Hungary and Austria go way back. All the way back to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy of the 19th century, in fact.
So I always feel at home on the streets of Vienna. It’s like a sister city to my original hometown, Budapest. The people, the architecture – there are definite similarities.
For my last couple of visits to Vienna, I stayed at the Grand Ferdinand Hotel. Here’s what I thought of it…
Firstly, I just the loved the look of it. A mix of the traditional and the contemporary with a bit of quirky surrealism thrown in. Both inside and out, the style of the Grand Ferdinand totally appeals to my taste.
Secondly, the location – obviously a huge factor whenever I book a hotel. The Grand Ferdinand can be found on Ringstraße – the ring road. But don’t go thinking of the M25. This road is more grand, Viennese boulevard than grey, gridlocked hell. And it’s unbelievably central.
OK. So a bit more about the location.
Ringstraße is connected to many of the major attractions in Vienna. The hotel is just ten minutes’ walk from the spectacular architecture of the National Opera House. And from the beautiful St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
The cathedral is a tourist hotspot so prepare yourself for the hordes. But if you’ve never been to Vienna before, you should definitely go and see it at least once.
The Grand Ferdinand is so central that you can get to most places on foot. Public transport is clean and easy to understand if you want to venture further out of the city. And you can also hop on to one of the city’s pay-as-you-go bicycles or scooters.
Back to the hotel. From the outside, the Grand Ferdinand has the look of an Eastern European Communist-era construction. And I mean that in a good way. It’s all brutal concrete and stark lines.
Inside, there are more clean lines. But also a sense of supreme luxury that you really don’t sense from the hotel’s exterior. It’s elegant and traditional but a little bit different from the norm.
There are chandeliers, columns, a grand staircase. Oh yeah – and a taxidermy horse in the lobby. Apparently a reminder of a time when owning horses to promenade the Vienna Ringstraße was a sign of wealth and influence.
I stayed in the hotel’s bog standard room (imaginatively titled “The Standard Room”). It was compact – 20sqm for anyone who’s up on those kinds of numbers.
But, as I always say, you shouldn’t be spending your time in the hotel room when you’re travelling to a new place. As long as it’s just for a few nights, a smaller room encourages you to get out and discover the city. And frees up your budget for dining, drinking and other fun stuff.
Anyway, the room was small. But it was beautifully designed. Traditional and elegant. But none of those fussy, old-fashioned patterns and fabrics. Think Renaissance with a contemporary touch.
One point to note. You need to be on pretty intimate terms with your room buddy. The bathroom (with rainfall shower) is described as “open-plan”. It’s only separated from the room by a glass wall and a see-through door. So there’s really nowhere to hide…
If you know where to look, you can find a little secret champagne bar right in your room.
Open one of the unassuming cupboards near the door (you really wouldn’t know it was anything special) and you’ll find a bottle of champagne and two glasses hiding within.
A cute little touch. Possibly very expensive if you jump in and quaff it. But cute nonetheless.
The next step up from the Standard Room is the Comfort Room. In a previous stay at the Grand Ferdinand I opted for the Comfort Room where I got an extra chaise lounge’s worth of space. But not much else.
If you’re prepared to splash a little more cash, the Superior Room has more space. And then you get to the big boys – suites with free standing baths and lots of little extras. And the daddy – the Grand Suite – which is stunningly beautiful and comes with a price tag to match.
Another original feature of the Grand Ferdinand is its dorm room, a perfect option for families or groups of friends. Decked out like a carriage from the Orient Express – think polished wood and brass fittings – the room has four bunkbeds, sleeping eight. It’s exquisitely done and has the power to make or bring back some lovely childhood memories.
Talking of trains, Vienna isn’t far from Budapest – just two and a half hours on the train. I love getting in a plug for my old hometown!
Trains from Central Budapest to Central Vienna are really cheap and easy to navigate. Even if you travel first class you can get tickets for around €60 return. So you could easily take in both cities on a trip to this part of Europe.
Anyone staying at the Grand Ferdinand has to – and I mean has to – have breakfast up in the breakfast room / restaurant / terrace / swimming pool on the top floor.
As you can see from the photo, the breakfast buffet is phenomenal. And the location couldn’t be better. You’re sitting up on the terrace, which goes the full length of the hotel, has these big sliding glass doors and overlooks the Ringstraße. It’s the perfect start to a day.
You can book breakfast with your room or pay for it separately. And you can also venture up to the top floor for lunch, dinner, evening drinks and / or a dip in the pool.
The Grand Ferdinand also boasts a restaurant on the ground floor, Meissl & Schadn. It’s a destination in its own right. And it aims to celebrate Vienna’s culinary history with a menu of beyond-tasty local classics.
We’re talking schnitzel. (Other stuff too. But try the schnitzel.) The logo on the restaurant windows reading “Schnitzel Love” pretty much sums it up. The Viennese delicacy is pan-fried-till-golden right in front of you in the open kitchen.
And there’s more to love. This restaurant is, again, beautifully designed. There are tables out on the street, which reminded me of those wonderful Parisian bistros. And I loved every aspect of my meal there.
The Grand Ferdinand Hotel prides itself on meeting those famously high Viennese standards. As they say on their website, “second best has never been good enough”.
So anyone who walks through the door can pretty much guarantee first-class service. There’s valet parking (for a fee). The concierge is happy to make reservations, book tickets and give you a bit of insider Vienna info.
There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, an exercise room and a pool. It’s not exactly Olympic-sized. More a plunge pool. But any pool in the heart of Vienna city centre is surely a win.
Beautiful, quirky design. A great location. Schnitzel.
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