Awe-inspiring architecture, vast expanses of public green space, world class opera houses and gritty rock venues – welcome to Vienna.
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Austria’s capital tops the list of cities with the best quality of life this year, and it’s easy to see why. From awe-inspiring architecture to vast expanses of public green space, exclusive shopping streets to bustling market places, and from world class opera houses and concert halls to quality, gritty rock venues, Vienna’s got it all. What’s more, you can zip to any location in minutes using the excellent, ubiquitous public transport system.
For a taste of typically Viennese cooking, visit a Heuriger in one of Vienna’s outer districts. These wine taverns serve traditional Austrian staples to accompany the current year’s vintage ("heuriger Wein") for which they are named. The Gasthof zum Renner in the 19th district comes highly recommended, especially on a nice day, when it is possible to dine under clear skies in the formidable open courtyard.
For a truly international flavour, head to the Rathausplatz, the large public park in front of the mayoral palace. In the summer months, this is the site of the annual Vienna Film Festival, due to take place between the 27th of June and the 30th of August in 2009. This free event showcases recordings of musical performances from the worlds of opera, classical music, jazz and ballet on a large cinema screen, but the real foodie highlight is the accompanying collection of gastronomy booths run by around 20 of Vienna’s top international restaurants. Fancy a Greek starter, a Chinese main and a Persian dessert, washed down with some French wine and a Cuban cocktail or two? Perhaps it’s best to stick to one culinary tradition for lunch and return for more at dinner.
Vienna is synonymous with coffee shop culture. Only rarely will you ever find yourself further than a couple of minute’s walk from the nearest Kaffeehaus. There are many beautiful, tradition-steeped coffee houses to choose from, but for a guaranteed authentic Viennese experience, order a _Melange at the Café Hawelka _in Vienna’s first district. For 70 years, this little café hidden away in a small side street off the Graben has been a refuge for Vienna’s artists and intellectuals, and the atmosphere is palpable.
The height of Viennese luxury can be found at the Hotel Sacher. Founded in 1876 by the son of Franz Sacher, creator of the famous _Sacher-Torte _chocolate cake, this hotel offers pure sophistication and comfort. Incidentally, the hotel won the exclusive rights to the "Original Sacher-Torte" trademark in a bitterly-fought legal battle with Demel, the imperial confectioner’s business. The latter’s version of the world-renowned treat is now known as the "Echte" (or "Real") Sacher-Torte. Vienna takes its cakes very seriously.
Those of us without a limitless budget can still choose from many great hotels at excellent locations. One of these is the Hotel Kärtnerhof, located in Vienna’s first district, a mere moment’s walk away from prime attractions such as Vienna’s _Stephansdom _cathedral.
Further accommodation for backpackers and money-conscious travellers can be found at a Jugendherberge (youth hostel) or Pension (guesthouse). These can be excellent value for money, offering clean, functional rooms at lower prices than hotels. A notable example is the Pension Mozart, located within easy walking access to Vienna’s museum district.
The Donauinselfest, a gigantic music festival situated on the "Danube Island" ("Donauinsel"), is coming up towards the end of this month (June 26th – 28th). Drawing a crowd of 3 million revellers to the 21km long strip of land in the middle of the Danube River every year, this is