The hardest part about going on a city trip for me is choosing the accommodation. I know exactly what I want: the uniqueness and creativity of an Airbnb, combined with the comfort and service of a luxury hotel. Most of all, I know what I don’t want: Waking up in a hotel which looks just the same in Amsterdam as it does in Zagreb. When I was invited to stay at Hotel Altstadt Vienna for a weekend, I finally found what I was looking for: a gorgeous and creative hotel with a distinct Viennese vibe.
When our cab first pulled over in front of Hotel Altstadt, I had to take a second look before I found the entrance. Nestled into the typical Viennese streets, it’s easy to mistake the four-star boutique hotel for just another residential building – in fact, there are still a few locals living door to door to hotel guests in the very same place. They share the same entrance, the high-ceiling hallways, and the heavy red carpets, making you feel like just like them whenever you go to your room – another local on your way home.
Adding to that feeling is the fact that each and every room is truly unique – artists, architects, and designers have been given the freedom to individually design and furnish the rooms of the old patrician house. “Yours is an extremely beautiful room,” the receptionist beamed as she handed me my room key, dangling from a color-coordinated lanyard that matches the floors of the hotel (because yes, this is how much eye for detail you can expect at Altstadt Vienna).
And really, what awaited me behind the immense wooden doors and the long, dignified red hallway leading to my room for the weekend blew my mind: A room larger than my one-person apartment back home, boasting the high ceilings so typical for Habsburg architecture, stained oak floors and long, cream-colored drapes, complete with a freestanding bathtub. In other words: Heaven.
The room was designed by well-known architect and designer Matteo Thun, who took Vienna’s most notorious courtesan, Josefine Mutzenbacher, as inspiration. The other rooms at Altstadt are just as breathtaking: the “Chocolate Room”, designed by the Viennese designer duo POLKA, is filled with elements that resemble candies, the suite designed by Austrian fashion designer Lena Hoschek features nostalgic fabrics and wallpapers, and the two rooms designed by Life Ball co-founder and Creative Director of perfect props Andi Lackner reflect the neighborhood’s church St. Ulrich in bronze, golden, and silver tones, to name just a few of the creative room designs.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was already smitten as soon as my body sunk into those huge pillows, looking up at an impressive chandelier, and looking forward to a relaxing bath in this paradise of a room – but if there was anything that made me like the Altstadt even more, it was the artwork. In fact, the giant collection of pieces of art, be it paintings, photography, or sculpture, is actually the reason that this hotel was founded in the first place: Otto Wiesenthal, the founder of Altstadt Vienna, was looking for a place to display his expansive art collection that would feel like a big, cozy living room.
Well – check, if you ask me. The second you step into the doors of Altstadt Vienna, you are greeted with modern art (my favorite is right there in the entrance hall – a series of paintings by Alexander Ruthner, showing green grass and cigarette butts, amongst other things). In total, there are more than 300 artworks on display in the hotel – watch out for the contemporary Austrian artists in between Andy Warhol and Hundertwasser.
I could have spent the following three days chilling in my room, perfectly content – if it weren’t for the rest of the hotel and surroundings that are just begging to be discovered. The hotel’s very own parlor, the Roter Salon, looks just as inviting as a living room, and you can see guests treating it as just that – enjoying coffee or tea during the day, reading a good book or browsing a magazine. This is also where breakfast is served in the mornings, which – being the foodie that I am – I am convinced can make or break a hotel. Altstadt Vienna has breakfast down to a science: do you want to start your day with sparkling wine and vitamin shots made from freshly squeezed fruit? Well, here, you can.
If you do manage to actually leave the hotel, you’re in the perfect spot to start exploring the city. Altstadt Vienna is right in the middle of the artsy 7th district – the cultural area MuseumsQuartier, home to over 60 cultural and artistic institutions and museums, is a mere 10-minute walk away, and to get to the Hofburg Palace (where Empress Elisabeth, better known as Sisi, used to live) you just need five minutes more.
Even if you’re like me and you’ve been to Vienna before, or if you have extra time to spend on something that goes beyond the classic sightseeing, there is still plenty to discover that is a little bit more off the beaten path. We had the pleasure of being guided by Thetis Kedl, one of Vienna’s certified tour guides, through the inner city to learn more about – nope, not the architecture or the ancient Habsburg empire – but the lives of prostitutes in 19th century Vienna. She offers many tours (in German, English, and Japanese) on equally exceptional topics – from scary tours through Vienna’s dungeons to learning everything about Viennese legends and sagas, she’s got you covered even if you think you already know everything there is to know about Vienna.
The reason I personally love the location of Altstadt Vienna so much is something else, though: the many shops and restaurants in the area. If you’re planning a shopping spree, Mariahilfer Strasse, the largest shopping street in the city, is a good starting point. The shops I really adore in this district, however, are not to be found there, but rather in the little side streets and alleys that lead off the main road. My favorites? Easy: Check out Sous-Bois for adorable little notebooks and anything else a paper-loving heart desires (they offer workshops to make them yourself, as well!), and then head over to Bootik54 for the finest vintage shopping you can find in Vienna. Best of all: If all the shopping made you hungry, you’re just a few steps away from everybody’s favorite restaurant, Ulrich. Try the food there, you’ll understand its good reputation instantly.
Seems a bit overwhelming? Don’t worry. After a long day out and about in Vienna, you have a freestanding bathtub to fall back into waiting for you at Altstadt Vienna…
*I was kindly invited to spend a weekend at Altstadt Vienna, all opinions stated are my own.