Ahead of our trip there I was occupied with finding recommendations for sights to see, arts to appreciate and walks to walk.
But, unsurprisingly perhaps, it was the food – the restaurants, cafes and markets – that I was most impatient to try.
It took a couple of days to realise there are no “pretty” areas of the city. My father put it best when he said: “Pretty? Vienna’s not pretty. It’s imposing, imperial.”
“But there are so few people around looking at the imposing buildings lining the sweeping streets,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied. “It’s an imperial city which has lost its reason for being.”
That makes it sound like a sad place, but once I’d heard him say it, I truly began to fall in love with it.
Not that it took me long to appreciate the food culture in Vienna. Much like Berlin, it is acceptable to eat at any time of the day.
It’s not as in France or Italy, where if you miss lunch or breakfast, tough. Here they accommodate every appetite.
Everywhere we ate was a highlight, but my absolute must-tries are:
:: The Mexican breakfast at the cafe at the Kunsthalle museum – served until 4pm on the weekend;
:: Naschmarkt – a Monday to Saturday food market stuffed with merchants selling cheese, ham, beautiful vegetables, ready-prepared tapas-y things, preserved fruit, pickles and olives. There are also a string of bars interwoven with the stalls where you can eat produce from the market accompanied by your choice of tipple;
:: Cafe Sperl – the quintessential coffee house. Built in 1880, it serves by no means the best hot chocolate in Vienna, but it comes on a silver tray with an accompanying glass of tap water and there’s no chivvying along if that’s all you order during the two hours you spend there reading your way through the entire stack of international papers;
:: Palmenhaus – a brasserie in the glass palm house of the Hofburg Palace. If you’re here for brunch have the goats cheese omelette. And look out for the “marmelade”, a deliciously sour, runny apricot jam which bears no resemblance to the English preserve.
:: The hot dog stand by the opera house. Thick, meaty sausages with suitably yellow mustard make a sustaining snack ahead of a performance;
:: Loos American Bar – a teeny watering hole designed by Adolf Loos in 1908 which serves a mean Negroni;
:: And last but by no means least, Alt Wiener Gastwirtschaft Schilling: possibly my favourite ever restaurant interior, which also happens to dish up a superb Wiener Schnitzel and serve an excellent bottle of Austrian red. Absolutely heavenly.
I’ve been back over a week but I’m still thinking about Vienna. It’s not an easy city to love at first sight. Although it was built to make a great first impression, it really is a place which you have to get to know before you commit.
Once you begin to know it though, it’ll have you hooked.
I can’t wait to go back.