Why you must try THE original Sacher torte at Cafe Sacher Wien by Those Fancy Gems

Doesn't the Sacher Torte just look so palatable?

My first impressions of the cake was that it looked way too chocolatey albeit palatable - the kind of thick chocolatey goodness that may be so thick it'd cause me to have a sore throat upon swallowing a mouthful. I have the tendency to link my thoughts to a sore throat whenever a certain dish seems thick, dry and gooey, just like the likes of thick ganache and peanut butter.

That aside, the torte itself fashioned an even coating of chocolate icing on it's exterior. It is in a nutshell, two layers of soft fluffy chocolate cake with apricot jam sandwiched in between. 

I had a first bite and I was blown away. I instantly knew why this torte is such a big hoo-haa!

It was that soft fluffiness despite it's looks (yes, never judge a book by it's cover!). Anything that looks too chocolatey also always seem like it'll be too sweet. Fortunately for me, it wasn't too sweet nor bland, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - accompanied by a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a cup of tea, it was the perfect sweet ending. 

The Sacher torte (pronounced as Sacker) was created by Franz Sacher in the 1800s for the Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna. It is served in Hotel Sacher in present day - the Hotel which was opened by Sacher's son Eduard, in 1876. This torte stayed the same way, made in the same way, since Eduard himself perfected his father's recipe. 

What makes the torte so special was arguably not the cake itself, but the chocolate icing. It was said that the chocolate used are three different chocolates, produced exclusively for the production of the Sacher Torte. It is amazing how much effort goes into this signature cake, and it is no wonder it is able to withstand the test of time, and still remain a Viennese specialty. 

Here is a little on our experience there, with nothing to do with the torte. 

It was an abrupt decision to visit Hotel Sacher cafe, to try out the Sacher Torte. It was yet another rainy evening (damn these winter temperament!). Many people were queueing to get in. Be prepared to wait for about 10-15 mins at the later hours of the evening, say about 8pm-ish, as everyone has had their dinner and are making their way to get desserts. Also, we were unaware of the tradition of having to put our coats in a coat room and having to pay for it - a little bit of a culture shock there because it seemed like a compulsory thing to do even though we did not require such service. I later understood that perhaps our coat may dirty the seats, or wet them in this case, as we just came from the rain from the outside. 

We were already shocked from the fare from the coat room, what happened next was totally unexpected. 

Our cake and tea arrived and we were busy photographing it like typical Asians, feeling that tinge of excitement to give the torte a try. My sister felt a cold sensation on the underside of her thigh. No, she did not pee in her pants or anything like that. There was a gooey mess of yellow and blue on the seat - that of what seemed like the remnants of someone who did not know how to eat properly - and my sister had conveniently sat down on the exact spot without noticing it due to the fanciful fabric on the seat, and the juice or whatever moisture left it the cake seeped through her pants. Not nice. That was shock number 2. 

It was a frustrating moment for my sister to have her pants soiled with cake as we were backpacking and each only had 2 pair of pants (wear one bring one). The staff whom we approached to talk about this seemed a little flustered at the start, as the cafe was just packed with customers and he could not even stop to talk to us. Then came the manager who very kindly heard us out, though she looked doubtful at the start. She offered laundry services to us, but we were unable to accept her kind offer due to us leaving the next day. Instead, the bill was on the house, and also tons more apologies from herself. 

P/S: Of course I'm not writing this to inform others on ways to be able to get a free meal in the cafe. It is just one of those interesting experiences that we collected during our trip that I think was worth sharing.

Other than our interesting experience, I would have to say that the Sacher Torte is definitely worth a try. The interior is beautiful like all the other Viennese coffee house. It is highly raved but also highly loved and rated. My story is just a part of our experience; don't shy away from this cafe as it is THE place for Sacher Torte. They have other branches in other parts of Austria too (Innsbruck, Salzburg and Graz), but the one in Vienna is the birth place of this torte. So if your geographic location permits, go to this one!

Fun fact: The Sacher torte is so famous, it has its own day dedicated to it - 5 December.

