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Habsburg HeritageSeptember 12, 2008 By: Anne Sophie Guerin Travel Agent
Vienna is bursting at the seams with cultural delights
Vienna is a cultural wonderland where your clients can soak up the grandeur of the Hofburg Imperial Palace, ogle the prancing white stallions of the Spanish Riding School and listen to the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Even the frigid winter season is a great time to visit Vienna, when the ball season is in full swing and couture-clad Viennese swirl around to waltzes. Although the Austrian capital is legendary for its music, Vienna’s cultural legacy is not confined to the historic past. In fact, Vienna is on the cutting edge of contemporary museum trends with its MuseumsQuartier Wien, one of the 10 largest cultural complexes in the world and an inner-city playground of world-class art museums, baroque buildings and state-of-the-art modern architecture.
A Maisonette Suite at Hotel Imperial
Of course, your clients can’t miss partaking in the Viennese café scene with an espresso and slice of Sacher-Torte, and the wine taverns outside the city are also hopping. Clients looking to discover the very heart of Europe will relish this cosmopolitan city on the blue Danube. Travel agents should note that the city’s accommodations fill up during New Year’s Eve and the Opera Ball (the week before Ash Wednesday), and it’s best to reserve rooms at least six months in advance during those times.
State visitors are put up at the Hotel Imperial, the official hotel of the Republic of Austria, and your VIPs will likewise enjoy a royal welcome there. A member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, the Hotel Imperial is a fabled landmark on the Ringstrasse. It was originally built as the luxurious, private residence for the prince of Wurttemberg, and since its debut as a hotel in 1873, has hosted kings, queens and the crème de la crème of Viennese society. In fact, the Imperial’s guest book boasts more than 1,000 celebrity entries. The hotel is managed by Oscar del Campo ([email protected], 011-43-1-50-110-425), who is happy to help with VIP bookings.
The best rooms to book are the Royal Suites #122/123 and #101/102, the former private apartments of the Prince of Wuerttemberg. Along with the Imperial Suites, these are the most requested accommodations at the Imperial. The ceilings are 23 feet high, ornately decorated with stucco and gold leaf. A sense of history is almost tangible here. Accessed via a princely staircase, the two Royal Suites are appointed with antiques, silk wall upholstering and exquisite crystal chandeliers. These suites have three bedrooms each, sprawling over 1,722 square feet on the Imperial’s belle étage. Note: The Royal Suites can each connect to three more bedrooms—ideal for large families traveling together—and Imperial Suite #103/104 can connect with two more bedrooms.
For the best views, book the Maisonette Suites and two Executive Junior Suites (rooms #506, 507, 508, 509 and 510), overlooking the baroque cupola of the nearby church of St. Charles Borromeo and the angels that adorn the roof of the Musikverein, one of the most celebrated concert halls in the world. Spread out over two floors, the Maisonette Suites have private terraces. All rooms are bookable via GDS.
No request is too small for the concierge team, overseen by Michael Moser ([email protected], 011-43-1-50-110-416). They’ve been known to secure tickets for sold-out performances at the Opera Ball, and arrange shopping trips on private jets to any European metropolis. Horse-drawn carriage rides, picnics in the Schoenbrunn Castle’s garden and private cooking lessons with the hotel’s chef are popular activities. Another nice perk is that the Hotel Imperial provides private limousine service for city tours and for transfers.
Cafe Imperial at Hotel Imperial
Lunch at Café Imperial is an absolute must. Recommend the Viennese specialty Wienerschnitzel, rumored to be the best in town here. For dessert, the Imperial Torte is gastronomic bliss. This mythical delicacy is said to date from 1873 when it was first concocted to honor Emperor Franz Josef I.
The Best Western Premier Schlosshotel Römischer Kaiser provides the creature comforts that American hotel guests have come to expect (think high-speed Internet access, air conditioning, 24-hour concierge service) in a beautiful palace setting. This baroque masterpiece was built in 1684 by Johann Hueber, the imperial minister of finance. When it opened as a hotel in 1907, it was given the name “Römischer Kaiser” to honor the Habsburg dynasty, the former emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The hotel has been family-owned ever since. Owned and managed by Dr. Gerhard Jungreuthmayer ([email protected], 011-43-1-51-277-510), this four-star hotel has a prime address within the Ring at Annagasse No. 16, just a stone’s throw from the State Opera, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the shops on the busy Kärntnerstrasse. With room rates starting at $175 per night, this Best Western Premier is also affordable.
