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malka Jan 8th, 2008 06:48 AM

Just back from Vienna and Budapest
We have just returned from Vienna and Budapest, and want to thank everyone at the Fodor's Forum for their recommendations and trip reports. We had a wonderful time. We stayed at The Grand Hotel in Vienna, which we loved and would recommend highly. The other 5 star hotels looked lovely, but the Grand appealed to us because it had a cheerful atmosphere and liveliness that we didn't really sense at the other places, as nice as they were.
We ate well, and especially enjoyed Plachutta where we had Tafelspitz and venison, and Wein and Co. off Stephansplatz for a long late lunch/early dinner. Wein and Co. allows you to order by the glass and also partial glass to taste from it's huge selection of wine, and had excellent food as well. It was a wonderful way to try the Austrian wines. I believe you can buy the wine in their (adjacent) shop, and drink it there in the restaurant. Many people dismiss Drei Husaren as a tourist restaurant, and it did seem that there were many non-Viennese there, but we had a very enjoyable meal. It was elegant and had a special occasion feel. The total experience was good: the food, the service, the atmosphere, the piano music and the other guests (dressed up and enjoying themselves).
One of our favorite evenings was at the Kunsthistoriches Museum. On Thursday nights you can reserve a table for dinner on the second floor of the museum. It's a candlelit evening catered by Gerstner, and the food is excellent. There were three lavish buffets including rack of lamb, prime rib and sea bass and an incredible dessert selection with the usual cakes and chocolates and goodies. You have your dinner table for the night, so you can get up at intervals to stroll through the gallery rooms and look at the incredible collections of art. A very special kind of evening-- a friend in Vienna first told us about it.
We also enjoyed going to Schwarzen Kameel and Demel's, but both were very crowded when we were there-- Demel's with tourists and Schwarzen Kameel with mostly what appeared to be Viennese. It was the afternoon of new year's eve, and outside Schwarzen Kameel there was a bar set up where people were having champagne. It had just started snowing outside so there was such atmosphere. Inside it was just packed with people ordering sandwiches and maybe drinking, it was hard to tell (packed!) but it was good-natured and they were all laughing at the situation.
Many of the streets and pedestrian sections were beautifully decorated, and the atmosphere was so festive. We loved the potato pancakes (kartoffel puffer?) on the street, and had them with the aromatic hot gluhwein available everywhere. It was interesting to see so many people standing up eating and drinking outside in the cold, but there we were doing it also.
Schonbrunn palace was fascinating, but we left our tour and used the guided earphone tour instead so that we could go through at our own pace. There was so much to see and it is a lot to take in. Outside the palace was an enormous and crowded Christmas market...
We felt fortunate to be able to see both opera and ballet at the Staatsoper, which is a magnificent building. The actual ballet is a little uneven in quality (exceptional imported guest stars but uneven corps and production) but the opera is world class and we loved seeing Fledermaus on new year's eve and the atmosphere in the upstairs salon where people were having drinks in the glow of the old chandeliers was unforgettable. If you get seats in a box, you have a bonus of a private coat rack in the box, and so do not have to queue up for the coat
check. (Another note: the seats in the second and third rows of the boxes can be as low as 7 euros, but if you are in second or third row seats in a side box you want the seats next to the far wall from the stage, otherwise you will have almost no view. Standing room on the lower level is a better option, even if you are in the back rows of standing room. In fact the third row seats in the side boxes seem a bit useless view-wise.)

We ate near the Staatsoper after the show, and were just on the fringes of the new year's eve mania radiating down the Kaertnerstrasse from the Stephansplatz. It looked unpleasant, many very young and very drunk (and also getting sick) and people seemed uneasy. We were happy to be a few streets removed from it. We were a party of five and finished the evening at the Grand Hotel lobby bar, where there was a band and through the windows we could see the snow falling outside.