Hotel Sacher (Sacher Cafe Wien) | Philharmonikerstraße No. 4, Innere Stadt, Vienna, Austria | Opens daily 0800-0000

Follow Min and Kiat to the most grand looking cafe ever: Vienna's Cafe Central by Those Fancy Gems

As I have mentioned before in our recent post - Highlights of Wien: 9 Things you should know about, cafe hopping in Vienna is very different, and the style of their cafes are an absolute delight. We did not know what to expect before visiting, but Kiat insisted that we should go (he is extremely willing to travel for food and coffee - check out his instagram account for more of his cafe and coffee adventures: @aweikiat), so we did. 

It is actually relatively easy to get there, because it is conveniently situated in the 1st district. 

Decorated with pretty lights on the outside, it is hard to miss it!

Upon stepping in, we were greeted with music coming from a pianist playing live in the center of the cafe. The interior consisted of high vaulted ceiling, arches with accent colours and details; the waiters were in traditional uniform and the cakes in display looks delish. Stepping into this cafe was like travelling back in time. It is hard to believe we were in the same place as some world's most influential leaders like Lenin and Hitler, and poets and writers alike. 

I think the hype of the cafe is due to it's extravagant interior and exterior. We had a couple of cakes and it was really tasty. If you are on a budget, it would be best to just have a cup of coffee or cake, just to experience the ambience, as the main courses can get a little pricey. 

We were there for quite a while as the pianist was just so good. Some songs that he played when we were there includes "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Habanera" from Bizet's opera "Carmen". 

Café Central | Herrengasse 14, 1010 Wien | Mon - Sat 0730-2200, Sun and Holidays 1000-200

Sunday morning in Vienna - Where you can get your breakfast & coffee fix by Those Fancy Gems

Sunday mornings in Vienna might be a little of a pain for tourists who are looking to explore the city. What is more difficult than finding things to do is looking for a place to fill one's stomach. Even if you are willing to just have a bun from a supermarket, you will still have to travel quite a fair bit before getting to one located near to a big U-bahn station. 

We got a little lucky on that fateful Sunday morning, lurking around our hostel's area (we stayed in Wombat's Hostel - Naschmrkt) in the early hours. Maybe we were being a little picky - as our hostel offered breakfast for just Euro 3.70. But it was our last day in Vienna, and we just wanted to have savour what the coffee houses in Vienna has in store for us one last time before leaving. 

Our feet miraculously brought us to Coffee&bread after what seemed like walking on forever and getting rejected by closed door and 'close' signages. When we spotted this cafe, we knew it was the one for us. It was well lit, with the fresh aroma of coffee beans and pastries seemingly pulling us in closer. We were greeted with very nice smiling faces. The whole menu was in German, so we could not understand but we tried to make it out anyway, and our difficulty got spotted by one of the staff. She was nice enough to explain to us what each thing on the menu was, even down to what herbs was contained in the dish. When we still did not understand what herb it was, she took the effort to go into the kitchen to take it out and showed it to us. So much happy vibes in the morn!

This third-wave-coffee cafe is definitely refreshing for people in Vienna, if they ever want a change from their typical coffee house. 

The food was simple yet delectable. Not much of a crowd on a Sunday morning but I would expect it to be pretty packed on weekdays, as it is situated near Naschmrkt and Karlsplatz. It is probably a favourite of university students of the nearby Vienna University of Technology especially with it's affordability. 

Coffee&bread | Operngasse 24, 1040 wien | Mon - Fri: 0700–1900, Sat: 0800–1700, Sun: 0800–1400 

Finding the best wiener Schnitzel at Figlmüller by Those Fancy Gems

When in Vienna, you've got to have schnitzel. Not just any schnitzel, it's the Wiener Schnitzel. 

The Wiener Schnitzel is the national dish of Austria and can be found in absolutely any restaurant. But we were in search for the best one - something with an authentic taste. A quick google search brought us to Figlmüller. We decided to go there at the last minute so we did not make a reservation. But once we arrived at the entrance of the restaurant, we knew exactly why it was the no.1 choice for the wiener schnitzel and regretted not making that call to reserve. The queue was extremely long, even for a rainy day. We waited for an hour. The restaurant's shop space was quite big with 2 levels. But it was absolutely packed and the queue looked never-ending on both of their outlets.

