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Five Cities Begging for Your Attention: Vienna, Austria

December 8, 2010 at 11:40 AM | by | ()

Call us champions of the underdog, but we’ve got an overall affinity for places that are often overlooked in the travel world. Some have had rough pasts or are a tad slow on the tourist track, but they just want a little love. Here’s the lowdown on five cities eager for the chance to win you over.

City 3 of 5: Vienna, Austria.

Why Go to Vienna: There’s lots to do in Austria’s musically-inclined capital even if Mozart, Strauss, and Mahler aren’t your thing. The Old World vibe of the Habsburg dynasty has dominated the imperial baroque city for quite some time, which equaled a snooze-fest for the non-culture vulture. But there’s been an injection of new-school cool of late.

The bar and nightclub scene along the Danube River and Seventh District is popping, vineyards are flourishing, and various markets from flea to food are attracting a younger, more curious visitor. Besides, any country that can find humor in the likes of “Bruno” or Arnold Schwarzenegger is worth getting to know better.

Golden Nugget: If the famous white Lipizzaner stallions aren’t performing while you’re in town, catch them in action during morning exercise sessions at the Spanish Riding School. You’ll save some euros by checking them out then as well. Official performances begin at 23 euros for standing room only, but training sessions are just 12 euros. Some say arrive before opening time to beat the line, others advise to waltz in (heh) in the middle of the drills, thus avoiding the queue and still getting the glimpse of equestrian brilliance.

Where to Sleep: The DO & CO Hotel has a prime location in downtown Vienna—on the top four floors of the steel-and-glass Haas House overlooking the grandly gothic St. Stephen's Cathedral. We dig that these modern rooms don’t shout “designer ADD” and have Turkish touches a la kilim bedspreads, silver trays, and yellow-suede padded walls. Yes, there are peek-a-boo glass showers, but teak screens hide the painfully shy. The fully-stocked wine cabinet is an alcoholics dream and way tempting, so ignore it if you don’t have deep pockets. Instead head to the sixth-floor ONYX Bar for a kebab and views of the city that are enhanced while sipping an absinthe-laced cocktail.

Parting Gift: Coffee. There are over 800 kaffeehäuser here, so java is serious business. The Aida cafe and pastry shop chain boasts a secret roasting recipe carried down since 1950s. Buy a bag of beans packaged in the company’s trademark pink package for 6 euros. The blend is said to rival both Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, so have a taste-fest with your caffeine-addicted friends and family.

[Photos: B3CFT & martin_kalfatovic]

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