About Vienna as experienced by our Founder, Launching the City Guides with where SA.AL&CO is Home
Vienna is an eccentric city reinventing itself as it no longer is the spy capital of the cold war as it was until the 80s nor the capitalistic entryway into Eastern Europe throughout the 90s and 00s. Stubbornly unchanged in the meantime is its cultural dominance, being considered a giant among cultural exposition and tourist cities, continuously surprising with grand and expansive exhibitions. Further exemplified by the astounding Spanish Hofreitschule that dazzles its visitors with the skills of its horses as well as architecturally stunning downtown stables, in 2017 one of its other cultural behemoths is turning 175: the Vienna Philharmonics. Its long history most profoundly remembered by this author as the philharmonics profoundly and proficiently conducted by the rakish Herbert von Karajan, the occasion will be marked with 100 concerts, including free and open-air sessions.
Meanwhile Vienna is maintaining a sprawling and elegant ball tradition, becoming an unmatched elegant and dandy town during these winter days as gentleman wearing black tie walk across the cobble stoned streets to enter the concert halls and embassies. Its cultural draw, traditions as well as elegance make it the aspirational focal point for the rest of Austria as well as the peoples of the surrounding, erstwhile K&K countries. Surely seldom disappointed upon encountering the fur wearing grand dames promenading the 1st district in beautifully decorated festive Vienna during the Christmas season, Vienna unsurprisingly has meanwhile become an old grand dame herself. The gentle transformation, spearheaded by a younger generation that is both mostly ignorant to the cold war past as well as proud of the cities pre-war atmosphere and traditions, reintroduces and reinterprets the cities imperial past and marries it with contemporary influences and impulses coming from around the world.
The transformation means shattering some of the cities elegance and cold war mystery, yet maintaining and enhancing the Vienna-laissez-fair-charm and a very high living standard, which often lands Vienna on the pedestal of best cities to inhabit. It manifests itself most prominently in the sprawling restaurant scene, the rediscovery of the Donaukanal promenade as a place to enjoy drinks during and well after sundown, as well as many interpretations of Vienna’s 20s and 30s in the broader bar and hotel scene. As it no longer serves the best coffees north of the Alps, even though several passionate entrepreneurs are working on reestablishing Vienna on the barista scene, there are still enough coffeehouses living up to the captivating words by Alfred Polgar: “A coffeehouse is a place for people who want to be alone, yet need company to do so.”
It is in that ethos that I invite you to experience my favorite places in the home and birth city of SA.AL&CO.
– by Istvan Laszloffy, Founder of SA.AL&CO
Beaulieu is a charming little French bistro situated in the passage of Palais Ferstl. The Art Nouveau atmosphere of the interior, beautiful passage setting, delicious French pastry offering along with arguably the largest cheese collection in town, provide the perfect setting for the start of a fabulous weekend. The French flair of the café and elegance of the passage fittingly escort anyone coming here to a place where time dangerously loses its meaning, thus inviting guests to stay that much longer to immerse themselves in the unique atmosphere.
Figar 1070 is set in the bohemian 7th district and fulfills its mission in quenching the hunger of many creatives that are working or living in the area. Fittingly founded by the owner of an ad agency and gallerist, it is a cozy and palate pleasing restaurant from where to start the day, not least thanks to its avocado toasts and eggs benedicts. It is however far more than a quaint venue for brunch and in the summer months boosts a terrace ideal for sun-soaked lunches, whilst in the evenings serving the creative crowd pleasingly luscious and boozy dinners. Its popularity has led to the opening of two more venues in Vienna as well as two additional summer spots – one on Donaukanal, one on Donauinsel.
Café Francais is next to the Votivkirche, combining a French ambiance with the expectations for a café in Vienna, boosting high ceilings and stunning frontal views onto Votivkirche. The Brunch on Saturdays is a great way to launch a city tour, being just off of the Ring and close to the major sites. A wide variety of great breakfast options is elegantly finished off with the “TRES TSCHICK!”, serving a Café accompanied by one cigarette. It is however equally remarkable for dinner, serving simple yet traditional and satisfying French cuisine with an inspiring view onto beautifully illuminated Votivkirche. Unfortunately, it is closed on Sundays.