The Best Western Premier Schlosshotel Romischer Kaiser
There are 24 individually decorated rooms with period-style furniture, spanning four room categories: La Boheme (six rooms), Superior (five), De Luxe (six) and Junior Suite (seven). The most requested accommodations are La Boheme—cozy rooms under the eaves on the top floor are cheapest because of their small size—and the 215-square-foot De Luxe Rooms. Although there are no connecting rooms in the hotel, Junior Suites are the largest at 322 square feet, and boast separate living and sleeping areas and Gianni Versace-designed bathrooms. This is your best bet for a family of two adults and two children. Note that there is no onsite restaurant. Guests can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the Salon or Schanigarten during the summer months.
The Hotel Sacher Wien may inspire food pilgrimages for its famous Sacher-Torte, but the hotel guest experience far outshines even a 175-year-old epicurean legend. Situated in the heart of the bustling Austrian capital just opposite the State Opera, Franz’s son Eduard Sacher founded the hotel in 1876, and celebrities flocked to it from the get-go. Today, the hotel evokes Old World glamour. Since 1934 the Gürtler family has owned the Sacher Wien. At the new 3,200-square-foot fitness center and spa, your clients can indulge in massages, facials and Hot Chocolate body treatments. Travel agents can reserve the signature “Time to Chocolate” treatment by contacting Spa Director Susanne Özalp ([email protected], 011-43-1-51-456-568).
The top two floors (six and seven) are entirely new and boast 42 contemporary rooms. Spa-like bathrooms feature double sinks, heated floors and plasma TVs. The best views in the house can be found from the magnificent terraces in the Executive Suites on the top floor. On floors one through four, the 110 traditional rooms are just as elegant. The most popular room category is the Junior Suite. Note: There are 42 connecting rooms at the hotel. Book at least two months in advance for high season, March-June and September-December.
All the crowned heads of Europe have visited the Hotel Sacher Wien. Indeed, the hotel’s first owner, Anna Sacher, insisted that all prominent guests sign the tablecloth in reception. Four tablecloths have been filled since the 19th century. No doubt your VIPs will love a stay in the Presidential Suite, Madame Butterfly. (All suites and junior suites are named after famous operas.) The five-room Madame Butterfly Suite simply oozes luxury and has a small balcony facing the Opera House. For your VIPs, contact Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Brigitta Hartl-Wagner ([email protected], 011-43-1-51-456-828) or Director of Sales Andreas Glück ([email protected], 011-43-1-51-456-809).
Managed by Rainer Heilmann, ([email protected], 011-43-1-51-456-815), the Hotel Sacher Wien is celebrated for its attentive service. Head Concierge Wolfgang Buchmann ([email protected], 011-43-1-51-456-780) has a knack for securing tickets to sold-out shows and reservations at Vienna’s best restaurants. Limo transfers, sightseeing trips and children’s activities are easily arranged.
A travel agent for 12 years, Nathalie Nagy is a certified Austrian and Czech expert, specializing in customized luxury arrangements for visitors to Central Europe. Nagy has been with Protravel International for 10 years, and in 2003, created her own company called Mosaic Group Travel with business partner, Yana Flaksman, who lives in Budapest. Mosaic is a tour operator and Nagy works with the agent community to put together clients’ dream trips. Recognized as a top A-List agent on Central Europe by Travel + Leisure, Nagy speaks Hungarian, German and English. For Vienna, Nagy has endless recommendations. Her top hotel picks are as follows: Hotel Sacher for the deluxe category, Palais Coburg as a “favorite secret gem of a hotel,” The Ring for the “new hotels” category, and Do & Co as a favorite boutique hotel. “The Hotel Sacher has a very personal touch as it is family run,” she says. “The deluxe rooms and suites on the top two floors—just added last year—are my favorites. The all-suite Palais Coburg is a member of Relais & Châteaux and has a central location, one of the finest wine collections in Europe and beautiful, individually decorated suites. The Ring is under the same management as the Grand Hotel Wien, and the Do & Co is a contemporary design hotel with city-view rooms that overlook St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Plus, it has one of the best restaurants in the city and a trendy bar.”
Nagy adds, “Clients should not miss a day trip to the Wachau Valley, where they can stroll through the small town of Durnstein, visit the castle ruins of Aggstein, the Abbey at Melk, the unique LOISIUM wine complex and one of my favorite wineries and taverns, the Nikolaihof. I also recommend a private seminar for apple-strudel making at the Imperial Kitchen of the Schonbrunn Palace, and an exclusive evening tour of the Belvedere Museum to view the extensive Klimt collection with a private curator while sipping on champagne and noshing on canapes.”
Nagy knows the Vienna restaurant scene well. “My favorite restaurants are Steirereck, one of the city’s best; Österreicher im MAK, situated in the MAK Museum; Plachutta, known for power lunches and traditional tafelspitz (boiled beef) dishes; and Heuriger Wieninger, one of my personal favorite heurigen (wine tavern) in the Vienna Stammersdorf area with a wonderful buffet and excellent wines produced locally.”