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Vienna's Imperial Hotel

When the Duke of Wurttemberg came back from a business trip, he was dismayed to find that his backyard, which was essentially a park at that time, had been bisected with a new road. Not one to cross the street to go to the park, the Duke decided that the road had ruined his Vienna palace and put it up for sale. There are those who would say that it was financial woes, not dissatisfaction with progress, which caused the Duke to hang the "For Sale" sign in the window. Still, whatever the impetus, the palace sold, the Duke moved out, and in 1873 the Hotel Imperial opened, just in time for the World's Fair.

Time has not exactly stopped at the Hotel Imperial, but no effort is spared to give the visitor the feeling that they are in the heart of royal Vienna. From the damask lined walls and heavy swag drapes to the crystal chandeliers that illuminate every room, the hotel expresses the grandeur and elegance of an earlier era. Add to that the seasonal touches that make Christmas time in Vienna like nowhere else on earth, and the visitor is transported to a time and place of romance and waltzes and horse drawn coaches.

Book The Hotel ImperialA room at the Imperial is unlike any other room at the Imperial. Each suite - and even the standard rooms feel large enough to be considered a suite - is furnished uniquely. The style is baroque but the facilities are modern. The recent 10 million Euro remodel of the 5th floor shows off the integration of modern amenities with baroque style.

Our bath featured heated marble floors, towel warmers, a large bathtub and "rainstorm" shower, and of course, plush bathrobes bearing the Hotel Imperial logo. Decorated in pale yellow and gold with crystal chandeliers, the style was antique, but the heavy wood cabinet hid a CD player and television - with cable in several different languages. The elegant desk held creamy Hotel Imperial stationary, but also was a convenient location to hook up a laptop to the provided data port.

High style and the best of facilities are the common denominator in all the rooms at the Imperial.

There's a reason the hotel is the choice of visiting royalty, of the traditional and more modern kind. The Imperial Hotel has been the home away from home to visiting dignitaries - from the Queen of England to the Prince of Pop. The first floor of the hotel is designed to provide comfort and privacy to public figures. Underneath gold leafed ceilings, a sweeping marble staircase leads to the Imperial Suite, two magnificent rooms with spectacularly high ceilings and portraiture of the former Austrian royalty. The entire first floor is connected with floor to ceiling doors between each room, allowing those traveling with an entourage to keep them near at hand. The rooms in between the regal corner suites have earned the nickname "bodyguard suites".

Beyond the style and amenities, the Imperial is world renowned for its service. The royal suites have separate entrances for the butler. Should you be traveling without one, the hotel will be happy to provide you with one of theirs to attend to all of your needs, including ironing your morning paper! But one needn't be so grand to appreciate the services provided by the hotel. Fresh fruit and a plate of goodies await each guest when they check in to their room. Maid service arrives promptly in the morning to make up the beds and in the evening again, with chocolates and mineral water, to turn them down for the night. And while the manner among the hotel staff is formal, one mustn't mistake this for stiff - everyone we met, from the front desk clerks to the maids, was friendly and warm.

Breakfast is served in the Imperial Café all morning long and is included for guests of the hotel. The Imperial Café combines that famous Vienna coffee house sensibility with the luxury of the hotel. A generous buffet loaded with fruit, yogurt, baked goods, hot dishes, and a selection of bread and cheese awaits the palace guest. An omelet chef will prepare eggs to exactly your liking, and of course there is champagne! The café is a popular breakfast spot for the traditional Viennese and known to be the place to bring your date for a romantic breakfast. The staff serve coffee, tea, and hot chocolate in the Imperial's own china; there's a kind of dollhouse feel to the elegant pitchers of warm milk. Naturally you can eat all you want, but it's best to save room for something sweet, as the Imperial Café also serves up its very own Imperial Torte.

History tells that the Imperial Torte was concocted in honor of Emperor Franz Josef I upon the opening of the hotel. Legend aside, no hotel worth its name would consider opening a grand establishment without a signature dessert. Austrians have a well-deserved reputation for producing the finest desserts in all of Europe. The Imperial Torte is no exception. A multi-layer delicacy consisting of marzipan, cocoa crème, and fine milk chocolate, no visit to the Imperial Café is complete without a serving of this delicious cake. If there is one problem with the Imperial Torte, it's that it shares space in the pastry case with a number of other gorgeous desserts. Decision-making when it comes to Austrian sweets is a trial and the only solution is to return again and again until each and every meticulously prepared treat has been sampled. (Don't fret, the hotel understands you may over indulge and has added a fitness center on the top floor.)

Click to Visit The Hotel Imperial The Hotel Imperial sits right at the heart of Vienna's first district. While the concierge will be happy to arrange a tour of the many nearby sites, the glittering Karntnerstrasse is just outside the door and the best way to explore is on foot. The famous Opera House, the Music Hall, museum after extensive museum, and the towering St. Stephan's Cathedral, are all just a few minutes walk from the door of the hotel. (Those wishing to maintain the spell of Imperial times must visit the Kunsthistoriches Museum to see both the extensive collection and the palace that houses it.)

Furs and glittering gems decorate the windows of Vienna's exclusive shops, and street musicians playing everything from Mozart to gypsy music line the promenade. A walk down the Karnterstrasse to the cathedral is required. Naturally, there are numerous locations on the way to stop to buy chocolate or to have coffee and yet another slice of some Viennese treat. Many of the shops you'll pass on your stroll opened around the time of the Imperial Hotel and it's easy to imagine the distinguished guests of that time ordering their china or a new chandelier from the stores that line the pedestrian zone.

Hotel Imperial
Karntner Ring 16
Vienna, A-1015 AT


The 138 room Hotel Imperial is a Sheraton Luxury Collection grand dame hotel. In 1994 the palace was voted the best hotel in the world. It was recently voted in the top 30 best hotels in the world by readers of Conte Naste Traveler.

Book The Hotel Imperial

Christmas time in Vienna offers up some special pleasures. A towering evergreen tree decorated with red bows fills the lobby of the Imperial with the scent of pine. The plazas around the hotel are home to Kristkindlmarkts (Christ Child Markets).

Each plaza hosts a market of a slightly different character; some are hand made gifts only, some are kitchy souvenirs, but all have two things: punsch and gluwien. The punsch is a hot and very sweet alcoholic drink that will stick to your lips and banish the wind from your bones; the gluwien is a mulled spiced wine that will sneak up on you until you realize you've had more than you'd intended because it's so delicious. Of course, there is music and sparkling lights at the markets and you needn't buy one gift to enjoy the sights, though you may find yourself tempted by handmade lace or etched glass Christmas ornaments. Don't worry if you can't make it for Christmas, though, the Opera Ball season is just around the cImmortal Voices of the Vienna Operaorner.

Vienna contains countless treasures too numerous to describe. A week or a month in Vienna is not long enough to explore everything there is to offer. Lovers of art and music and food will find themselves wishing for a lifetime to spend in this grand city. And lovers of luxury will want to stay at the Hotel Imperial for the duration of their visit. The hotel is a souvenir and a destination in and of itself. As you walk down the grand staircase from your room, you can't help but imagine yourself as one of the Imperial's many royal guests. You are transported to the romantic times of the Hotel Imperial's Vienna.

By Pam Mandel, Seattle Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.