My husband and I joined my mother in Vienna and stayed 3 nights in an Imperial Suite at the Hotel Imperial amidst our European holiday. We previously stayed 4 nights at the St Regis Rome and continued with my mother for 3-4 nights at the Prince de Galles Paris (and 1 night for me at the London Edition).
We all were blown away by the Hotel Imperial. I recently named my favorite 12 hotel stays of all time; the Hotel Imperial must now be added to that list. It simply was that incredible. The service standard here is as high as I've seen anywhere in the world. (For the record, the other 12 properties are Amanjiwo, Indonesia; Singita Boulders, South Africa; Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, India; Amangiri, USA; The Upper House, Hong Kong; Peninsula Shanghai, China; Gritti Palace, Italy; La Residence, South Africa ; Amankila, Indonesia; Cavas Wine Lodge, Argentina; Cayo Espanto, Belize; and St. Regis San Francisco, USA. A pretty impressive list, I think.)
The hotel is lovely and obviously historic from the exterior, but the lobby entrance really shows how historic and beautiful this hotel is. The bar was simply breathtaking, one of the most beautiful we've ever seen.
Without question, this is one of the most beautiful and historic hotel properties at which we've stayed. While we prefer more modern style, we absolutely adored this hotel and its impeccable and timeless quality.
Check in was a study in receiving royalty. I think only the Umaid Bhawan Palace by Taj in India and the Prince de Galles in Paris have equaled or surpassed our arrival here at the Imperial.
My mother had previously arrived by hotel car that morning and already had been checked into her upgraded suite.
My husband and I arrived by hotel car a few hours later and had quite the receiving line. The GM. The Guest Relations Manager. The Head Concierge. The Chief Butler. If I hadn't felt like a VIP before, I sure did at this point! The Head Concierge also mentioned a special Beethoven piano concert that night in the hotel bar and asked if we'd like to attend. We gladly accepted, not knowing exactly what we'd just done.
The front desk attendant quickly checked me in while we were greeting everyone, and we promptly were led by our butler up to our suite.
I had used 25,000 points per night for my mother's entry level room. I booked our entry level room for a great rate of 367 euros per night and had applied 3 Suite Night Awards. The SNAs cleared 5 days before our arrival for an Elisabeth Suite. Since this hotel is so historic, I previously had confirmed with both my Starwood Ambassador and the hotel directly that the room temperature could be maintained at 19 C, just to be safe.
In the end, my mother stil got upgraded to an Elisabeth Suite before our arrival, and we got upgraded to an Imperial Suite. I always am grateful for my SPG Platinum Ambassador status and for my amazing Ambassador.
The long entry hallway, to the right side of which was a large closet and the only toilet in the suite. That led to the amazing living room: we were simply wowed by the enormity of the space, the sheer 20' height of the ceiling, and the incredible amount of natural light.
It was odd to realize later that the master bath adjoining the bedroom did not have a toilet, and that this toilet was our one and only toilet! It also was odd that the closet here in the entry hallway was the one with the safe. While obviously odd, it didn't in any way detract from the quality of our stay. We chalked it up to the historical oddity of staying in such a grand and old hotel.
We thought the smallish TV in the corner of such a massive room was hilarious. But almost any TV in that space would have been superfluous.
Large mirrored sliding doors opened to the beautiful and extremely spacious bedroom, which again had soaring ceilings and huge windows allowing tons of natural light.
This was when we realized there was no toilet in the master bath. We laughed so hard, I cannot describe it. We discussed briefly whether we should inquire about the availability for another Imperial Suite but quickly decided to just enjoy the peculiarity.
As it were, the odd toilet location really wasn't an issue for us--as the distance to the actual toilet was not any further from the other side of the bed to the master bath, anyway. But I did once or twice go to the master bath when I wasn't thinking...
The air conditioning and wifi was excellent. Once or twice, being the freak I am, I did get concerned, so we asked for a fan to be safe. But I barely used the fan. For such an old hotel, the air con surprisingly worked wonders--especially considering the incredible room volume.
The views from our second story corner huge windows looked onto the city streets--nothing special for us, but it did offer tons of natural light. The room was completely blackout in the evening, too--shutters closed outside the windows, and the big curtains were drawn by housekeeping.
We loved the suite and all its historical peculiarities. It truly had a remarkable sense of place. We absolutely knew we were in Vienna. After touring Schonbrunn Palace, we easily could see our suite decor and furnishings truly reflected that bygone era.
My mother was surprisingly upgraded from an entry level award room to an Elisabeth Suite--even though there is no stated Platinum benefit for more than my own room. Before we even arrived, my mother had mentioned hoping for a view. So not a few minutes after she arrived in her upgraded Elisabeth Suite with a huge bath but no view, the front desk called to let her know another Elisabeth Suite was available in a short while that had smaller bath but a wonderful city view. My Mom immediately accepted and they moved her to the new Elisabeth Suite.
