Above: Karlskirche, a baroque church on the Karlsplatz, in Vienna

Austria's Classic Hotels Revisited

Scarcely a week goes by without someone asking, “What is your favorite place in the world?” I don’t care for this question, because I have numerous candidates for the award. Also, I can’t bring myself just to say, “Italy.” Nevertheless, I’ve noticed that one city returns to my thoughts more often than most: Vienna.

Perhaps it is Vienna’s many contradictions that I find so appealing. The former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still feels imperial, being filled with oversize palaces, huge government buildings and imposing monuments of every variety. Yet it is also cozy, with quiet cafés that invite you to linger over coffee and cake and warm Beisls (casual bistros) that serve some of the world’s best comfort food. In addition, over the past 150 years, Vienna has veered between being a conservative bastion of tradition and a leading center of modern art, design and philosophy.

Vienna absorbs tourists better than many places. Visitors divide themselves among the countless attractions, making crowds much more rare than in, say, nearby Prague. Nor is Vienna especially expensive. I compared the rates of two recommended properties, one in Vienna and one in Paris, both members of the same luxury hotel group. In mid-June, a deluxe room in Vienna costs about $365 less per night than a room of exactly the same size in the French capital. The fact that a number of Hideaway Report members had complained about one of our longtime hotel recommendations in Vienna was all the pretext I needed to immerse myself once again in the city’s art, architecture, music, food and wine (picturesque vineyards start in the suburbs).

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Above: Karlskirche, a baroque church on the Karlsplatz, in Vienna

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