We only had a few days in Budapest but it was memorable. Had not been for twenty years so was interesting to see the changes. We stayed at the Gresham which is an exceptional hotel, and the view of the river and Buda from our balcony was unbelievable. The city has many new glossy restaurants and designer shops, and an enormous modern shopping mall to contrast with the fabulous 19th century grand market hall, but there are also sadly decrepit blocks and neighborhoods still. The Vaci Utca pedestrian shopping street has many of the same shops as the Kaertnerstrasse in Vienna. Gerbauds's for coffee and breakfast is beautiful and special but very expensive. We did not go to Gundel's but can recommend a restaurant called Rezkakas, upmarket traditional food, live music, elegant wood-paneled restaurant. Also enjoyed a new place called Tio-Dem (I am not sure I have the name right, it is next door to Mokka not far from St. Stephens) which is a modern twist on traditional Hungarian food, and a very stylish restaurant. Belcanto near the opera house was good, and fun, but mostly tourists. We had been told about a great restaurant called Rosenstein, but didn't get there. Apart from walking and other sight-seeing, two highlights of our trip were going to productions at the opera house and taking an in-depth tour of the Dohanyi Synagogue. The opera house is one of the most beautiful in Europe, all red velvet, chandeliers, mirrors and beautiful painted ceiling. At the outside cobbled entrance you can imagine the horse carriages pulling up.
The Dohanyi Synagogue is apparently the largest in Europe and was built in the 19th century to rival one in Vienna. It is a fantastic Moorish-style building from the outside, and inside extremely ornate, and we were told (by our guide) that Camille Saint-Saens and Franz Liszt played the organ for services in the years after it first opened. There is a fascinating museum upstairs with a collection of religious pieces and a section with images, stories and items about the holocaust and Hungary. We had a guided tour which we recommend as there was so much to hear about and of course the building is so exceptional. There is a memorial garden outside which was especially melancholic with th snow on the headstones and the bare trees.

Although it was very very cold, enjoyed meandering around the Castle District in Buda. Views are magnificent, and there is such an interesting feeling to the small streets and amber-yellow buildings there. We loved the different strudels from the bakeries, particularly the cherry and the poppy-seed versions.

It was extremely cold in Budapest while we were there, and our visit was so short. I hope we can go back soon as I felt we had missed so much that we wanted to see.

Thank you to everyone at Fodor's Forum. I read many useful things from your trip reports and was grateful for the various replies to my questions while planning the trip.

Surie Jan 8th, 2008 05:09 PM

Malka-- thank you for your report. I love reading about your experiences in Vienna! It must have been magical to be there at New Year's with the snow falling.

Your dinner at the museum sounded really cool, and thank you for the tips on the opera seating too.

Thanks for the details on the restaurants and your hotel. The Grand sounds really nice.

lincasanova Jan 8th, 2008 09:19 PM

thank you so much for the tips.

a lovely report.

KL467 Feb 2nd, 2008 03:06 PM


Thank you for this nice trip report.

maxie12 Feb 5th, 2008 04:17 PM

Malka, Really enjoyed your report about Vienna and Budapest. Any other suggestions about restaurants in those cities? I will be visiting in May. Thanks.

Weadles Feb 5th, 2008 05:32 PM

I'm visiting Budapest in May, too. WOuld love to hear more about favorite restaurants/cafes. Thanks!

seafox Feb 17th, 2008 06:20 AM

How did you book dinner at the museum? It sounds excellent!

lincasanova Feb 17th, 2008 07:43 AM

the museum dinner must fill up very early as i tried to book it through my hotel after not being able to find WHERE on website to do it.. and it was already booked 6 weeks in advance!!

i am, soooo disappointed. i organized my three days to be sure to be there on a thursday ASSUMING ( incorrectly so..) that I would be able to go there!

maybe next time.

sounds great.

molker Feb 17th, 2008 07:52 AM

for booking information

also the caterer website

also from late March - September - a similar evening every wednesday for the new Pharoah Tut exhibit in the museum across the street from the Fine Arts Museum.

molker Feb 17th, 2008 08:18 AM

sorry second gerstner address is missing a little use the first

seafox Feb 17th, 2008 12:08 PM

I worked my way to their german language site and found the way to send an e-mail for a reservation. If it works I'll post guidance. This sounds like a nice evening.

