Where to stay in Vienna

A shabby entrance hiding opulent boudoirs versus the warm, welcoming comfort of a design masterpiece.


Hidden behind a shabby entrance lie opulent boudoirs waiting to seduce visitors. If you can drag yourself from your room, try Vienna's Museums Quartier the Leopold's impressive art collection is close by.

How they rate it

"Don't judge a Viennese hotel by its entrance," says The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. "The simple claret canopy, scruffy hallway and soulless lift of the Altstadt give no hint of the seductive design den a few floors above." And the Bucks Fizz at breakfast and free afternoon tea "is probably a marketing gimmick, but who cares when the strudel is that tasty"?

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The rooms

Prudish guests might prefer one of the hotel's classic rooms, but the more adventurous should opt for one of the Matteo Thun-designed play parlours (pictured above). Leading off from a "moodily lit, ruby-red Alice in Wonderland corridor", these rooms feature gun-metal damask walls, rouge velvet and giant crystal chandeliers. They offer a "real sniff of the sensuality that simmered in Austria's turn-of-the-century society".

The cost

Doubles cost from £120 on a B&B basis. Call 00 43 1522 6666, or visit www.altstadt.at for more information.

The Levante Parliament


Situated in a building that dates back to 1908, and was originally student accommodation, this is a wonderfully designed hotel whose reception and entrance hall double as a gallery featuring glass sculptures by Ioan Nemtoi.

How they rate it

The Levante Parliament is a "masterpiece of interior design", says The Daily Telegraph. Nemtoi reportedly helped design the hotel bar and restaurant, adding to the gallery-like atmosphere. Alongside Nemtoi's sculptures there are 420 works by Viennese photographer Curt Themessi dotted around the hotel.

The hotel restaurant's five-course menu "looked daunting", but the prosciutto with marinated figs and goat's cheese, Wienerschnitzel, beef consomm and deep-fried veal "were both delicious and sensibly proportioned". The hotel gets its name from its proximity to the Parliament building, which is a great place to start a tour of Vienna.

The rooms

The "reddish tinges of Nemtoi's creations add a glow" to the hotel's 74 rooms, which are "warm, welcoming and comfortable". The bathrooms feature waterfall showers and a "comprehensive stock of designer supplies".

The cost

Rooms cost from €150. To find out more, call 00 43 1 228 28, or visit www.thelevante.com.

What the travel writers are saying

The Darwin Centre has finally opened at London's Natural History Museum having taken two years and £78m to build. It contains all of the latest state-of-the-art technology needed to bring ecology to life. Indeed, it puts the Natural History Museum firmly back in the 'cool museum' category, says The Times, which has rounded up the coolest museums in the world. See www.nhm.ac.uk.

Muse De Quai Branly in Paris is "a cavernous, twilit nave the length of two football pitches, crammed with exotic anthropological booty from the world's tribal peoples". Many of the items on display can be held or touched, making the museum "wonderfully tactile the lush use of video, music and lighting makes this an utterly sensuous experience." See www.quaibranly.fr/en.

In Flanders Fields in Ypres, Belgium, there is an "intriguing first world war museum." When you arrive you are handed a unique ID card that contains the identity of one of 350 soldiers or civilians whose stories have been recorded by the curators. You scan your card on displays as you go through the museum, "and your fate unfolds." "It's a compelling way to drive home the terrors of war." See www.inflandersfields.be.

My dream holiday: Meera Syal

The Santa Caterina in Amalfi, Italy, is Meera Syal's favourite hotel. It's perched right on the rocky coast with a glass lift down to a private deck "where you can dive into azure sea," says Syal in The Independent. The food and service is "exemplary". The coast is "so ridiculously beautiful that you want to keep rubbing your eyes to check it's still there". Rooms cost from €240. See Hotelsantacaterina.it.