Cafés — in the City of Coffee
Demel is one of the grand old dames among coffeehouses in Vienna and has been around for more than 200 years. In a similar fashion to the more famous Sacher, it is first and foremost a confectionery bakery, where you can buy not only the candied violets so adored by Empress Sissi, but also a wide variety of other dreamlike sweets. On the upper floor you’ll find a café where you can enjoy the produces of the confectionary bakery immediately as well as a variety of traditional coffees whilst feeling transplanted to passé, elegant, imperial time.
Cafe Hawelka is an institution among Vienna’s coffeehouses with a dark atmospheric interior. Adored not only by today’s newspaper reading and mélange drinking Viennese intellectuals, but particularly from the 50s onward, it has established itself as a literally hangout. It was frequented by Austrian notables such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Andre Heller as well as a few from abroad, such as Arthur Miller and Andy Warhol. A history one can still sense whilst enjoying the scrumptious cakes and charmingly old-fashioned atmosphere, it is surely a must-do for any self-proclaimed intellectual bibliophile.
Kleines Café does not need a website – it is known to those who need to know of its existence. Nestled at the stone-cobbled square called Franziskanerplatz, it is in a quiet area of the 1st district, barely 100 meter airline from Stephansdom. In the summer months the tables outside provide a home to those seeking a break from the city buzz as well as requiring caffeine to recharge their batteries. In the remaining months of the year the tiny, charming café is an experience to coffeehouse-lovers, whilst one can also take pleasure in a good glass of Grünveltliner whilst sitting in the leather chairs.
Appeasing the afternoon hunger
Trzesniewski off of Graben is the birthplace of this Viennese institution, which by now boosts several locations across the city. The superlative venue for quenching the emerging hunger during those awkward hours between lunch and dinner whilst strolling around the 1st district, it serves a mind boggling variety of egg spreads such as egg and egg, tuna and egg, spicy egg, salami, herring, lobster, salami. The wood-paneled interior with its standing tables is rustic and an experience to anyone visiting.
ZUM SchwarzeN kameEl
Zum Schwarzen Kameel is an institution among Vienna’s restaurants and delicatessen stores dating all the way back to 1618, having served no other than Beethoven himself. Opposite of the imposing and newly established Goldenes Quartier, which are a few luxury shopping blocks, the restaurant moved to its current location in 1901. In the fashion of that time, it displays a beautiful, intricate art nouveau interior and is a dandy place to feast in style during lunch and dinner hours. The delicatessen bar is meanwhile ideal for a quick midday bite, offering fresh breads with spreads served directly at the counter as well as on the terrace in front during the summer months.
DO&CO Albertina is situated in the Albertina museum, which houses the largest and most valuable collection of graphic art in the world – a must-do for anyone visiting Vienna. The recently renovated restaurant with an elegant café is opportunely placed within the Albertina building offering great meals throughout the day – most notably, during the summer months, it has tables outside on the terrace, providing a beautiful view of the Opera and nearby palace rooftops. It is an obligatory visit, especially after a visit to Albertina, even if only for a coffee and bite, thus digesting the impressions of the art collection serenely.
skopick & Lohn
Skopik & Lohn is in the 2nd district, often called the Jewish quarter, and certainly one of the up-and-coming areas of Vienna. It is where an ex-New Yorker with Viennese descendants and in-laws from Provence and Tuscany created a precedent for how a sophisticated restaurant in Vienna could be, really should be. The old-world elegance nonchalantly presents itself through the white-tablecloths, uniformed waiters as well as wood-paneled interior, but the eccentric ceiling scribbled on with black paint by a local artist gives it the sort of twist you only expect from the great restaurants in London, Paris or, well, New York. The cuisine is Austrian with French and Italian inspirations, whilst in addition to a pleasingly expansive wine list, the cocktails are skillfully mixed in an excellent ambiance, furthered only by the chansons from the 20s that are gently playing in the background.
plachutta ZUR oper
Plachutta an der Oper is undoubtedly the place to enjoy the best Winer Schnitzel in a surrounding that can be best described as a contemporary translation of traditional Austrian interiors. It is furthermore celebrated for its Tafelspitz, the boiled beef that became the favored dish of Emperor Franz Josef, which is served with applesauce spiked with horseradish, thus combining sweet and spicy with an inspired twist. Immediately behind the opera house, it is equally centrally situated as good a choice it is to experience traditional Austrian cuisine in a contemporary, refined setting.