JulieVikmanis Feb 17th, 2008 12:39 PM

Malka, I'm envious of your stay at the Gresham. It is so beautifully restored and so tastefully appointed. It just have been heavenly to stay there. Would you be kind enough to provide more details on your room. I've been in the public rooms and am determined to stay there next time we go to Budapest.

malka Feb 28th, 2008 07:06 AM

Thank you for your replies, I am sorry I've just now seen them and these questions in some of your posts. Tonight I will sit down to answer with some details for you all.
The dinner eve at the museum was lovely, but sorry to hear it is so difficult to get a reservation. We actually booked only a day or two in advance. Sometimes (often) for restaurants and theaters there are last minute seats. It could also be the case for the museum dinner as well.

seafox Feb 28th, 2008 08:19 AM

I did hear back via e-mail (in English) and the booking for dinner at the museum is all set - many thanks

malka Feb 28th, 2008 12:53 PM

Seafox I am glad to hear you got a reservation after all. Just thought I would mention that we noticed the tables that were in the atrium under the dome were nicer than the tables by the window as the lighting was soft and there was more of the building's unique atmosphere. The window area was a bit brightly lit and removed in feeling, if you care about that sort of thing. Although the view across to the other museum is nice.

For our supposedly fully-booked evening, there were some available tables (especially over by the window), so for those unable to get advance reservations it is probably worth calling last minute to try your luck.

Also just want to add that the exhibit rooms close well before the dinner ends, and they do have a warning announcement, but when you arrive remember to ask what time the rooms close so you can plan your eating-viewing!

malka Mar 1st, 2008 01:47 PM

JulieVikmanis: We loved the Gresham, but the rooms were the least of it. They were extremely comfortable and had glamourous bathrooms and amenities, but were without character and could have been deluxe rooms in New York. To get the most out of it you should really try to book one of the river view rooms, preferably on an upper floor. The view is magic, unbelievable, and even though it was freezing cold we would regularly step out onto our little balcony to take it all in. Friends in another room told us they slept with the curtains open, as we did one night. The view is very fairy-tale. The rates are prohibitive but during off-peak times there are great deals. The concierge service was great, and overall would say the hotel was just wonderful, a very special place. We especially enjoyed early and late evening in the lobby bar, where there was a good pianist and an interesting selection of wines and snacks.

maxie12 and Weadles: Our favorite restaurants in Vienna were Plachutta, Wein and Co., Danieli (informal Italian off Kaertnerstrasse near the Staatsoper with excellent food and very friendly service) and Cafe Schwarzenberg (mirrored cafe near Hotel Imperial and Musikverein with good food and large truly separate non-smoking section). We also liked Drei Husaren as a special occasion place with good food and atmosphere. A friend in Vienna recommended G'moa Keller near the Konzerthaus, but we did not have a chance to go.

In Budapest we liked Rezkakas (upmarket place with traditional food and live music, great wine list and ambience), Cafe Dio (glossy new place near St. Stephen's, contemporary twist on traditional food-- I had wild boar with strawberry sauce and was delicious!). We heard several times that Rosenstein is excellent for traditional food, but never made it there, and heard also that Cafe Kor was very good, a couple we know liked it so much they went twice during their short stay in town. We enjoyed seeing the gilded extravagance of the famous and newly-restored Cafe New York in the Boscolo Hotel, but only had hot chocolate there, and noticed that others were doing the same thing. One thing that was special fun was visiting the Central Market Hall, a great place to buy cheeses, sausages, breads, pastries and spices, even wine. We made a picnic of our purchases there. Another day there we ate in the small cafeteria-style restaurant upstairs, and enjoyed trying the roasted goose and the various cabbage dishes. For pastries we were told to try Gerbeaud, and we liked it and the atmosphere there, but I also liked the pastry shops over in Buda, just away from the tourist hub. We sampled many different kinds of strudel from Buda!

lincasanova Mar 5th, 2008 11:19 PM

an update.. upon insisting to see if there was a cancellation, my hotel was able to secure two dinner places tonight at khm!

thanks for posting about this, plus suggesting to keep trying! it paid off. I am in ienna now and will write a short report later.

thanks again.

malka Mar 8th, 2008 01:15 PM

Great to hear that you persevered and got a last-minute reservation. Hope you enjoyed the food and the art and the atmosphere, and look forward to hearing about it!

seafox Apr 3rd, 2008 03:09 AM

malka - now for the my practical question. What is the dress at dinner? I assume a nice pair of pants and dress shirt for men??? What time is dinner - I just realized that I did not see it mentioned??? thanks again - seafox

lincasanova Apr 3rd, 2008 01:28 PM

i think it starts at 6.30. then finishes at 9.30. the museum closes at 9. so you have all that time to stroll around.

very interesting evening.

dressy casual is fine.

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