Best Dining Experience: Café Palmenhaus
We ducked into Café Palmenhaus, a glass-paned building that resembled a conservatory, on a rainy afternoon for coffee and cake but ended up ordering a full meal. The café bustled with a combination of locals and tourists (more locals) dodging small tables, trees, plants, and trays of food. The service is slower than in the States, which seemed to annoy a nearby family, but I enjoyed it. It was a calm, quiet dining experience; it was unhurried, as leisurely as a mid-afternoon meal in Vienna should be. The food was decent and light if somewhat on the pricier side (especially compared to what we had spent on meals in Prague), but the real winners were the desserts and the Wiener Melange.
Best Coffee: Wiener Melange
Vienna is known for its cozy and welcoming atmosphere and its reputation is aided in large part due to its obsession with delicious espresso- and coffee-based beverages. The Wiener Melange is Vienna’s signature and is most similar to an Italian cappuccino. Cappuccino in Vienna, however, has whipped cream rather than foamed milk. The Wiener Melange is made with espresso, balanced with foamed milk, and served with sugar, a silver spoon, and a glass of water.
Disclaimer: I am deeply infatuated with espresso, coffee, and any beverage in a similar vein. I consume nearly 8 cups a day (Yes, I know that is too much caffeine. Yes, I will keep drinking it anyway.).
Best Relaxing: Stadtpark
While I typically enjoy walking the city a way of winding down, this park became a favorite for afternoon strolls. Each day I found something new to adore: the gilded Strauss; the bird-infested trees; the duck ponds; the memorials; the blossoming flowers in deep tangerines and fuchsia; and the stained white masonry that recalls an abandoned city.
Best Shopping: ArtUp near Stephansplatz
Stephansplatz is the very center of the city and serves as a great starting to point to get a feel for your surroundings. That said, I found the shopping directly on Stephansplatz to be overrated as they are many of the same shops that we have in the States as well as in other European countries. We walked a few blocks off of the main area and came across ArtUp. The glass door opened into a white gallery-like space full of one-of-a-kind baubles, handbags, draped shirts, cape-like coats, and dresses. The best part, however, was at the back of the shop where a window looks in on the designers (as the shop is a collection of various artists’ work) as they cut, drape, and sew the garments.
-M. Ray Hall