After stints with the Canadian Foreign Service and the Organization of American States, Fox Valley, Saskatchewan, native Kate Lannan made a move to the “big leagues” of private international law when she took a position with the UN Commission on International Trade Law in Vienna. “This city has been a cultural hub for a long time, so there’s an openness to it.”
Photo: Gianmarco Castelberg (Mumok)
The old Hapsburg royal stables house a massive cultural complex. Within the buildings are a performing arts centre, where a dance troupe performs, and two terrific museums – the Leopold, for modern Austrian art (yay, Egon Schiele!) and Mumok, a contemporary art museum. In the open space in the centre, it’s like a modern version of an Adventmarkt in winter; there’s mulled wine and punsch, but also DJs, light shows and a few shops. Combinat, a funky accessories and design shop that brings together young Austrian and Hungarian designers, has an outlet there. You can also watch locals play Eisstockschiessen, which is like curling before it became a competitive sport in Canada – mostly an excuse to get together and drink.
Museumsplatz 1, 43-1-523-58-81
Photo: Nikola Milantovic
Oliver Lucas, the former sous-chef at Steirereck (ninth on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list), recently opened this spot in an old renovated Gasthaus (tavern). In Austria, listing the ingredients without specifying how they’ll be prepared is common. Grace takes it a step further, as with the guinea fowl, which comes out as a filet and then – surprise! – a second plate is brought with the poultry served in a flaky pastry. Drink lots of Austrian wine, white and red. We often have a red cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zweigelt (a local grape) called Voggathal. You won’t be disappointed.
Danhausergasse 3, 43-1-503-10-22
Photo: Patrick Anthofer
3. Atelier Lindengasse
Unless you’re a Russian oligarch who shops in the Goldenes Quartier, go to Mariahilferstrasse. Jewellers Katharina Schmid and Katie Gruber work and sell out out of a lovely studio and showroom just off it. The pieces – industrial looking, with unusual burnishes – are for all budgets and are made on-site, including a gorgeous thin, jagged ring with an antique finish I have my eye on.
Lindengasse 5, 43-676-626-58-57
4. Stadtpark Rink
I play hockey here in the boarded-off section; if you know someone you can borrow equipment from, it’s easy to find a game to join. Most of the rink is for skaters, and rentals are available on-site. Visit the punsch stand, listen to music – you’ll leave with the Bee Gees stuck in your head – and watch the twirling ice waltzers in the roped-off section in the middle. It’s been around since 1862, and it’s got the shabbiness (and charm) to prove it.
5. Joseph Brot
Austrian bread is exceptional, and Joseph Brot has a great selection of interesting grains, spices and ingredients: semolina, anise, lavender. Besides being in a big, breezy space with a sit-down area, it’s open on Sundays and it serves breakfast well into the afternoon (in case that’s something you need).
Landstrasser Hauptstrasse 4, 43-1-710-28-81
Photo: WienTourismus/Christian Stemper (The Ring Boulevard)
A ring road circles the first district, which is where you’ll find the highest concentration of buildings that make it obvious you’re in a former imperial capital, including the Hofburg (the Habsburg winter palace), the parliament building and the Rathaus (city hall). It’s a five-kilometre run around the ring and during the day, you can cruise through the parks that border the ring. For the non-sporty, tourist and commuter trams run the circuit, and give you a feel for how wonderful the architecture is.
Photo: WienTourismus/Christian Stemper
7. Café Museum
The joke in Vienna is that the interior of this 1899 café was originally designed by Adolf Loos, who was into the minimalist approach. Then it became a favourite of artists like Klimt and others associated with the secessionist movement – all about adornment and glamour. It’s been recently restored to one of its glitzier incarnations and still attracts an arty crowd as well as a few Schicki-Micki types.
Operngasse 7, 43-1-241-00-620
8. Die Werkbank
Spittelberg, just behind the MuseumsQuartier, is probably the hippest area of Vienna to wander and shop, especially along Siebensterngasse and Breite Gasse. There you’ll find Werkbank, a gift shop with Austrian design pieces, souvenirs and accessories, like Holzfäller sunglasses. They carry work by a Graz artist, Beatrix Somweber, I love.
Breite Gasse 1, 43-650-524-81-36
Photo: M. Silveri
9. Art Advent on Karlsplatz
In December, there’s a Christmas market every two blocks. I like this one for its assortment of handmade glasswork, pottery and all the usual glühwein, punsch and market food like kiachi, a beaver-tail-type dessert. Go before the tourists descend at night but after it’s a bit dark, so it’s atmospheric. (Through December 23.)