Ever in flux, the Altstadt Vienna is an art gallery, museum and hotel rolled into one.
Every room at the Altstadt Vienna tells a fantastical story. Here is the Opera Suite with its whirring turntable and shelf stacked with 1000 records.
“One of our regular guests moved to a smaller flat in Berlin, and he asked my father if we wanted to take the vinyl collection, so we opened the Opera Suite,” says Saskia Wiesenthal, daughter of the Altstadt Vienna’s founder, Otto E. Wiesenthal.
Music-loving guests close the door behind them, flick on the Lobmeyr-designed Metropolitan Opera chandelier, lean back in the Eames Lounge Chair and listen to their own private opera on speakers designed by mo° sound in collaboration with Viennese porcelain manufacturer Augarten.
The Moretti Room’s origin story is more curious still: it eventuated from a complaint by Austrian actor Tobias Moretti, who was dissatisfied with his room during one of his regular stays.
“My father said, ‘Well then, just design your own!’” Saskia says.
That’s precisely what Moretti did, in collaboration with interior designer Eugenie Arlt and artist Degenhard Andrulat. Opened last year, the elegant plum-and-indigo-hued Moretti Room centres on a vast window which is, upon closer inspection, a photograph taken by Moretti himself of the Tyrolean Mountains he grew up in. The scene is framed, appropriately, with plush “stage curtains”.
It’s this instinct for individual expression that motivated Wiesenthal to open this hotel – now a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World – in the Spittelberg artists’ quarter in 1991. A prolific art collector, he’d been dissatisfied with the homogenous lodgings he’d passed through on his own travels while working for a computer company.
“At home he loved to host dinner parties, he loved to cook and he had a deep love of art,” Saskia explains.
When his company’s Vienna branch closed, “He decided to open up his own hotel and a place where people feel at home while travelling.”
The hotel started life as 24 rooms located in a former bathroom ceramics warehouse and showroom constructed circa 1902. It was the first building in the city to use steel beams, and these exposed features are now integrated into the design. The establishment has grown organically over the years, and today it spills over to the neighbouring building in a series of 62 suites located across four floors; each suite is stamped with the singular aesthetic of an Austrian architect, artist, designer – or, in the case of Moretti, actor. One might easily get lost in the warren of interconnecting wings if not for a simple mapping system: an elegant swatch of ribbon on each guest’s keyring is signposted on their matching wing and floor.
Unsurprisingly, this hotel lacks a conventional lobby: check-in is completed – champagne flute in hand – in a stylish chamber tucked behind glass doors at the top of a staircase leading from the unassuming street entrance. Brass doors lead to a candy-striped salon and a series of inter-leading dining rooms where one of Vienna’s best breakfasts – featuring mostly organic produce from local and regional suppliers – is served; keep an eye out for the hotelier, who often breakfasts here. Come back later for Viennese cake and coffee or nightcaps mixed with spirits distilled right here in the city.
It’s an easy walk or train ride from here to the cultural institutions that define this city. But you can also fill your art cup by staying in: wander the various wings in which around 300 artworks are exhibited; or take a virtual (Un)Guided Tour of your fellow guests’ quarters: simply scan the QR code outside their suite and “look behind the door with your phone,” Saskia says.