way down, when you are coming off a stay from the Sacher Hotel! (Hotel choices were corporate decisions). We stayed at Hotel Johann Strauss which is in the university section of Vienna, with one huge bonus being that it is literally 30 seconds from the train stop. So that was extremely convenient. The hotel is clean enough, very spacious, very comfy beds. The towels feel like sandpaper and the WC like a cell, however, and I hated the smoky smell of the lobby. Our room was HUGE which was a nice change, and for the $$ it was certainly nice enough. Their breakfast was nice and while the room décor and the hotel in general seemed in need of some TLC, it was still a satisfactory place to stay. I would probably have a better opinion of this hotel had I not just left the Sacher and arrived there, but who can blame me!
2. What You Do with a 4-Year Old and 24 hours in Vienna
It was pouring and a Sunday when we arrived on the train from Salzburg, and we had been invited to dinner at a friend’s house nearby, so that was how we spent our first night in Vienna. I must say Austrians do not mess around when it comes to food & guests! All experiences with our friends included MASSIVE amounts of food and drink offerings! Sooooooo good, but even a week later back at home, I don’t have much of an appetite LOL. I have eaten my way through Austria, chocolate included. My son now associates Europe with chocolate, which I suppose is not necessarily a bad thing
The next day we had great weather, so St. Stephen’s cathedral was first on our list. We then hopped the train to see Hundertwasserhaus and had a quick bite there at the café. The weather was still lovely, so from there we decided to walk the few blocks to the Wiener Park, and then had a lovely stroll to the Prater amusement park. Is it unusual that, even without a child, I would recommend time spent at the Prater? I loved it there! The classic rides, the authenticity of the place. The ornamentation of the merry-go-round and swings, like art work. The chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas on a stick. Timeless. From there we hopped the train again to the Museum district, where we gawked at the architecture, and then we hopped the Tourist bus that does the Ring, which as our luck would have it, was having its last ride end early, and dropped us off only halfway through. So from there, we decided to go a few stops up the train to see the Danube and had a pleasant stroll by the river. And that was that, with a quick ride back to our hotel and take-away dinner from an Italian restaurant down the street, we packed and headed back to the airport for the US in the middle of the night.
3. That’s Pretty Cool
All of the above touristy stuff mentioned above was wonderful, but for me the most compelling moment in Vienna was not the incredible cathedral, nor the ostentatious buildings. Upon arriving, we had ventured out in the cool weather with our umbrellas, and took a rainy stroll through the neighborhood around our hotel. (Ah, to see your 4-year old son dance joyfully with his umbrella on the streets of Vienna. Does it get any better?) We passed a nondescript building, and on the way back I noticed a small steeple above the doorway and realized that it appeared to be a church. The door was slightly ajar, so, we peeked in. And lo & behold, within the walls of this rather ugly exterior façade, was a completely empty, incredibly ornate and fabulous chapel. Like someone took 1% of St. Stephen’s and built it here, on the inside. I’m sure there are many similar ones in the city, but we were the only ones there, and it was unexpectedly moving & breathtaking. Just beautiful. On another note, upon arriving home, I had mentioned the fun we had at the Prater to my mother-in-law, who is in her 70’s and was raised in Germany. She suddenly remembered an old book she had from her childhood (and still had the book, and found it!) about a merry-go-round horse at the Prater. So, I am now reading my son “Gigi: The Story of a Merry-Go-Round Horse” from his grandmother. The illustration in the book looks identical to the merry-go-round ride my son had at the Prater just days ago. Good stuff.
I obviously did not get to see all the necessities that make up Vienna, or even Salzburg for that matter, but I unexpectedly fell in love with Austria!! I feel lucky to have been there. I also now categorize Chocolate as one of the major food groups.
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Trip Report - Salzburg & Vienna and I didn't want to go home
We spent 8 days in Salzburg and Vienna… here's my take...