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Trip Report: One week in Vienna

Billy Joel told me 40 years ago, that Vienna would wait for me. And it did! I chose my hotel very well (Hotel Ruby-Sofie, 17 Marxergasse) in the area directly near the Hundertwasser House. The Sofiensale was a venerable old Waltzing venue back in the Strauss day, turned to rock and roll in the 60s/70s, burned to the ground in 2000 or so, and they rebuilt this wonderful place into a“Lean Luxury” hotel ; it’s all modern and streamlined and white duvets and comfortable foam beds, with a rock-and-roll theme. In each bedroom there is a Marshall amp so you can plug in your mobile and pump up the jam. Oh yes, soundproof rooms! I spent exactly $598.95 on Expedia for a single room “Nest” (5 nights) which was perfectly comfortable and lovely and quiet, room 577, 13 EU each morning for the best breakfast in Vienna – oh the quality and abundance! One morning I spent at Joseph Brot which is just 2 blocks from this place – nice to see young Viennese people, the only tourist there was me, I think.

Spent a lot of time on Strassenbahn 1 and 2, just traversing the ring around and around, hopping on and off, as I wished. Yes, there’s the yellow Ring Tram, but with Rick Steves’ audio tour downloaded, I and another married couple found each other standing at Schwedenplatz, waiting for the normal strassenbahn.

And now the sad report: what didn’t I do? I didn’t eat a Wienerschnitzel – instead I dropped into whatever café I was near, and had something wonderful. (Plus two spectacular meals.) Ate at the Café around the corner from the Hotel Sofie, ate at a forlorn pizza joint right across from the Hundertwasser House, dropped into normal cafes and didn’t bother with the biggies because there were LINES to get into them. Nope!

Went to the Kunsthistorisches to look at the artworks for a day; went to the Zentralfriedhof to bow at the graves of the composers for a day; walked through the City Park for a day, and Stephansdom and the Graben for a day, and 3 nights. One night I walked into the Stephansdom at 8:00 pm, as the Kapellmeister began his organ practice – it wasn’t a recital, none of us were able to sit. But we could stand at the iron fence. An hour, treated to Mozart, Haydn, and others I didn’t recognize. It ain’t music unless it vibrates your heart, you know. The organist was an expert, and that music boomed up to the top of that cathedral.

It’s nice to have friends: a retired Austrian military officer picked me up at Hotel Sofie and took me and his wife to a wonderful restaurant up in the Hills, called Steyrer Stoeckel. I had the baked trout, and some sparkling Austrian wine. Delicious. The other great meal was the Kunsthistorisches Buffet on Thursday night, for 55 EU. Wonderful. Separate post for that.

Great weather, never rained a drop on me the whole week. Perfect Hotel, highly recommend it. Next visit: will see the Hofburg, and Schonbrunn. I realize now that I can only do 1 thing a day – so I slowed it down. It’s OK – something more for next time!

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  • Gourmet Buffet at the Kunsthistorisches on Thursday night exceeded my dreams. It was a Toque-and-Starched Apron affair; you walked in and were seated by the waiter. Unfortunately, all the seating spaces were for individuals; I thought maybe they would have great tables where you could sit with 7 other people. But the waiter seated me next to a very nice couple from Salzburg, celebrating the wife’s birthday. We got very friendly with each other, and chatted the entire night. On the other side of me were two Viennese girlfriends also celebrating a birthday. The food: it was as “Gourmet” as you could get, which would put off someone like my husband who is a meat and potatoes guy. These were precious dishes by the scores, and you could help yourself to any of 20 different appetizers, like little pieces of trout over grated celerie and radish, small lamb meatballs, squash soufflé, quail eggs, etc. I chose the slice of Filet Mignon over mushrooms and orange squash as my entrée. It was artistically arranged on the plate, using the beef “jus” as artistic splashes. Perfectly prepared. Drank a Prosecco along with it. Roasted potatoes and carrots.

Desserts were also buffet-style; a myriad of mousses, fruit spectacles, sponge cakes, and banana shish-kabobs for the chocolate fountain. I chose the dark chocolate mousse, and then chose it again. I may have chosen it just one-more-time; really wonderful.

90 minutes after the evening began, the KHM’s Art Historian took us on a candlelight tour of all the greatest hits in the gold room, was it the Schatzkammer? Golden toys, huge urns carved out of rock crystal, delicate wood work, etc. Amazing the stories he told, plus showed us on You-Tube on an ipad how some of the golden toys and clocks worked. 45 minutes; wonderful tour. It was a one-of-a-kind evening, lovely, enjoyed it so much.

After the tour there was a whiskey sampling which I did not do; it was pushing 10:00 pm, and I needed to get home. The Salzburg couple and I took pictures of each other, and then I went home.

Posted by
27004 posts

Shelley, this sounds lovely. I'll probably be in Vienna next year for the first time in decades, and I'll be referring to your comments as I work on my plans.

