It always makes me laugh when people think of Vienna as some stodgy, lost-in-the-past city. Sure, there are plenty of monumental buildings, from classical to Art Nouveau (known there as Jugendstil), but if there’s anything that marks Vienna as one of the great European capitals, it’s the forward-looking nature of the city. Yesterday’s ultra-modern becomes today’s classical, which gives way to tomorrow’s innovation. That’s always been the case, and as far as I can see, always will be. That, as much as anything, is what makes Vienna so exciting.
At press time, Austria remains in a state of “closely monitored re-opening,” with visitors allowed only from certain countries. For the latest information on travel restrictions (as well as a ton of other helpful info), the Austrian National Tourist Office (www.austria.info), as well as the invaluable Vienna Tourist Board (www.wien.info/en), will tell you all you need to know. So let’s get ready for the day when everyone can visit there again, and we can explore all the hot new offerings as well as some classics.
With marriage equality now fully achieved (the Austrian law went into effect in early 2019), Vienna is living up to its reputation as LGBTQ-friendly and welcoming. One thing that helps in this welcome is a real boom in new hotels, many of a boutique variety, and (an interesting development) often located outside the city center. With Vienna’s enviable public transportation system, there’s no need to stay at the heart of tourist central, and some of the most intriguing new spots are really just a few minutes’ ride from the center.
Case in point: the Andaz Vienna am Belvedere (Arsenalstrasse 10. Tel: +43-1- 205-7744-1234. www.hyatt.com). When you walk into the hotel, located in the 10th district near Belvedere Castle, the first thing that grabs your eye is the palatial contour of the place. Then you notice the modern art covering the walls in a cheerful jumble of fashion, and the variety of seating areas. This boutique division of Hyatt has attempted to imagine what Prince Eugen of Savoy (a major art collector who built the Belvedere as his summer residence, and purportedly one of the most famous gay men in Austrian history) might come up with if he built a castle in the 21st century. The result is this thoroughly modern but completely comfortable lodging, which opened in April 2019. Modern prints are scattered about my room’s walls (one sits on the floor), and there’s a classy, unfussy look, the windows opening onto a spectacular view of the city. The restaurant is lovely, and so is the little café, where you can get anything from coffee to pastries to salads. The rooftop bar is great, with couches and comfy chairs overlooking a panorama of this unique city. Best of all, though, is the staff: I’ve never seen a nicer hotel staff anywhere I’ve stayed, and trust me, I’ve stayed in a few places. Well, this is what you get when you stay in a boutique hotel fashioned with the inspiration of an Austrian gay prince!
Nearby, you might notice a glossy black building with rows of golden circles running down its façade that somehow both blends in and stands out from the traditional buildings around it. You’ve found Mooons (Wiedner Gürtel 16. Tel: +43-1- 96226. www.mooons.com). The open plan lobby creates a welcome, spacious feeling, while the restaurant, with its Indonesian chef and large terrace, is not your typical Viennese eatery. From online check-in to well-equipped, stylish rooms, Mooons is every bit a 21st century hotel. From the rooftop bar, you get one of Vienna’s best panoramas, stretching all the way from the first district to the 22nd. Want an equally good view from your room? Choose one of the Deluxe rooms, where large, slanting windows look out onto “THAT” view. The hotel has been finished and at press time rooms were bookable for late October 2020, so it should be there for you by the time you read this!
That’s not all: across the city in the 7th district, Max Brown (Schotenfeldgasse 74. Tel: +43-1-376-1070. www.maxbrownhotels.com), opened in mid-2019, is the fifth hotel of this boutique mini-chain and follows their philosophy of local inspiration with a plethora of works by Viennese artists. It’s all cool elegance as you enter the minimally furnished lobby, feeling like you’re walking into a stylish living room. Also, one of Vienna’s most exciting new restaurants is here, but more on that later.