Presidential suites and butler service in the finest five-star hotels, champagne glasses made by former purveyors to the imperial court, an evening meal in a world-class Michelin-starred restaurant and shopping for the latest fashions in the old town – Vienna’s luxury segment is brimming with highlights for traditional and contemporary tastes alike.
A long tradition of luxury
In Vienna luxury can take a highly traditional form. Although the Austro-Hungarian monarchy ceased to exist in 1918, the high quality standards set by the former purveyors to the imperial court continue to have their place in the modern era. Only the very best companies were granted the Imperial and Royal k.u.k. (kaiserlich und königlich) warrant, making them Hoflieferanten. With this honor came the right to supply the Imperial Court with goods and services and incorporate the double headed eagle into their signage. This distinctive symbol continues to adorn the fronts of various stores to this day, providing an indication that their exclusive ranges have endured across the generations.
There were k.u.k. Hoflieferanten from all walks of business – after all the Imperial Court required a vast range of products and services. Examples include two of the city’s best-known patisseries. The Sacher Torte began its world-conquering journey in the kitchens of the Hotel Sacher in 1832 and is still baked according to a closely guarded recipe. This sweet revelation can be enjoyed in authentic style today in the luxury hotel’s wonderfully preserved café. On Kohlmarkt, confectioner to the royal and imperial court Demel continues to provide the city and its visitors with the finest delicacies, such as its candied violets or Punschkrapferl chocolate, laced with rum.
J. & L. Lobmeyr’s store on Kärntner Strasse has lost nothing of its sparkle since its days of supplying tableware to the court. The company has manufactured high-quality glassware since 1823, from drinking glass services to glittering chandeliers. Jeweler A. E. Köchert once created unique pieces for Empress Elisabeth. On the occasion of Sisi and Emperor Franz Joseph’s first wedding anniversary, Köchert produced the diamond encrusted stars that are still available today – for the right price.
Well-heeled locals are more than happy to pay that little bit extra for tailored, handmade apparel. Gentlemen’s outfitter Knize can be found at its prestigious address on Graben. In the 19th century, the archdukes of the house of Habsburg had their exquisite clothing made here. Today, the tailor makes tails, dinner jackets (tuxedos), suits, blazers and the Stresemann for its customers. The traditional wooden lasts used as the starting point for the bespoke shoes made by Rudolf Scheer & Söhne for Emperor Franz Joseph and many other high-profile customers are still tucked away somewhere in the company storerooms. The family business has now entered its seventh generation and is still making quality tailored ladies’ and gentlemen’s footwear. Patrons enjoy a complimentary professional cleaning service, with people as far away as Japan sending in their shoes for a shine.
The first district is home to numerous antique stores. The side streets around Graben, including Dorotheergasse, Stallburggasse and Bräunerstrasse are brimming with boutiques selling Baroque armoires, renaissance chests, fine carpets, magnificent timepieces, paintings, porcelain and antique jewelry. Wiener Silber Manufactur reproduces classic Viennese silverware designs including dinner services using original sketches by masters such as Josef Hoffmann and Oswald Haerdtl. The Dorotheum (est. 1707) is one of the world’s largest auction houses and a magnet for lovers of fine antiques.
Art fans and collectors will love the auctions hosted by Palais Kinsky and WestLicht Photographica Auctions, the international Viennacontemporary art fair and numerous galleries in the city. According to The Art Market Report 2019, Austria currently represents 1% of the global art auctions market – the same share as Germany or Italy.
The best addresses
The old town’s attractions go well beyond the traditional. Anyone looking for high-end international designer fashion will find it at multi-brand boutiques including Amicis, Chegini, Emis, Firis, and Liska, where gems from Balenciaga, Balmain, Manolo Blahnik, Chloé, Comme des Garçons, Dries Van Noten, Tom Ford, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, Marni, Stella McCartney, Issey Miyake, Rick Owens, and other designers line the racks. A number of big name Viennese designers also have stores in the First District. Highlights include couturiers Michel Mayer and Schella Kann, accessory specialist Robert Horn and Eva Blut, and luxury shoemaker Ludwig Reiter. Traditional hat maker Mühlbauer has some of high society’s biggest names on its books including A-list celebrities such as Madonna, Brad Pitt, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss.
But bespoke Viennese handcraftsmanship with an A-list following is just one side of the story – all of the world’s most sought-after luxury brands have set up shop in the Austrian capital. Top international labels such as Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Chopard, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Hermès, Michael Kors, Karl Lagerfeld, Tod’s, Tiffany & Co and Versace have zeroed in on the exclusive shopping streets of the historic First District, and Kohlmarkt, Graben and Tuchlauben in particular.
The Goldenes Quartier, adjoining Kohlmarkt and Graben, is also part of the city center’s luxury shopping scene. This complex of historic buildings linking Tuchlauben and Am Hof has attracted a glut of international celebrated labels: 7 For all Mankind, Emporio Armani, Bambini, Bottega Veneta, Brioni, Church’s, Brunello Cucinelli, Etro, Fleurs de Paris, Kiton, Alexander McQueen, Miu, Mulberry, Pomellato, Prada, Saint Laurent Paris, Valentino, and Louis Vuitton, as well as upmarket interior store Lederleitner Home, and Amicis Deuxieme. Exclusive names such as Akris, Agent Provocateur and Jimmy Choo can be found opposite the Goldenes Quartier.