Miznon is a fabulous addition to the Viennese restaurant scene and whilst it is a temple for Israeli street food, it feels in no way out-of-place in Vienna. Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani has opened his fifth branch of the success story from Tel Aviv here in Vienna a short while ago, winning over guests with gourmet pitas that are filled with a twist. It is already the second location outside of Israel, following the recent expansion into Paris. Similarly to the French branch’s success it draws in not only Israelis, but the curious and inspired BOBO scene of Vienna. Seeking the extraordinary, it immerses anyone entering into a sensual Israeli experience, thus providing an atmospheric as well as palate feast accompanied by a loud and fabulous crowd.
Coktails & dreams
loos american bar
Loos American Bar is perhaps the smallest, greatest bar in the world. Designed by Adolf Loos in 1908, pioneer of the modern architectural movement, it is all of 27 square meters of architectural delight and history. A beautiful mirror makes the mahogany-paneled bar seem larger than it is, as does the smart and eccentric crowd it inhibits well into the depths of nights. Originally a drinking room of a private gentlemen's club it is open to everyone appreciative of great cocktails, in this manner boosting five kinds of Manhattans and six kinds of martinis, including a killer Espresso Martini that will literally kick-start the night.
roberto american bar
Roberto American Bar has been created by Roberto Pavlovic, one of Vienna's best bartenders who previously delighted guests with his mixology at Loo’s American Bar. The cozy sophistication of black velvet-clad dark interiors and masterfully mixed as well as complexly flavored drinks are treasured in droves most nights of the week. The colorful crowd thus cherishes the bar which thanks to its cosmopolitan sophistication could easily be a favorite in the hometown of Parisians, Londoners, and New Yorkers. An experimental cocktail connoisseur will find his match in Bobe's Special.
Bonbonniere Pianobar is a throwback to Vienna’s 30s with all its kitsch and glamour. The lady owner can still be seen chatting to the guests, which makes the tiny piano bar an intimate affair, especially as it can only hold approximately 30 people. The cocktail list is equally small, but sufficient for the classic clientele that is generally comprised of an older, charming compilation of eccentric regulars as well as the occasional, determined visitor – only those who know of it, will seek and find it. It is the ideal location for those seeking an experience of a time long gone; think of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, minus the super- and artificiality of Hollywood and instead, genuine in more ways than can be described.
Rest your head in style
Hotel Lamée is a homage to Hedy Lamarr, a Vienna-born Hollywood actress, thus catapulting its guest right back into the movie star’s 30s. It’s dark, intricate wood panels combined with leather and velvet furniture are an ode to nostalgia, but with a subtle contemporary twist. The 1930s building has been vertically expanded by two floors, no housing both the stunning bar with its expansive views over the city’s rooftops as well as the Café Bloom, wherefrom guests may observe as Vienna is gently sliping out of its slumber whilst enjoying a generous palatable breakfast. It’s 32 alluring rooms give it a private, exclusive ambiance worthy of a 30s Hollywood star now irreversibly stuck in the 21st century.
hotel sans souci wien
Hotel Sans Souci Wien is located in a modernized, historic building dating back to 1872 and is adjacent to the famed Museums Quartier, one of the world’s largest modern art and culture areas, as well as a stone throw away from the Ring. The luxury boutique hotel boosts 63 spacious rooms with eccentric twists and daring eclecticism as well as a bowling-alley-shaped swimming pool; throughout dominated by shades of lilac. The mischievous luxury and playful elegance of the hotel is reinforced by the paintings that are from the owner’s private collection, including Roy Lichtensteins and even a Picasso. The furniture is meanwhile eclectic and equally from the 18th century, the 20th century, such as pieces by Arne Jacobsson, as well as masterpieces created by 21st century’s architectural enfant terrible Philippe Starck.
The Grand Ferdinand is a newcomer to the Ringstrasse hotel scene, created by famed Weitzer Hotels from Graz, who have blasted onto the Vienna hotel scene with the Daniel Hotel years ago. In the owners own words, the aim was to transform the landmark building so as to make it “splendidly contemporary, free of forced flashbacks – and filled with unparalleled spirit." Amenities include a rooftop pool, a Jaguar of special provenance and a barber who practices his craft in the traditional way within the hotel walls. The Grand Étage restaurant is open to members as well as hotel guests only, thus secluding this magnificent experience for both palate and eye for the sake of only a select few.