My mother also loved her suite. Even though the bath was small, she said she originally had the bigger bath but preferred the view. To each, their own!
Imperial Piano Concert Surprise
On checking in, we had been invited to join a special piano concert that evening. Considering it was a Tuesday evening, that was quite the surprise and our good fortune, indeed. We gladly accepted, not knowing how special it would be--nor how special the hotel would treat us!
Little did we know that the hotel had saved us front row seats...and waited for us to arrive before allowing the concert to begin! We were a few minutes late waiting for my mother, who without us knowing already had been seated. I was horrified when I realized they were waiting for us, but the staff got us seated and could not have been more gracious. I'm sure the crowd was thinking, "Ugh, Americans."
The concert was delightful! I'm not one for the arts in most circumstances, but this was too good and too authentic a Viennese experience to miss. We realized the concert would end closer to 9 pm only at the intermission, so the concierge team graciously moved our Opus reservation to 9 pm or whenever the concert concluded.
The piano was a limited edition of only 25, with artwork to honor famous Viennese artist, Gustav Klimt. The pianist was quite accomplished, and his performance truly was outstanding. What a truly remarkable and unexpected experience this was, and what a way to start off our stay at the Imperial!
Service was absolutely and breathtakingly extraordinary. I'm not sure they missed a thing besides perhaps a curtain not entirely closed in our living room the first evening?
Everyone was so friendly, so warm and gracious, so eager to please, and so genuine to do so. I don't think anyone said no--ever.
After only our first night, I had written the following on a blog:
"Review forthcoming, but we've just had the first of 3 nights at the Hotel Imperial. It's been absolutely spectacular. Truly one of the best service experiences we've enjoyed anywhere--including Aman, Peninsula, and StR hotels.
Our paid entry level room was upgraded to the Imperial Suite. Truly incredible, if a bit laid out with some historical oddities. My mother's award room also was upgraded to beautiful Elisabeth Suite--despite there being no upgrade benefit at all for a second room booking. Truly impressive attention to detail and attempt to please.
Food and beverage exquisite. Had great lunch at the Cafe and a wonderful dinner at 1* Opus. Also was given free tickets to last night's Beethoven concert in the bar. An exclusive affair with award winning pianist. They reserved us front row seats...and awaited our (slightly late) arrival before beginning the performance. Yikes. But what a concert.
Concierge efficiently and graciously moved our afternoon city tour to our final day since it was raining for our first day. No issues. Just taken care of.
Air con in suite--wonderful. Concerns--handled quickly and easily. Just a perfect stay so far. Didn't want to wear a long sleeve shirt to dinner at 1* Opus for fear of being too warm--not a problem (unlike 1* Imago at the Hassler Rome or 1* La Terrazza at the Eden Rome).
Visited the Park Hyatt in the afternoon, as well. Beautiful property, as well, much more modern and clean in design, but lacked any sense of place and the service polish and consistency that seems endemic at the Imperial."
The rest of our stay was true to that first day and night. Absolute perfection.
The restaurant staff were absolute delights. One gentleman was always incredibly helpful but his name now eludes me; he remembered that I loved a certain type of bread at my first breakfast, and he always had a stash saved for me every other morning. Another woman was always asking if we needed anything, if she could replenish any of our drinks, you name it. Truly 5 star service.
The concierge team knew me quite well from all the advance planning and changes that had to be made after my husband unexpectedly could join us in Vienna. (We didn't plan on that originally!)
Planning our Wachau Valley private tour was tricky, as I wanted wine tasting at great wineries, a nice lunch, and also a visit to the Melk Abbey for my mother--but didn't want to leave too early. The concierge team handled it with aplomb. Their expert helped arrange for us a private wine tasting visit at lauded but tiny Weingut Hirtzberger, something our expert guide had never before had the chance to do--and it was the absolute highlight of our day. During harvest season, no less. With Mrs. Hirtzberger. It was incredible.
For our second night, we had dinner reservations at 2* Walter Bauer--but we just couldn't stomach another long fine dining meal after the long Wachau Valley private tour (and my highly anticipated Steirereck dinner the next night) . So we called and asked the concierge to cancel Walter Bauer, hopefully without any penalty. Done. No issues. Just handled. We had room service in our suite instead--and it was delicious and with amazing and prompt service, too.
The Imperial offered about the most perfect service experience we can remember--right up there with the Peninsula Shanghai, Amanjiwo, and the Umaid Bhawan Palace. Pretty impressive company there.
Did I mention the personalized business cards the hotel prepares for you in advance?
Dining here was absolutely fabulous. World class. Not a single miss.
LUNCH AT IMPERIAL CAFE
Right after our arrival and meeting up with my mother, we had lunch at the Imperial Cafe. It was fantastic. Of course, you walk in and see all the cakes and desserts. So you know you're screwed and going to get fat.
