Business trip: Vienna
The Haas House and St Stephens Cathedral in Vienna. (Berndt Fischer/Getty)
Vienna’s location in the geographic centre of Europe, its prominence as the headquarters for global institutions such as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and its status as the capital of relatively prosperous Austria have insulated it from much of the economic unease felt elsewhere in Europe in recent years.
In 1980, the UN established Vienna as its third headquarters, after New York City and Geneva. This means that in addition to rank and file business travellers, the city also frequently hosts thousands of diplomats, technocrats and bureaucrats attending large international conferences.
With a near constant influx of visitors, Vienna has honed its ability to accommodate them, making it one of the easiest and most comfortable cities in the world for a business trip. For example, partial operations commenced this month at the new Vienna Central Station (Wien Hauptbahnhof), which has been under construction since 2007. The massive project, designed to centralise and modernise rail travel to, from and through Vienna, will be complete in 2015.
Last June, the long-awaited, bright and spacious 150,000sqm Terminal 3 opened at Vienna International Airport, used by Austrian Airlines and its Star Alliance partners. In January, a revamped, modernised Terminal 1 will re-open, serving mostly low-fare carriers.
When arriving at the airport, the easiest way into town is via the City Airport Train, which runs every 30 minutes and takes 16 minutes to reach Wien-Mitte station, a U-Bahn (subway station) near the centre of town (11 euro each way). Taxis are plentiful, and the 16km trip costs roughly 30 to 35 euro.
As Vienna has modernised its transportation infrastructure, its hotel stock has followed suit with several recent openings and major renovations, and more to come over the next year. Most business hotels are located inside, on or near Vienna’s famous circumferential boulevard, the central Ringstrasse or Ring Road, which was built on the site of the ancient city’s fortress wall.
Four 19th-century patrician mansions along the Ringstrasse have been connected and remodelled to create the opulent Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, which opened in August 2012. Interiors are a smart combination of old and new — maintaining many of the original features, such as marble staircases and decorative murals, but adding modern touches like new lighting, a glass-enclosed swimming pool and Dstrikt, a casual street-level restaurant.
This year, Vienna’s original grande dame, the 149-room Hotel Sacher, emerged from an extensive six-year facelift, one of the many that have kept the hotel sumptuous and stylish since it opened in 1876 in the heart of the city. The hotel houses many museum-quality works of art, and a trio of new penthouse suites offer stunning views of some of Vienna’s most important nearby sights, such as the State Opera House and St Stephens Cathedral.
Diplomats and heads of state bed down surrounded by antiques, jewel-toned silk walls, crystal chandeliers and marble bathrooms at the 138-room Hotel Imperial Vienna, which was built as the residence of the Prince of Wurttemberg, a European aristocrat, in 1863. His coat of arms still graces the roof of the ornate Neo Italian Renaissance building on the southern edge of the Ringstrasse.
In January, after a 48-million-euro redo, the 63-room Hotel Sans Souci will open near the Museums Quartier in a hotel building dating back to 1873. The baroque-meets-modern interior, designed by Philippe Starck, includes original art from the likes of Roy Lichtenstein and Allen Jones.
The slim, cubic form of the Hotel Lamee, opened in October, belies the glamorous 1930s Hollywood style of its 32 rooms — all of which have richly upholstered, hall noise-silencing doors and marble bathrooms. As a warning, if you look across the street at its sister property, the Hotel Topazz, you may see guests looking back at you from divans built into its large, oval-shaped windows – but this is on par for life in the city. Both properties offer a complimentary in-room mini bar and wi-fi, provide iPads upon request, and are centrally located between the Danube Canal and St Stephens Cathedral.
None of the 42 exquisitely decorated rooms at the Hotel Altstadt Vienna are alike, an eclectic style that fits in well with the artsy Spittelberg neighbourhood. Complimentary extras include a full breakfast buffet each morning, in-room wi-fi, fireside tea and cake service in the lobby every afternoon and fresh fruit delivered to rooms daily. TripAdvisor ranks the Altstadt as the number one business hotel in Vienna.