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The former Austrian president Heinz Fischer refused to move out of his apartment in the heart of Josefstadt district during his presidency. Here are the reasons why.
Josefstadt may be the smallest district but it just might have the highest attraction-per-square-meter density. Even if you run out of things to do, the eighth district is nestled between some of the hippest neighbourhoods in town. If Josefstadt was its own municipality, its centre would be the glorious Theatre in der Josefstadt, around which everything seems to revolve. Tiny cafés, hot restaurants, picturesque churches and the chance to meet Austria’s former president Heinz Fischer during his daily strolls all make this a fascinating area for locals and tourists alike.
Vienna’s oldest theatre (founded in 1788) is also one of its most prestigious. Despite its rather traditional reputation, its repertoire nevertheless features some contemporary and even experimental plays alongside all the Schillers and Goethes. Upon entering through the majestic doors one can sense the spirit of people such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner, who conducted here, as well Johann Nestroy and Ferdinand Raimund who performed on its stage. The plays are predominantly in German but even if you don’t speak the language, this is a great place to meet the who’s who of Vienna’s culture.
If you want to go for a quick prayer before seeing a play at the nearby theatre (or you are a tourist and just like churches), this is a must-see in Josefstadt. Constructed in 1719 this baroque parish church of the Order of the Piarists was elevated to the rank of Basilica Minor in 1949. The square on which the church is erected is almost as impressive as the holy building itself. It boasts the Marien-pillar in the centre and the Piarist school to the left. The best place to soak up the atmosphere is from a table at Il Sestante, an Italian restaurant that serves pizza right on the square – and the food is as uplifting as the holy surroundings.
As saint Teresa von Avila wrote, “You have to feed the body properly in order for the soul to enjoy living in it.” Whether it’s a wine and cheese tasting, a three-course menu or some light tapas before a long night out, Weinraum has the answer with the perfect glass of wine to accompany your prosciutto or croque-monsieur in an upscale yet unpretentious atmosphere. Focusing on vintages from Austria, France, Italy and Spain, the wine list reads like a European best-of for sommeliers. If you’d rather enjoy your meal in one of the nearby parks, their shop offers everything on the menu to-go as well and burgeoning chefs can attend one of the cooking classes or themed nights once a month.
Excessive beef consumption is harming the planet, but if you decide to sin, you might as well get the best piece of meat out there. The product selection at this newly opened temple of culinary lust ranges from the Simmental region in Austria to imported grass-fed beef from overseas and even Wagyu. The exclusive cuts receive their final touch in a US-imported dryer and heated up at temperatures well over 1,000° C, creating a flavourful and crunchy crust while keeping the inside tender and juicy. The smoked Carpaccio with beef tartar or American crab cake with curry mayonnaise are also outstanding. What can only be described as Vienna’s best (and most expensive) steak house is not the place for an everyday meal but a great choice to indulge in meaty delicacies.