Vienna is one of my favorite European capitals, together with Paris and Rome. I love its ultimate elegance, timeless style and rich culture, its large streets, noble architecture and excellent restaurants. Vienna is a rare city which I prefer to visit in winter – it looks so magical in snow, probably because most of the facades in Vienna are white.
A couple of weeks ago I came to Vienna for the third time, to watch Pique Dame at the Vienna State Opera and visit some beautiful exhibitions. I was lucky to stay at my favorite hotel, Grand Ferdinand, which I found wonderfully unchanged and gorgeous as always.
Travel rules and covid restrictions in Austria
Before sharing with you the details of my trip, let me inform you about travel rules and covid restrictions in Austria. To enter the country, you must provide a proof of vaccination (not vaccinated persons aren’t allowed to cross the Austrian border). If you got 2 jabs, you must also show a negative PCR test (valid for 72 hours). With 3 jabs (or 2 jabs + recovery certificate) no PCR needed. You can also show a recovery certificate and a PCR test to be allowed to enter the country.
As you can see, the rules are rather strict but for vaccinated travelers there’s no problem to visit Austria. The control at the airport is perfectly organized, there was no waiting line at all (in France sometimes you have to wait up to one hour – longer than your flight lasts !)
For the moment, masks FFP2 are mandatory in all the public spaces but hopefully this will change soon.
After a short and direct flight from Nice, we checked into Grand Ferdinand Hotel located just a few steps from the Vienna State Opera, near the Ringstrasse. I’ve already stayed at Grand Ferdinand a few years ago and adored it’s impeccable service, sober style and fantastic rooftop terrace.
Good thing about Grand Ferdinand is that it stays true to the traditions. The hotel combines a historical foundation with contemporary details such as a rooftop pool and decoration elements. A noble harmony extends to every aspect, from the interior design all the way to the cuisine – connecting the gorgeous chandeliers on the expansive ground floor, hand-made according to old designs by traditional Vienna glass-maker Lobmeyr, and Thonet chairs, to champagne bars in the rooms stocked with French Mumm.
Every single room is a custom composition of timeless elegance, contemporary comfort and soulful extras. Light switches are made from ceramic, as was once common, and glass-block shower enclosures recall the building’s 1950s origins. The color scheme in all of the rooms is an elegant interplay between nostalgic curved headboards and mirror frames in white, dark wood floors and charcoal grey walls. The round, leather-rimmed mirrors above the bathroom sinks are a design classic by Gubi in the style of Jacques Adnet.
A huge terrace in the Superior Room is a perfect place to have a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening (not in winter though).
A special mention needs to be made of breakfasts served at the Grand Etage rooftop restaurant. A huge choice of breakfast options, from cold starters to eggs Benedict prepared on demand, and a magnificent 360° view over Vienna make these breakfasts literally unforgettable !
For more information about Grand Ferdinand Hotel, visit its website : https://grandferdinand.com/en/
It was my second time at the Vienna State Opera and I enjoyed it as much as the first time. I think I won’t be mistaken if I say that the Vienna State Opera house is one of the best opera houses in the world. It was inaugurated in 1869, which means the opera house’s history goes back for more than 150 years. Since some of the most famous composers of the 19th century resided in Vienna, the city is considered as a capital of the classic music, and lots of big opera stars played there.
The opera house is gorgeous, outside as well as inside, it’s truly a masterpiece. Make yourself a pleasure and choose an elegant outfit for your opera evening – there’s no risk to be overdressed.
During covid the bars in the opera are available only upon reservation which can be made on the official website of the Vienna opera or via an application. As a true geek, I downloaded the application in advance and discovered that everything in German ! No English translation was available, but fortunately there where the photos in the menu, so I could successfully book a table in one of the bars. I advise you though to book at least a couple of days in advance, since the most beautiful and therefore popular bars, Gustav Mahler Hall and Marble Hall, get full very quickly.
How to choose your places for an opera ? Well it obviously depends on your budget but the principle is that the sound (and visibility) is better in the center, so if you hesitate between the side seats in the amphitheater and central places on the balcony, prefer the second ones.
Pique Dame (or The Queen of Spades) by Tchaikovsky, with Valery Gergiev as conductor, is an unusual and rather original version of the classic opera. Vera Nemirova, director of this opera, integrated into performance the elements of the soviet culture which produces surprisingly powerful effect. Nevertheless, the storyline is generally respected and the final scene at the casino is just epic!
At last but not at least, some covid related information : to have access to the opera house, you must provide a proof of 3 (and no less) jabs vaccination, plus a negative PCR test (valid for 48 hours). As you can see, the rules to enter the Vienna State Opera are stricter thant the rules to cross the Austrian border… Also, be ready to keep a FFP2 mask during the whole performance. Obviously, it’s not pleasant but the opera totally worth it.
Dinner at Meissl & Schadn
The previous time I stayed at Grand Ferdinand its restaurant Meissl & Schadn was full, so this time I booked a table in advance and was excited to finally try the famous Vienna’s schnitzel there !
Schnitzel is undoubtably the iconic dish of Austrian cuisine, but these days it’s rarely prepared in the traditional way – pan fried – with the attention and commitment to unconditional quality it deserves. At Meissl & Schadn the cutlet is dredged in cage-free eggs and breadcrumbs from an artisanal bakery. They’re then fried golden brown in the finest butter, rich lard or neutral vegetable oil and served with your choice of garnishes and sides.
But Meissl & Schadn is not only about Schnitzel. This restaurant continues Austria’s culture of table side service of its legendary beef dishes, such as my favorite Tafelspits, flat iron steak and short ribs, as well as a number of other great Viennese classics.
A few photos of that delicious dinner at Meissl & Schadn :
Vienna is particularly rich in museums and art galleries, there’re always beautiful exhibitions to visit and new places to discover. This time I visited Titian’s exhibition in the Kunsthistorisches museum, one of the most famous cultural establishments in Vienna, and Edmond Schiele’s exhibition at Albertina Modern (which I found rather disappointing because of the very limited number of Schiele’s paintings).
Of course any trip to Vienna isn’t complete without eating a piece of Sacher tarte at the historical Sacher cafe (be ready to wait in line and try to avoid the afternoon pick hour starting from 4pm) and listening to the piano at Café Central !