In the vanguard of world tourism, Vienna is forever changing, yet its imperial monuments and regal grandeur seem locked in place. At the continental crossroads between East and West, it's a volatile cityscape. Here are some of the latest developments.
A new antismoking ban went into effect throughout Austria on January 1, 2009, making it one of the last European countries to crack down on lighting up in public spaces. And while the ban hasn't lessened the Viennese love for cigarettes, it does mean you won't be smoking in your hotel room or other public hotel spaces. The ban has some exceptions for bars and eateries. However, if you have your heart set on a post-meal smoke, you might want to ask.
Directly across from Vienna's premier fair and convention center, Austria Trend Hotel Messse Wien, Messestrasse 2 (tel. 01/727270), has a dramatic inclining façade and a convex shape. This architectural wonder with its ultra-modern architecture does not disappoint once you go inside. Its rooms are well furnished and beautifully appointed, the best units on the top two floors with their panoramic views of the city.
With its young, modern, and chic design, Falkensteiner Hotel Am Schottenfeld, Schottenfeldgasse 74 (tel. 01/5265181), is perhaps the most dramatically lit hotel in Vienna; many of its public rooms are like a stage setting. The Falkensteiner offers elegant rooms of contemporary comfort and tasteful appointments, along with marble floored bathrooms. It's filled with thoughtful extras from its kids' club to its Turkish bath.
A hot new dining choice for Vienna, drawing the serious foodie, is Dining Room, Maygasse 31 (tel. 01/804-8586), where reservations are imperative since the private-seeming restaurant can only accommodate 12 diners. The setting for some of the finest international cuisine served in Vienna is a private home, an intimate little hideaway that is the address of the owner and chef, Angelika Apfelthaler. She prepares each meal herself and often dedicates her dinners to a special theme, perhaps Moroccan nights.
Unique for Vienna, Saint Charles Alimentary, Gumpendorferstrasse 33 (tel. 01/586-1365), is the country's first "pharmacy restaurant" offering one of the best value, fixed-price menus in town. Vegetarians flock here to sample the imaginative cuisine of head chef Philipp Furtenbach, who buys his market-fresh ingredients from local farmers in Lower Austria. His menu is not strictly vegetarian, as he serves meats from animals "in the wild." We'd go here just for the freshly made salads, if nothing else.
Wiener Neustadt -- Moving up the culinary scale, Gastube Stachl, Lange Gasse 20 (tel. 02622/25221), is now cited as the best place to dine within the city. It lies in the heart of town in an all-pedestrian zone. Its chefs prepare a continental cuisine that also has the old Austrian favorites such as Wiener schnitzel, but also does more modern dishes such as strips of marinated salmon with pesto sauce.
In late 2008 Vienna's public transport authorities will unveil new connections on Vienna's famous Ring Boulevard, which for the first time will be linked to the heart of the city and many of the most visited tourist attractions of the First District. However, the entire round of the Ring Boulevard will not be changed.
The new line will link all the major sights along the Ring, including the Burgtheater, City Hall, Parliament, and the Museums of Fine Art and Natural History, along with the Vienna State Opera. A new line 2 will run not only to the Hofburg, but to the Stadpark, MAK (Museum of Applied Art), the Urania, and Schwedenplatz.
The famed Lippizzaner Museum in the Hofburg Palace has closed because of lack of funding. The museum, a favorite of horse lovers, traces the history of the Spanish Riding School, which still remains open in spite of money problems.
For art lovers, a unique shopping adventure in Vienna is to be found at M-ARS, 9 Westbahnstrasse (tel. 01/890-5803). This is a "supermarket" stocked not with groceries but with works of art. You can literally take a shopping cart around with you. Rest assured that many works of art begin at only $15. More than 1,000 paintings, sculptures, and photographs, the work of some 50 artists, are on sale.
Visitors to the MuseumsQuartier can also patronize Musiktank, Electric Ave., Museumplatz (tel. 01/526-4715). At this outlet you can listen to your favorites and then have the sounds burned onto your personal CD. More than 3,000 Austrian pop songs are available on demand here.
After it received international publicity, Gegenbauer, Gegenbauer 14, Naschmarkt (tel. 01/6041088), is attracting gourmets from around the world. It offers the greatest collection of artisan vinegars in Austria, some 50 in all, plus 20 specialty oils. It's been in business since 1929, although only in 2008 did it become recognized for its rare offerings such as tomato vinegar. You can even purchase vinegar here that's made from beer.
More and more club-goers are flocking to the Babenberger Passage, Ringstrasse at Babenbergerstrasse (tel. 01/9618800), the most futuristic club in Vienna, evoking a space ship. There's dancing in a romantically contemporary bar, and the bartenders serve some of the best cocktails in Vienna.
Installed in a cavernous underground station, Club Cavina, Josefstadtstrasse 84/Stadtbahnbogen (tel. 01/4064322), presents live music. It's one of the hippest clubs in Vienna, attracting artsy types.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.