Our lunch was incredibly good. We did discover that we preferered the Sacher torte over the above Imperial torte, however. You can't win 'em all.
The 1* Restaurant Opus dinner was magnificent. And they didn't mind me wearing a short sleeve dress shirt, either. Suffice to say it was quite an impressive dinner. Service was efficient and friendly if a bit on the slower side.
The breakfast buffet was also impressive--and delicious. I absolutely went insane with the jellies/jams above. They perfectly paired with this one type of bread they had. I couldn't get enough. It ran out on my first morning. So my server friend always saved a stash for me every morning thereafter. I don't think I've ever eaten so much bread in my life. There went my diet.
ROOM SERVICE DINNER
On our second night, we canceled our fine dining 2* Michelin dinner at Walter Bauer and decide do to instead have a relaxing evening with room service in our suite. It was also quite delicious.
Every night, the hotel would leave us some special treats--as if we weren't eating well enough already!
The concierge team here truly was superb. As I mentioned during the service description, they really went out of their way to give us the special experiences we want when we travel. The excursions weren't cheap--private guides with a car (Mercedes E) were 100 euros per hour, and that didn't include entrance fees--but they were truly spectacular. That is exactly what we wanted.
Their most impressive feat was getting us a private tasting at the Weingut Hirtzberger winery. Our guide had never before been able to get an appointment--and was thrilled to be able to join us for the tasting. I hope and assume that my UC Davis winemaking certificate helped.
The Hirtzberger tasting was the highlight of our Wachau Valley day. Tasting wines from 1983, 1986, and 1991 doesn't happen often at any wine tasting, but especially when they are white wines! Delicious. And Mrs. Hirtzberger was wonderfully tart and intense; we adored her (and her family's wines).
Our private tour of the city was moved from our first day due to rain to our final day, when we already were planning to visit Liechtenstein Castle. The Castle was our highlight, but visiting Schonbrunn Palace really made the Imperial Hotel look all the more glamorous and reflective of Vienna's legacy.
Location was perfect. Just a 25-30 minute drive from the airport (or 30 min train ride) in both directions. Just a 5 min drive to Belvedere Palace Museum and 10-15 minutes drive to Schonbrunn Palace. It was extremely central, less than a 10 min walk to the Hotel Sacher or Bristol.
We absolutely loved the Hotel Imperial. This is unquestionably one of the jewels in the crown of the Starwood-now-Marriott roster, and absolutely one of the very best hotels in the world. We cannot believe it has taken us this long to learn that and about how incredible it truly is. This truly is one of the best hotel stays we've ever had, right up there with Amanjiwo, Peninsula Shanghai, Umaid Bhawan Palace, etc.
If ever we are back in Vienna, there is no question that we would stay at the Imperial. In fact, it was so amazing that we'd consider stopping in Vienna just to stay here again.
For the record, we did visit the Park Hyatt Vienna, the Hotel Sacher, and the nearby and also SPG/Marriott Hotel Bristol. We also saw the DO & CO in more central Vienna closer to St. Stephen's Cathedral.
The Park Hyatt is a very beautiful, modern hotel with spacious rooms with all the amenities--but with absolutely no sense of place whatsoever. It could be anywhere. The rooms and suites were wonderful and modern. It had nice service, but even in the short time we visited, we were let down a few times: the staff member who said he'd be ready in 30 min never came to find us in the cafe, the drink order came wrong in the cafe, and it was a long wait for the correct drink. You can't go wrong with the Park Hyatt, but you'd go better with the Imperial--especially in terms of service (and likely food/beverage).
The Hotel Sacher is a beautiful but more traditonal and clubby feeling hotel with quirky spaces and rooms/suite with varying decor schemes, but still very Viennese. The suite we saw was beautifully and surprisingly modern but not as spacious as I would have expected. The Blaue Bar truly is adorable, though, and a bit less ostentatious than the Imperial bar. Service was to a high standard here. We loved the Sacher torte more than the Imperial torte. You definitely can't go wrong with the Sacher, but you'd be looking for something a bit less grand and perhaps a bit quirkie than the Imperial.
The Hotel Bristol is a lovely hotel, but its rooms and decor and ambience just aren't in the same league. Not even close. Service was to a good standard, and the public areas were fresh and modern, but the rooms and suites looked like they were seriously dated and in desperate need for a refurbishment. This felt more like a business hotel or for the well traveled tourist who doesn't way to pay top billing or use too many points. A nice hotel, but not close to the Imperial, Sacher, or PH.
The DO & CO looked like a grandiose modern monstrosity in the core of Vienna--it really stood out as a bit garish. I love modern design hotels, but its exterior appearance did nothing to invite us in. Our guide shared that the owner never wants to pay enough to keep staff so service suffers and is seriously lacking. It looked it.
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