Vienna is the most refined and arguably well preserved capital city in Europe where dozens of cranes are always revolving over the cityscape for the many, many ongoing renovation projects. Grand palace after grand palace border seemingly every street in the inner city rimmed by the circular Ringstrabe avenue and trolley car system. The Baroque architecture and Art Moderne interiors will make your head spin and your heart swoon, but at the same time, Vienna has been in serious, desperate, immediate need of modern, globally-branded hotels designed with this century in mind. Something like The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, which opened last month.
The 202-room property with 43 suites has been a hotly anticipated topic in town for the last few years because Shangri-La Hotels actually built the place. It was scheduled to open in 2009 but Shangri-La pulled out with the onset of the economic crisis. Ritz-Carlton took the reins from there and completely remade the interiors inside the four historic grand palaces built around 1860. Total meeting space is 10,000 sf.
Upon entrance, you’re immediately introduced to the New Vienna inside the spacious and tall lobby with a simple row of vertical hardwoods curving over the two Oriental registration desks. Whether this was left over from Shangri-La’s vision or it’s representative of The Ritz-Carlton’s decade-long design evolution from British Colonial to Avante Garde Asian is unconfirmed. Not that it matters. The minimalist lobby and updated Mid-Century Modern furnishings in the adjacent Melounge coffee and cake room, dressed in hues of champagne and chartreuse, feel like a tsunami of global cool just swept in from Shanghai.
“It’s veely, veely very nice, I just love it!” fawns Roland Hamberger, the 35 year-old director of sales/marketing who was undoubtedly born to promote this hotel. From nearby Linz, the lean and lanky Hamberger is infectious with his boyish mannerisms and passion for anything hip, modern, sexy and without a whisper of pretense. Mostly, he is just happy to show off his fancy hotel like a kid with a new Piaget.
“So far, people say, ‘Thank God there’s something new,’” gushes Hamberger. “You know, we just had George Michael here two weeks ago and he loved it. It was just fabulous, I mean veely!”
I’m not entirely sure that Hamberger used more than 100 different words during our 1-hour tour together and dinner. Part of that is because he likes to drop off midway during a sentence and end with a roll of the eyes, a slight smile and wave of the wrist, as if it’s all just too fabulous and he doesn’t want to burden you with the obvious details.
We’re in the dark D-Bar facing the street through tall arched windows, with deep banquets and cute little cocktail seats covered in butter soft burgundy leather. Holding a glass of prosecco as if he was birthfed on it, Hamberger describes the decor: “It’s very young, very fresh, very crispy, you know, it’s just…,” and then he flutters his eyes like he needs a breath because “it’s just so veely special.”
There’s a separate entrance with spare modern art and a wicked little contemporary chandelier leading into the casual fine dining restaurant DSKRIKT, with blackboard specials on the wall and a fire engine red meat cutter on a butcher table at the entrance where servers prepare the charcuterie cocktail side dishes. The country-chic ambience is as refreshing as the rest of the hotel—open and lofty without a lot of fuss. The simple peppercorn medallions in a brown sugar au jus and the Arctic salmon are two highlights. The service feels friendly, sincere and gracious.
Adjacent, the Guerlain Spa is the first Guerlain outlet for both Ritz-Carlton and Austria. There’s a subtle Asian theme running throughout the six spa suites, including two for couples. Each suite has hardwood floors and a full steam shower, and four of them have whirlpool baths.
The 21,000-sf spa is the largest in Vienna with limestone walls, white orchids and lots of candles around a beautiful 58-foot pool. Special touches include the massage arm jet and a whirlpool lounging rack inside the water. Underwater, the hotel pumps in Viennese waltz music.
Throughout the hotel, many architectural elements have been preserved like the original fireplaces in the public spaces and the original marble staircase winding up to the top floor.
“It very unique and very special, I love it,” gleams Hamberger. “For the opening, we had flying flowers swirling all up and down in the middle, it was veeely cool.”
The guest rooms and suites feature pale gray and either jade or black marble vanities, big tubs and rainshowers, and televisions implanted in the vanity mirrors. I like the uplit leather headboards, mix of carpet and hardwood flooring, and the 29 rooms with balconies. Standard rooms start at 420 sf; bath amenities are Aqua di Parma; all rooms have Bang & Olufsen iPod docking stations.
Our tour ends at the outstanding Atmosphere Roof Bar, a rarity in Vienna. Right away you can feel the exclusive club vibe even though it’s only 7:30 pm. There’s a curvy white neon bar with cool views of the many domes, steeples and cupolas nearby, and we’re told it’s already becoming the new private party place for rich kids and their entourages.
“It’s going to amazing up here at Christmas,” sings Hamberger. “That’s when Vienna is veely glittery, I just love it.”
That made me smile. If I was going to make one recommendation for anyone considering booking The Ritz-Carlton Vienna, I’d suggest calling the hotel to make sure Hamberger is in-house when you’re visiting. Please say hello for us.