When in summer, do as the locals do
Neni am Naschmarkt
Neni am Naschmarkt is a sensual experience settled in midst of of the 100-year-old Naschmarkt, which is a shuk like marketplace offering delicatessen and an ever increasing number of street food restaurants. Established nearly ten years ago by the wife of a retired world-traveling mime, it is a family affair run by nearly the entire Molho family as not only do the mother’s four sons’ acronyms make up the name Neni, but each one of them is involved in the family restaurants of which this is solely the first. The Tel Aviv-style bistro is trendy and entertaining, serving Israeli gourmet food in its main booth as well as an ever increasing number of adjacent booths – most strikingly from spring to fall, one can also enjoy the specialities sitting outside, in the pathways between the booths of Naschmarkt. The places is as easy as a Sunday morning, but one of those that you’ll surely remember and cherish.
Tel Aviv Beach is the captivating setting wherefrom to experience Vienna’s sunsets and summer nights. The beach sand covered stretch of the Donaukanal had originally been a brainchild of the Israeli government and Molcho family in an effort to celebrate Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary. It’s a testament to the Neni creators’ aptitude to transform a stretch of Vienna, who’s potential has been foolishly neglected, and make it the nucleus of the city’s summer-night-canvas – as highlighted by the growing number of surrounding bars and restaurants. The Viennese homage to Tel Aviv’s promenade is a truly immersing experience, which is dangerously futile in consigning to utter oblivion both the time of night as well as the number of glasses already depleted.
25hours Hotel Rooftop Bar
25hour Hotel Rooftop Bar is the hip, young, and bohemian place for anyone seeking a view over the city’s roofs on a perfect summer night. Mostly an indoor affair, the seats on the terrace are thus highly prized whilst most stand in groups admiring the view onto the monumental palaces nestled around Ringstrasse. Adjacent to MuseumsQuartier, the ambience throughout the designer hotel is fittingly creative and draws inspiration from the circus, thus successfully bringing back to life an otherwise dull 70s construction. The theme ensures an informal, even sometimes humorous atmosphere, as the tasteful and potent drinks are set among a myriad of findings from the circus ring and even the occasional original from the heyday of variety in Vienna, which was, naturally, during the 20s and 30s.
SA.AL&CO in its home town
Nägele & Strubel am Graben
Nägele & Strubel am Graben is one of the 13 stores belonging to the premium perfumery chain established in 1880 at this very location – Graben 27. The longevity of the chain and success in our time and day can be attributed to their commitment to service as well as their selection of not only the well known premium and luxury brands, but also an increasing number of niche up-and-comers. It is where you will thus not only find Aqua di Parma, but also Byredo, not only Etro but also Frederic Malle as well as Kilian and Maison Francis Kurkdjian etc. No wonder then their reputation for being a favorite among dames and gentleman of Vienna’s elegant establishment as well as being a focal point across other parts of the country, as they can be found in all major cities across Austria.
Kussmund is a refined perfume and skincare store focused solely on premium as well as luxury niche brands, nestled in a narrow street off of Graben. The store prides itself in selecting only brands that they themselves are unquestioningly standing behind, hence driven by a profound integrity as well as loyalty towards their customers. Many come to this store to find their favorite niche brands whilst exploring newcomers to the international skincare and perfume market. In their selection they are however also truly patriotic, carrying a fine selection of Austrian brands and thus supporting as well as nurturing these few, but fine brands. It is how Kussmund became the very first store to carry SA.AL&CO, bonding us to this fine store with a heightened sense of gratitude and pride.
Staudigl Naturparfümerie is heaven for anyone seeking a curated, fine as well as broad selection of natural skincare and perfume products. It is the first perfumery of its kind in Austria, focusing only on natural products, and has thrived ever since its opening in 2003. In addition to the perfumery in Wollzeile 4, a few hundred meters down the street, across the street in Wollzeile 25, you will find Vienna’s foremost health food store, established in 1979, which is owned and operated by the same family. It is the kind of store where all the employees breath and live a commitment to their mission to cherish nature, which makes it a genuine and hence profoundly charming store to visit.
Map of Vienna showing all the recommended places
BLACK - BRUNCH, GREY - CAFÉS, LILAC - APPEASING THE AFTERNOON HUNGER, YELLOW - DINNER EXPERIENCES, RED - COKTAILS & DREAMS, GREEN - REST THE HEAD IN STYLE, PURPLE - WHEN IN SUMMER, DO AS THE LOCALS DO, BLUE - SA.AL&CO IN ITS HOME TOWN