‘Gemütlich’ in Vienna

A fabulous hotel, excellent food and wine and friendly people.

THE FACADE of the Hotel Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna. (photo credit: PALAIS HANSEN KEMPINSKI VIENNA)
THE FACADE of the Hotel Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna.
VIENNA – If you happen to be in Vienna for New Year’s Eve you may care to partake of the fare offered at the Palais Hansen Kempinski Hotel, which includes: scallop/ caviar; guinea fowl/perigord truffle; veal/agnolotti; venison/pepper; and dark chocolate, followed by a dessert party at the hotel’s Die Kuche restaurant.
Die Kuche is indeed a very fine restaurant and I can attest to the excellence of its Wiener schnitzel. However, one can presumably dine out quite well in other Viennese restaurants.
It’s the Palais Hansen itself that is a unique hotel experience. Housed in a grand palace-like edifice it was designed by famed Danish architect Baron Theophil Edvard von Hansen and finished in 1873. Hansen designed other prominent edifices in Vienna, including the Parliament building and the Vienna Stock Exchange.
Although originally designed as a hotel it housed municipal departments until 1997 when it was sold. It was painstaking restored to its original function and reopened in March 2013 as the Palais Hansen Kempinski. Nike, the goddess of victory watches over the magnificent façade of the building. And this sets the tone as one enters the grand hotel.
A glass elevator lifts you up from the lobby and takes you to your junior suite, perhaps the finest accommodations I have enjoyed. The 53-sq.m. room and royal-family size bed would have been large enough to accommodate several more guests apart from myself. But what really did it for me was the luxurious bathroom. I was truly disappointed that I did not have sufficient time to spend more hours in the spacious shower with its push button on-off and digital temperature control.
The Palais Hansen is close to the Danube Canal and I took advantage of the proximity to go for an early morning jog along its banks. The zero degree weather ensured that I moved along at a smart pace.
Among the amenities offered by the hotel are friendly staff, a spa and a fitness center, two restaurants, several bars and facilities for conferences and events.
Breakfast is sufficient to sustain you for most of the day. I stuffed myself with several helpings of fresh berries not usually available in Israel.
Junior suites are priced from €600 and regular rooms from €300.
Touring Vienna The Palais Hansen is located on Schottenring, which is part of the Ringstrasse, the boulevard that surrounds the city center. In 2015, Vienna will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of this grand ring road with its magnificent 19th-century public buildings and mansions (one of them being Palais Hansen).
A short stroll from the hotel (dress warmly – it’s freezing out there in the winter) along the Ringstrasse brings you to what has been called the “grandest public space in Europe.” The buildings comprise a variety of architectural styles – for example the Parliament was modeled on a Greek temple and the new section of the imperial residence on a Roman forum; the state opera, the university and the stock exchange follow the neorenaissance style, while the city hall is Flemish Gothic.
In contrast to the broad Ringstrasse boulevard, narrow alleys surround the Stephensdom, or St. Stephen’s Cathedral, in the heart of the old city. Largely initiated in the 14th century the impressive cathedral, with its multicolored tile roof, is the city’s most recognizable symbol.
At this stage you probably need to thaw out a bit, so look for Café Hawelka, opened by Leopold Hawelka in 1939 in one of the narrow streets near the Jewish Museum. It doesn’t seem to have changed much since its pre-World War II beginnings and certainly has the feel of what one assumes an old-style Viennese café was like. It exudes gemütlichkeit (a warm, cozy and cheerful attitude). The son and grandson of Leopold run the place (the grandson’s mother is Israeli and he’ll exchange a few words of Hebrew if you tell him you’re from over there).
I had my second Wiener schnitzel (made from veal rather than the standard Israeli chicken schnitzel) at the Motto an Fluss. This is a restaurant shaped like a boat that overhangs the Danube.
The view is lovely and you can watch a speedy catamaran pick up passengers for a 45-minute dash to the next big city down the river – Bratislava in Slovakia.
It’s early December and the city is gearing up for Christmas. Decorations abound and half of a skyscraper is decked out as a Christmas tree. The area in front of City Hall is given over to a Christmas market and jolly crowds partake of roasted chestnuts, grilled sausages and glühwein, the spicy hot wine that’s just the thing to fight off the chill.
All in all the food is good the wine is excellent and the Viennese people in the center of Europe are gemütlich.
The writer was a guest of Palais Hansen Kempinski and the Vienna Tourist Board.