From breakfast to ballrooms
Vienna is a delightful home for princesses, philharmonics and street markets, so your holiday packing list must account for the elegance of the city.
There are thousands of reasons to visit Vienna. From the hundreds of balls, over 400 of them, the enchanting Christmas markets, visiting old palaces and gardens, an exclusive seat for a philharmonic concert or simply to enjoy tons of marzipan chocolate. You might have noticed that neither of those things are particularly ‘t-shirt and jeans’ friendly, and that’s the first rule when packing for a trip to Vienna: nothing is casual.
The Viennese are quite conservative with their style and you can never be too elegant. The days of imperial festivities might be long gone but the elegance has never disappeared from Austrian wardrobes. However extreme the weather, flip-flops have never touched the pavements of the Kohlmarkt.
I enjoy watching older ladies sitting in one of the traditional Viennese cafés like Prückel or Korb, who are perfectly styled, wearing their family jewels, nice dresses and valuable bags. Somehow they celebrate fashion more than the younger ones.
People don’t stand up while walking down the street, there is nothing avant-garde or show-stopping about the locals’ fashion sense. It’s just elegance adapted to everyday life. Well, unless you’re an old lady with heirloom jewellery. But I’ll continue my pleading from the assumption that you are not.
Now what does this mean for your packing list? Well, assuming that anything sporty (not used for actual sport) has already been crossed off, you might want to give those jeans a second thought too. Besides the occasional teenager, you will not spot a pair of jeans (especially of the ripped variety) on the streets of Vienna. ‘Muscle’ vests and jackets don’t really feel at home either, so if you’re visiting during the cold season, bring a classic coat (think Burberry but darker and warmer). And it’s the perfect place to don that fur coat you never wore with too much confidence.
Vienna is not a typical fashion city. You don’t see a lot of stylish people on the streets like in London, New York or in Tokyo. But it is getting better. The young people are very inspired.
Given that the NO list is complete, what DO you wear? A smart casual wardrobe or even business style if you’re there for work, preferably focused on darker colours. Nicely tailored pants are a practical option but you’ll notice that many women prefer dresses or skirts in classic styles (less like grandma’s and more like Victoria Beckham). Even if you’re out and about in the hottest summer afternoon, don’t wear anything too short and sneak a shawl or a cardigan in your bag, as the evenings could get a little chilly. And the umbrella is a must too!
Complete the look with a few low-key pieces of jewellery (preferably artisan creations) and comfortable shoes for exploring the city and its cobbled streets. Save the heels for a night out and pack a beautiful gown if you’re planning to attend an opera show or a classical music concert. That would also represent the perfect opportunity to visit the Swarovski store for some local souvenirs. Even if your night out is a little more low key than that, keep in mind that many of the classier cafes have a dress code you need to adhere to.
Finally, to review: smart-casual, dark colours, comfortable shoes and discrete jewellery. Plus, always be prepared for the cold. But generally, deciding what to wear in Vienna is a simple and elegant task. And, most importantly, make sure that you prepare your itinerary well ahead of time, so you can get a proper cultural taste of the city and its prime attractions. Happy travels!