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Vienna is down to earth, a bit imperially arrogant, and very proud of the things it has gifted to the world... And that’s why we love it!
In these globalized times, it seems that capitals across the continent are becoming more and more alike, with the same international chains infiltrating historic downtown areas. While eating American fast food and shopping for Nordic furniture is popular in Austria’s capital as well, the city has done a decent job at staying true to itself, which – in Vienna – means drinking coffee in places that look like museums, sipping wine that is produced right around the corner and eating waffles baked in the world’s largest oven. Here’s where to breathe the Viennese lifestyle.
When the former regulars of an establishment include yesteryear celebrities like Sigmund Freud, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler or Franz Kafka, you know you’re in good company. While you can get a coffee anywhere in the world, beating the noble setting of the 1876 Viennese coffee house Café Central would be quite a challenge. When it comes to the actual beverage, the Viennese used to have several dozen coffee variations on the menu. Today, the choices have dwindled significantly, but the most famous has passed the test of time: The Wiener Melange is the local’s preferred way of consuming caffeine and consists of an espresso, milk and milk foam on the top (yes, we are aware this is rather similar to an Italian cappuccino).
A Heuriger is something ultimately Viennese that doesn’t exist anywhere outside Eastern Austria. The concept is rather simple: Servers in Dirndls and Lederhosen serve wine made from this year’s grapes, grown on the premises, along with hearty food like pork roast or schnitzel. Vienna’s best Heuriger in 2018 takes this usually rather down-to-earth experience up a notch: instead of using the often rather sour young wine you have to mix with sparkling water in order to be able to drink it, they serve an exquisite variety and their large selection includes Grüner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc and a nice Riesling that taste even better sitting in front of the old winemaker’s house dating back to 1629.
Deep within the residential neighbourhood of the 17th district, the world’s largest waffle oven patiently bakes 49 tons of sugary deliciousness every day. While being one of the city’s most traditional institutions, Manner is very progressive in its energy conservation: the heat that emits during the production process is converted into energy which is again used to power the factory. After they leave the oven, the waffles are wrapped in the iconic pink packaging and sold all over the world. Vienna’s most famous sweet has stepped up and conquered the world by spreading the luscious taste of Vienna and the aroma that can be smelled for blocks from the factory. Two packs of Manner Schnitten are eaten every two seconds around the world.
Vienna boasts pompous imperial architecture at every turn, but also harbours some quirkier designs one might not expect between all this regal splendour. In order to spot the Hundertwasserhaus designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser you won’t need a guidebook, as its bright colours make it stand out in a relatively generic neighbourhood. Trees, bushes and other plants grow from the building’s roof and walls in some sort of organized chaos. Hundertwasser was a painter by profession without any architectural background. His unconventional architecture is seemed in references to nature, which is also why the floors inside the structure are wavy; you’ll be hard pressed to find a straight line anywhere. Much of that as well as the artist’s paintings can be enjoyed at the Museum Hundertwasser next door.