Photo: Monika Nguyen

grätzlhotel Belvedere, Vienna

New to the neighbourhood

Belvedere usually means one thing for visitors to Vienna – the 18th-century grouping of not one but two Baroque palaces with their famous art collections, all in a lovely park that has an orangery and stables. More prosaically, when looking for a place to stay, the Belvedere district is where you can find one of those “Live like a local” places in which The Budapest Times has bedded down before.

As may be recalled, a couple of days before arriving at a grätzlhotel you receive a code to open a wall box containing your room key. Then you’re on your own because there is no receptionist and neither are there a doorman in uniform, a concierge, a daily cleaner, shoe polish, a small sewing kit or a parking spot. But then, of course, you’re not paying for a receptionist, a doorman in uniform, a concierge, a daily cleaner, shoe polish, a small sewing kit or a parking spot either, and so it is lighter on the pocket. When you check out, just leave the keys on the table and close the door behind you.

Pity about the lack of parking though, because we have read that the Viennese are trained from birth to sniff out street parking opportunities at 500 metres while blindfolded, and anywhere devoid of cars almost certainly means parking is very verboten.

In our case we took the precaution of arriving in town on a Sunday when parking is free, but the Belvederegasse street still turned out to be full of cars, and so to offload ours we had to park illegally for 10 minutes outside the closed metal door leading to the courtyard where our room was located. Task completed, we drove off to look for an empty spot and luckily found a few just around the corner.

Returning at 8am next morning, Monday, to move the car to a parking garage, we found a uniformed officer waiting to inform us that we were in a private zone. Fortunately, he realised that we were idiot tourists who had been unable to read the German-language-only street sign warning that this was the case, and he let us leave in search of legal parking.

Parking garages are ever-present and well signposted in central Vienna but they can cost a small fortune. Apart from their “Live like a local” slogan, the URBANAUTS people who run the grätzlhotels have another catchy phrase in “Your City, Your Lobby”, and as well as promoting their local “partners” in nearby food and drink establishments (rooms don’t include breakfast either), they also recommend a couple of nearish parking stations that are on the cheaper side.

So, this is the idea of experiencing the city like the locals do, and metres away from the Belvedere grätzlhotel is a nice square, Sankt-Elizabeth-Platz, with the Elizabeth Catholic Church built tall and thin and elegant in 1866 from lovely red brick with white facing. This is June and Vienna is in full summer swing, with a five-piece musical ensemble playing on the front steps of the church to a  few dozen people on the chairs provided.

This is part of an ongoing seasonal program called Musik Befreit (Music Freed) in the square, and others who will play on these balmy long summer evenings include Chaos String Quartet, Essenz Trio, Kandinsky Quartet, Wiener Choro Ensemble and Mobilis Saxophon Quartett. A Kinderkonzerte is also scheduled. Freed and free, no tickets required.

The Belvedere palaces and park are a five-minute walk away and there can be found another summer happening, Theater im Park, visitors to which receive free entry to the museum in the Upper Belvedere the same day or next day if they present their theatre ticket at the Belvedere cash desk. Theatre in the park performances this summer include the Vienna Comedian Harmonists, a comedy based on Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, jazz, the Pippo Pollina and Palermo Acoustic Quintet from Italy, Vienna Boys’ Choir, waltz with soloists of the Vienna Philharmonic, philosophy, Hans Theessink and Ernst Molden with Outlaw Songs and Rogue Songs, and so on.

Among the shops and cafes to be found in the grätzlhotel Belvedere neighbourhood is Café Goldegg, an Art Nouveau establishment with contemporary cuisine and coffee specialties. With its stylish wood panelling and green booths that recall times past it might be called an authentic Vienna cafe. But the refined air is starting to fade and could do with a bit of sprucing up. There are outside tables too, and a billiard table indoors.

This particular grätzlhotel location has four rooms: Der Tischler (the carpenter), Der Schlosser (the locksmith), Der Eisenwarenhandler (the hardware dealer) and Der Trafikant (the tobacconist). Ours is Der Tischler, and this explains the old wooden tools on the walls, including an ancient plane and a two-handled saw. Carpentry diagrams are reproduced on the walls. With a bit of imagination, one can recall the days when artisans plied their trade there, in the rooms and out in the courtyard. Today there are a few other offices and workshops operating too, such as the Austrian branch of the Jane Goodall Institute.

URBANAUTS tell it this way: “Live comfortably like at home, surrounded by the vibrant lifestyle of a city that is just waiting to be conquered.” Further, they offer modern designed studios in historic buildings in the heart of Vienna, with expansion lately to Austria’s third-largest city, Linz, and the Italian port of Trieste.

It was in 2012 when URBANAUTS GmbH realised its “first innovative hotel product”, the grätzlhotel in Vienna’s Belvedere district. Former shops were transformed into hotel rooms with a new design “that guarantees visitors to the city a particularly authentic Vienna experience. In each of these locations, the neighborhood itself is the hotel lobby and offers visitors a new way of really getting to know the city”. Or, “the professional response to the airbnb trend”.

Today the company has the URBANAUTS STUDIOS Fillgrader in a former theatre near the Naschmarkt, Grätzlhotel Serviten is particularly new, Grätzl Meidlinger Markt is in a former working-class district and Grätzl Karmelitermarkt is “in a quiet corner of a bustling district”. Your own “online concierge” will guide you through the experience, parking and all.

Well, life’s what you make it, as is said.


Belvederegasse 26, Vienna 1040

URBANAUTS Hospitality GmbH

Favoritenstr. 17/3-5

1040 Vienna, Austria

Tel: (+43) 1 208 39 04

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