Posted by
2252 posts

Oh Shelley, what a fun and memorable visit you had in Vienna! I love the way you write and I will be saving all your lodging and restaurant information for future reference. I don't have any current plans for a trip to Vienna but you just never know........Thank you for sharing your trip with us!

Posted by
3230 posts

Thanks for your trip report. Vienna is one of my favorite places too. Next time, I will have to try the Kunsthistorisches gourmet buffet. It sounds wonderful!

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5697 posts

Yum! I will keep it in mind for our December trip to Vienna. Thanks!!

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293 posts

If you book at the Ruby-Sofie, you will be delighted to know that every morning around 10:00 am, the horse-drawn carriages trot past the hotel - maybe 10 of them Clip-Clop! Also, you will have a natural alarm clock in the church bell ringing at 7:00 am (they silence it after midnight, reawaken it at 7). Otherwise, my room was silent.

You are 3.5 blocks from Wien-Mitte, a huge transpo-hub. When you are at Wien-Mitte, there's a bookstore where I purchased a small Moleskine-like notebook for my Vienna travel notes. Also there is a DM (Drogerie Markt) which is like a CVS, only cheaper.

I t was difficult to find my way to the trains leaving Vienna Airport. Not one sign. So: you have to go DOWN the escalators and look for the green signs to the City-Airport Train. The normal train is right next to it. They had hosts standing around ready to help the tourists, which I found helpful. I had already purchased a Weekly ticket online for 16 EU, - (credit card worked perfectly) so I just needed 1,70 EU to cruise into the Vienna zone. The other people using the green CAT train had it easier, maybe, but a lot more expensive at around 16 EU for that ride.

Posted by
14483 posts

Thanks for the report that you found Wien a lovely experience. One enjoys the experience at the KH Museum buffet as a Feinschmecker and that you are and did. Prima!

I'll be back in May/June to catch the one annual traditional event held then in Wien.

Posted by
3 posts

Shelley,
thanks for this report. How did you go about selecting the Hotel Ruby-Sofie? i'm interested to see if you looked at the Hotels/pensions that Rick Steves recommended in the old center of Vienna. Wife and i are going to be there for 3 nights 3 1/2 days in early September 2018
Thanks, chip cole

Posted by
532 posts

Ok Fred, I'll bite...what's the annual event happening in May/June?

Posted by
532 posts

Shelley, fantastic report. Interesting to hear how you spent your time. I'm definitely checking out some of the locations in your comments for our first time 4 night/3.5 day stay in mid October this year. We have a decent 3* hotel just outside the Ringstrasse, but I'm open to other suggestions if they have a unique quality and will check out the Ruby-Sofie. Thanks.

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14483 posts

@ Peter...It's the Oesterreiches Blasmusikfest in Vienna, takes place on a Saturday at the end of May or first week-end in June. Bands from all over the country, Innsbruck, Steiermark, Upper Austria, Graz, Salzburg, Niederösterreich, etc participate. The big event is in front of the Rathaus in the afternoon. Given the size of the crowd, only a sprinkle of tourists show up, ie, exclusively locals...all in German,

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532 posts

Thanks Fred. Interesting indeed.

As for "Feinschmecker"...I had to look that one up. My wife is, I am less so. Nonetheless either the weekend breakfast or the Thursday gourmet evening at KH is on the list for October (...must make reservations, must make reservations...)

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14483 posts

@ Peter....It is indeed an interesting culturally and musical event if one is interested in that genre of music.

The bands are more than merely an ompah band, the wind instruments include French horns, the tuba, etc. The pieces played can range from traditional folk music (Volksweise) to pop tunes, movie themes, and of course, traditional Austrian marching music, such as "Wien bleibt Wien" and "Hoch-und Deutschmeister Regimentsmarsch" etc. They play out in the open, such as Am Graben or some spot on the long Kärntner Straße.

Posted by
2602 posts

Sounds like you had a wonderful stay in Vienna, one of my favorite cities. I visited for the second time last April and plan to spend a long day there on my trip to Budapest this May--it's a city that will draw me back many times over the years, I think.

Posted by
3828 posts

Shelley,

I'm late to the party, but.... Thanks for the great trip report. I very much enjoyed reading it! You travel in a style that I kind of aspire to doing... taking in one thing per day and then enjoying the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I can't help myself. There's so much I want to see, that I pack my days full of stuff. I'm working on another trip to Berlin now. At least I'm not starting my activities until 10 am or later, instead of the old 8 or 9 am; it makes the owner of the B&B where I stay much happier to serve breakfast at 9 instead of 7 or 8!

Posted by
1056 posts

Shelley, thanks so much for your trip report on Vienna. I will be visiting in late November and have made note of your recommendations. Will definitely be reserving a place at the Kunsthistorisches Museum buffet — great food and a guided tour of museum treasures. What more could one ask?