The Insider: the Inside Scoop on a Legendary Vienna Hotel

You make a reservation, but you don’t know what a hotel is really like until you stay there. There are hundreds of thousands of hotels worldwide, and with new ones opening every day, it’s impossible to know what you’re going to get. Yahoo Travel takes the guessing out of your reservation by going inside some of the world’s most popular hotels.

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The Hotel Imperial (Photo: Hotel Imperial)

Hotel: The Hotel Imperial

Location: Kärntner Ring 16, 1015 Wien, Austria

Background: The Hotel Imperial was built in 1863 to serve as the residence of Duke Phillipp of Württemberg and the Duchess Marie Therese. The royal couple lived in the palace for a short time before it was converted into a hotel for the 1873 World Exhibition. Today, the Hotel Imperial is part of the Luxury Collection Hotels. 

What I loved: The Hotel Imperial has a grand staircase that is definitely Instagram worthy. It is so beautiful that I opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator during my entire stay. 

Also, the concierge was extremely knowledgeable and helped me find great spots for dinner. An added perk is that everyone on the staff speaks English, so that helps minimize any confusion if your German isn’t up to par. 

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The grand staircase at the Hotel Imperial (Photo: Hotel Imperial)

Things that bummed me out: The maid staff waltzed into my room unannounced twice during my stay. There is a small bell that they ring before they enter, but it's often hard to hear. This is a small inconvenience but pretty annoying. If you don’t want to get caught in your skivvies, be sure to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. Also, the clientele at the hotel is a bit older, which is something I definitely noticed as a wide-eyed millennial.

What no one tells you: The Hotel Imperial used to be a palace. Yeah, like Cinderella style. So everything is really grand and … palatial. Don’t expect a sleek and minimalist environment. Instead, prepare yourself for a classic and cultural experience. 

At your service: Every door was opened for me, every phone call was answered promptly, and I returned every night to a turned-down bed and a chocolate on my bedside table. In short, the service was pretty amazing. But more than just the service, I found the entire staff to be extremely warm and friendly. This may be a five-star hotel, but there was not an ounce of pretension in the entire building, which made me feel very welcome, not only at the hotel but in Vienna as well.

The vibe: As the hotel approached its 140-year anniversary, Starwood Hotels wanted to celebrate in a big way by investing in the public spaces shared by visitors and local clientele. The result is a completely restored first floor that allows guests to seamlessly move from room to room.

A grand chandelier greets guests as they walk through the revolving doors, and from there, guests will quickly feel the new renovations. “A lot of historical elements in this space have been restored to a level that makes them sparkle in their original grandeur,” said Klaus Christandl, general manager of the Imperial. “It gives the visitors the feeling of being transported back to the 19th-century palace.”

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The HalleNsalon (Photo: Hotel Imperial)

This history can be felt in the 1873 HalleNsalon, where guests congregate to drink, mingle, and listen to the relaxing, often classical music being played on a nearby piano. 

Where you sleep: Most hotel rooms these days sport sleek décor designed to be minimal and modern. At the Imperial, the rooms are nothing short of regal. From the antique furniture and silk wall coverings to the heavy drapes and crystal chandeliers, every detail of the room is painstakingly authentic. And with ceilings measuring up to 19 feet, it’s impossible not to feel like a princess (or prince) in these spacious and opulent rooms. It kind of feels like staying at your grandma’s house — if your grandma were the queen of England. 

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Rooms at the Hotel Imperial transport guests back to a different time. (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)

One warning: Be sure to ask questions about your room before you check in. My colleague stayed in a room that was supposed to have a queen-size bed, but instead the bed consisted of two twin beds pushed together. Very uncomfortable. Also, I lucked out by getting a room with a balcony, but that is not a feature in every room. So if it’s something you want, make sure to ask. 

The bathrooms were spacious, with marble, and mine had a bathtub and a shower — a nice choice to have after a day walking around the city. 

Where you eat: There are two distinctly different places to dine during your stay at the Hotel Imperial. The Café Imperial pays homage to the strong and thriving coffeehouse culture in Vienna. It’s a meeting place for guests as well as Viennese locals who live in the area. The café is a perfect place to grab an omelet in the morning or an afternoon coffee.

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Opus restaurant at the Hotel Imperial (Photo: Hotel Imperial)

For a more gourmet experience, try OPUS. On my second night in Vienna, I had dinner there and was pleasantly surprised by the cuisine at this Austrian-style restaurant. Some of the plates looked a little out of the ordinary, but the taste more than made up for the unique presentation. The dining room is small and intimate, so the service is quick and direct.

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Schwein am Stein, aka “pork on the rock,” which is smoked potato and curd cheese balls topped with truffled Vulcano ham, at OPUS (Photo: Brittany Jones-Cooper)

Who stays here: For the past couple of decades, the Hotel Imperial has catered to a loyal yet aging crowd. Most of the other guests I saw were either older couples or fast-moving international business execs. That said, the hotel is trying to attract a younger clientele, which is increasingly evident in the Imperial’s Instagram account and participation in social events. 

But enough about the real people … obviously you want to know about famous people! The Hotel Imperial has been a go-to for the rich and famous since it opened 140 years ago. “Guests include heads of states, royalty, and celebrities that span the entire history of the hotel,” said Christandl. “We’ve been visited by Queen Elizabeth II, Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Lady Gaga; and the Rolling Stones were here just two months ago.”

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Queen Elizabeth II during her stay at the Hotel Imperial (Photo: Hotel Imperial)

Don’t miss this: You can’t enter the Hotel Imperial with hearing about, and eventually tasting, their trademark torte. It’s been crafted at the Imperial for decades and is woven deeply into the hotel’s history. I got a chance to throw on my baker’s apron and go behind the scenes in the Hotel Imperial Kitchen. The recipe is a secret, but I helped construct a batch of the chocolate-and-marzipan dessert. All I have to say is that the tortes are as good as they look and that I definitely prefer eating them to making them. 

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Hotel Imperial tortes can be purchased at the Café Imperial. (Photo: Hotel Imperial)

What’s in the neighborhood: Vienna has 23 districts, and the Hotel Imperial resides in District 1. This first district is referred to as the inner city and is the historic core of Vienna, meaning that most of the notable tourist attractions are within walking distance of the hotel. The Belvedere Museum, which houses Gustav Klimt’s famous painting “The Kiss,” is just a 15-minute walk away, as are Vienna’s Parliament building, the Museum Quarter, and countless shops, restaurants, and cafés. 

The Cork Opera House is located directly behind the Imperial, and many of its traveling performers stay at the hotel.

Stuff you want: Wi-Fi is available for free. In addition, there is a fitness studio on the roof, a business center, and butler service. If you’re forgetful like me, the front desk will provide you with an adapter for your American plug.

How much it’s going to cost: The Hotel Imperial is a five-star hotel, with rooms starting at 420 euros a night (about $537 USD).

Final thoughts: Overall, I felt like Anne Hathaway in “The Princess Diaries.” Vienna is such a breathtaking city, and the Hotel Imperial is the physical representation of the beauty, class, and sophistication that Vienna effortlessly exudes. Staying in such a historic place made me feel more connected to everything “the city of music” had to offer.

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