As a member of the Collaborating Centre for Values-Based Practice, I was proud to be invited to present my thoughts on initiating and monitoring Wellbeing and Vitality patient journeys at Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. I was lucky to be in a beautiful city and wanted to make the most of it. The Vienna weather is not exactly incredible; however ‘tis the season of Vienna Christmas markets which made for an incredible weekend trip. So let’s take a look at things to do in Vienna in our eat-move-think-sleep style.
- There are healthful choices aplenty
There is a great culture of healthy organic food throughout Vienna. For a start, you can check out this guide from the Vienna tourism board and there is even a place called Health Kitchen. I know how hard being vegetarian can be traveling throughout Europe but there are plenty of vegan options including Swing Kitchen. For a plethora of choice, head over to Naschmarkt, a local food market with local produce as well as plenty of restaurants.
You will all know I truly believe in minimal processing and seasonality as fundamentals of healthy food so the farm-to-table menu from Labstelle was a must and very reasonable priced at just €56 for 6 courses. The restaurant is highly-rated and clearly has great potential but be prepared that as the menu is highly seasonal some of the dishes may be less refined. Having said that, I particularly enjoyed the beef with root vegetables and cheese ‘cake’, the smoked trout with onion purée and we finished on a high with the plum dumpling with winterberry compote, sorbet and crème anglaise. Their flagship G&T with grapefruit is a perfect accompaniment.
- Specialties at Vienna restaurants you cannot miss
I wanted to enjoy as many quintessential Viennese dishes as I could. On local Viennese recommendation, my first meal in Vienna was Tafelspitz at Plachutta and it did not disappoint. Tafelspitz is a hefty dish: you start with a beef broth with buttered noodles; then enjoy bone marrow cooked down in the broth spread on toast with salt and pepper; and finish with the beef slow-cooked in the broth served with potato rosti, spinach or other vegetables as well as apple, horseradish and chive sauce. The depth of flavour in the broth brings the whole experience together with a warming comfort. The best thing about this delicious dish is it can easily be adapted to be paleo or Whole30 approved but just focusing on the beef, broth, potato and vegetables.
With it being Christmas season many Vienna restaurants have celebratory goose menus. At Clementine im Glashaus, I got to enjoy this in the most luxurious greehouse looking out onto a beautiful courtyard in the Palais Coburg Hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 courses of goose raviolo served in a broth; goose breast lathered jus served with red cabbage and dumplings; and a plum dumpling served with clementine sorbet and vanilla sauce.
When in Vienna, you have to try a schnitzel. After tiring waiting in the never-ending queue for the original schnitzel at Figlmüller, I ended up at a lovely restaurant called Salzamt for one of the best schnitzels in the city in a relaxed environment.
- The Vienna restaurants for the best Viennese desserts
If you’re going to indulge, do it right. I was recommended by a local to try Demel, who have been confectioners since 1786 with a long-held traditions established beyond the monarchy by Councillor Anna Demel. I had the Annatorte, a chocolate nougat cake that is exactly as rich as it sounds. The spiced assam tea was necessary to cut through the richness.
I absolutely had to have Apfelstrudel while in Vienna and saved this until my last evening. Café Landtmann have one of the best in the city: softly cooked apples adorned with cinnamon wrapped light and airy puff pastry and served in traditional style with a melange, a coffee topped with whipped cream.
The absolute highlight though was the original Sachertorte at Café Sacher. Instead of waiting in the huge queue for an overcrowded restaurant, the Hotel Sacher staff took me to the beautiful Salon Sacher. I spent a long time considering which Vienna restaurants would have the best version of Vienna’s most famous cake and this Sachertorte was unbelievable. Delicate, moist chocolate sponge covered with a deep, rich ganache perfectly balanced against the sweet tang of a layer of apricot jam. I wish all my mornings could start this way. Luckily my trip had plenty of movement to burn it all off!
- The city centre in Vienna is so easy to walk around
Public transport is excellent in Vienna; but other than going from Vienna internaional airport to the city centre and maybe to your accommodation, there is absolutely no need for anything other than your two feet to get around. The architecture is stunning throughout the city and no two points of interest are more than half hour’s walk away. I racked up 20,000 steps per day without even trying!
- Walk to the Vienna Christmas markets throughout the city
It needs no explaining that the Vienna Christmas markets really are a joy to behold with the myriad of food, confectionery and gifts available. There are lots of markets dotted around the city centre: Rathausplatz is breathtaking but overwhelmingly busy; Stephansplatz is brilliant and you can catch a view of the city from the St. Stephan’s Church towers; and Michaelerplatz is filled with horse carriages and surrounded by beautiful architecture. And of course all Vienna Chistmas markets are particularly enjoyable with a glass of glühwein and packet of lebküchen. You might not walk much while in the markets but you certainly get lots of steps in walking between them all!
- Take mindful walks through all the beautiful parks
Interspersed throughout the city are a series of beautiful parks. I found myself just walking peacefully through Stadtpark, Resselpark, Burggarten and Volksgarten, each of which are surrounded by their own beautiful architecture and monuments. These treasures of Vienna definitely lend themselves to some mindful and zen moments.
- A history of thought leaders in thought
The University of Vienna is where Sigmund Freud qualified as a doctor in 1881. Whatever your opinion may be on his work, he was a huge influence on Medicine and Psychiatry and now there is a private university named in Vienna named his honour. Many doctors there put patients and communication at the centre of their practice and so it was a privelige to present at a conference on Vitality and Wellbeing at Sigmund Freud University, where I considered our approaches to initiating and monitoring Wellbeing journeys and learned a lot from colleagues about the different ways we can interpret and define Vitality.
- Let your thoughts drift away at the Opera
Opera normally would not be of interest to me and unfortunately I did not have enough time to see one; however after hearing a presentation at the conference on the role of Music Therapy and its huge influence on our breathing and heart rhythms it feels an important part of Vienna I would not want to miss next time I go. Interestingly, it seems that using negative music can help us dissipate negative feelings rather than just keeping us wrapped up in them and so I look forward to experiencing emotive pieces at a Vienna opera house in future.
- Vienna Airbnb’s are excellent
I had my own private flat 15 minutes walk from the city centre for £50 per night. It was a perfect base from which to explore the city as well as allowing me plenty of space, peace and quiet to get restful sleep. I prefer to immerse myself in the culture of my travel destinations and the Airbnb’s in Vienna are the perfect way to do this; however for those who prefer hotel stay the eco-friendly Boutiquehotel Stadthalle Wien comes highly recommended, being energy neutral, serving organic food and making honey from their own bees!
Check out this map for my Vienna trip itinerary. How does it match up to yours? Any healthy tips for a Vienna Christmas markets trip?
Dr Dilraj Kalsi uses Lifestyle Medicine and Digital Health to empower patients to reverse disease via his online clinic Hippocrates Lounge. He is a Lecturer in Digital Health at the University of Warwick and publishes regularly on patient empowerment with colleagues from Oxford University. For all his latest health tips straight to your inbox, sign up here!