Hotels for discerning travelers
Vienna’s upmarket hotels are mainly found on the showpiece Ringstrasse boulevard and in the old town. Officially opened in1865 by Emperor Franz Joseph, the Ringstrasse is home to traditional hotels such as the Imperial, the Bristol, the Palais Coburg Residenz and the Sacher, as well as more recent additions including Le Méridien, The Ring Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna and The Ritz-Carlton Vienna. Each of these hotels offers a full range of services aimed at the very top end of the market.
Among the attractions of the Park Hyatt Vienna is Austria’s largest hotel suite – the 820 square meter Royal Penthouse Suite, which has four open-air terraces. The Hyatt Group opened a second location in Vienna in April 2019, the luxury lifestyle hotel Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere, close to the central station. BASQUE LUXURY especially recommends this hotel due to its perfect service and excellent gastronomy. This accommodation has an amazing rooftop bar, a restaurant where the importance of local products is highlighted and a bar next to the lobby where each afternoon the hotel invites the guests to enjoy a traditional snack.
Anyone planning to stay the night in a suite at the time-honored Imperial can look forward to a free butler service, which includes an immaculately pressed daily newspaper in the morning. Travelers that opt for an extra-special package will even be treated to their very own piece of music, which is created by a composer based on the outcome of a music test.
The Palais Coburg Residenz has a historic wine cellar dating back to the 16th century, with 60,000 bottles. Its collection of rare wines is one of the best on the planet and has picked up numerous awards over the years. The luxury hotel also offers a special New Year’s Eve package, which includes four nights in an Imperial Suite, a pair of hard-to-come-by tickets for the New Year’s Concert given by the Vienna Philharmonic, and a gala dinner menu by Michelin-star chef Silvio Nickol.
The Ritz-Carlton has a 190 square meter presidential suite complete with an open fire, a library and no end of high-tech.
Visitors to Vienna can also stay in truly imperial accommodation. An apartment in the east wing of Schönbrunn Palace has now been converted into a 167 square meter suite following a carefully monitored refurbishment project. The interiors and finishes are in keeping with the rest of the Habsburg’s former summer residence, with Maria-Theresa chandeliers, Stucco work and imperial damask motifs setting the tone. Stunning views of the palace gardens, Gloriette and Neptune fountain are a highlight.
Viennese cuisine has made a name for itself the world over, and in the city’s down-to-earth eateries it is prepared according to time-honored traditions and with a healthy dash of innovation. The capital’s standing at the top of the restaurant charts is plain to see in respected publications such as the Michelin Guide (Main Cities of Europe 2018), which lists one three-star restaurant, four two-star restaurants and eight one-star restaurants for Vienna. Amador is Vienna’s (and Austria’s) first three-star restaurant. The 2019 Guide Michelin awarded two stars to Steirereck in the Stadtpark, an establishment which also claimed 17th spot in the “World‘s 50 Best Restaurants“ 2019. The other recipients of two Michelin stars were Konstantin Filippou, Mraz & Sohn and Silvio Nickol Gourmet-Restaurant at Palais Coburg. Aend, Walter Bauer, Le Ciel by Toni Mörwald (Grand Hotel Wien), Edvard (Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna), Das Loft (SO/ Vienna), Pramerl & the Wolf, Shiki and Tian were each rated with one Michelin star in 2018.
Private dining can be arranged in Vienna’s top restaurants, for a more intimate experience. At Steirereck, a private dining room can be reserved for an exclusive evening that includes meeting chef Heinz Reitbauer in person. Another of the city’s two-Michelin-starred restaurants, Konstantin Filippou (named after its charismatic chef), also has a private dining room.
Individual and exclusive arts and culture experiences
Vienna’s art and culture attractions can also be enjoyed in an exclusive setting. Visits to the home of the Vienna Boys Choir, the Augartenpalais, are available by appointment, and private concerts can also be arranged. Private concerts are also held in the historic casemates of the Palais Coburg Residenz, where a Bösendorfer concert grand piano is kept permanently. Many of Vienna’s museums offer private guided tours outside regular opening hours by prior arrangement – options include tours led by the museum director in person.
For an appropriate fee, an intimate dinner for two can be arranged at the Belvedere in front of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, The Kiss. And among other exclusive services, the Kunsthistorisches Museum offers a private dinner for two in the domed hall, accompanied by live music. The experience also includes a guided tour of the collections.
In Vienna, luxury can manifest itself in simple everyday pleasures such as a trip to one of the capital’s coffee houses. Vienna’s coffeehouse culture was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2011. According the official report “the coffeehouses are a place where patrons consume time and space, but only the coffee appears on the bill.” This encapsulates what a traditional Viennese coffeehouse has to offer – other than a delicious Melange coffee and a slice of fresh Gugelhupf. The city’s coffee houses are the ideal place to take time out for yourself, catch up with old friends, philosophize or simply leaf through the papers.
One other everyday luxury that the locals take as a given is the city’s fantastic quality drinking water. Fresh spring water flows into the city’s homes from 30 natural sources in the Styrian and Lower Austrian Alps via two huge pipelines – without recourse to a single pump thanks to the natural gradient. Every drop that flows out of the capital’s faucets has been subjected to a raft of strict quality control measures. During summer there are hundreds of water fountains dotted all over the city to provide welcome – and free – refreshment for locals and visitors alike.