Measuring a whooping 30cm across and overflowing over its plate, the Schnitzel at Figlmüller is a real win for money. Despite the price, 13.90 for a piece of breaded cutlet may seem expensive for some, it does justify upon the first bite - that crisp on the outside and juicy tender meat on the inside. It was also not overly oily and we did not feel sick of eating the whole piece. We ordered 2 Schnitzels, 2 potato salads and a soup to share for 3. 

A Schnitzel may be made in pork, chicken or veal. The ones in Figlmüller are usually made of pork, unless ordered otherwise. 

Figlmüller Schnitzel deep fried - 13,90
Potato-field Salad with Styria pumpkin-seed oil - 3,80 (Recommended to go along)
Vienna style potato soup with boletus 4,10

Figlmüller Wollziele | Wollzeile 5, 1010 Vienna | Open daily 1100 - 2230 | Contact: +43/1/ 512 61 77
Figlmüller Bäckerstraße | Bäckerstraße 6, 1010 Vienna | Open daily 1145 - 2400 | Contact: +43/1/ 512 17 60

3 enchanting palaces in Vienna to see: Schönbrunn, Belvedere & Hofburg by Those Fancy Gems

Palaces are aplenty in Vienna. In a city where there are up to 50 palaces, the top three most visited contenders got to be the Belvedere, Schönbrunn and the Hofburg Palace. Whether it is due to how grand the architecture is, or its close proximity to the city center, let's see why. 

Schönbrunn Palace

The Schönbrunn palace was a summer residence to the imperial family. The complex was massive - it had countless chambers for the imperial family, as well as rooms for official business. The garden was so huge, it took us about 2 hours to slowly walk through it. A zoo is a part of the palace, and it is one of the oldest zoos in the world. 

Even though we were only there in winter, I can only see how crazy beautiful the entire area could be in Spring where it is full of life - rows and rows of flowers blooming in the gardens and having trees line the pathways. What we experienced in winter felt a little cold - the trees were bare with a weird shape to it's trunk and branches. We were really puzzled as to why they were like that, but soon realised that they were shaped this way and it was not a natural phenomena. Still, very eye-catching. Something you don't get to see in Summer. 

We visited Schrönbrunn on a Saturday during winter and it was still packed with people. One can tell how popular this place is, with all its hype about the zoo and being one of the top sites to visit in Vienna. We had to plough our way through the crowd as we took the U-bahn, and the station was not as near as the palace entrance as compared to where many tourists and visitors alight from their tourist buses. Winter season was suppose to be low season for tourism, but it doesn’t seem so in Vienna. The queue for admission tickets for the Imperial tour, which showcases some 22 chambers of the palace, took us about 30-40 mins. Since there was simply too many people in the palace compounds, they sort of rationed the number of people entering at one point in time to prevent overcrowding. We had to then wait for another hour to get in for the tour which lasts for approximately 30-40 mins. Some parts of the palace is free, like the gardens, if you are not up for spending to see the interior. But, I would highly recommend to visit at least one palace’s interior, as it is really very intricately beautiful. And in this tour, an audio guide is provided. Hence, you will get a deeper understanding to their past as well as the life of Sisi. 

We chose to only go for the Imperial Tour and walk the grounds of the palace.

The best part about visiting the palace in winter is that there's a Christmas market at the main courtyard space, so you can fill your tummy after a long walk in the compounds! Have a cuppa punch and piping hot baked potato topped with yogurt and bacon bits. Yum!

Schönbrunn Palace | Schönbrunner Schlossstraße, 1130 Wien | Opening hours: Apr - Jun 0830-1700, Jul - Aug 0830-1800, Sep - Oct 0830-1700, Nov - Mar 0830-1630 | Imperial Tour price: € 12,90

The Belvedere

The Belvedere consists of the Upper Belvedere and Lower Belvedere. What separates these two is a large garden. Baroque architecture is everywhere in Vienna, but the Belvedere is considered to be one of the finest Baroque landmarks. As the name suggests, Upper Belvedere is on a higher ground, slowly sloping downwards to the Lower Belvedere. A spectacular view of the city can be seen from the Upper Belvedere.  

Just like other palaces, walking around the compounds are favourable if you are on a budget as it is free. I think visiting any one palace’s chambers’ is enough just to get a feel of how they generally look like. We did not enter the chambers in the Belvedere and only strolled around the garden and the admired the architecture from outside, the look from day to night as we were there at the twilight hour. Also, they had a christmas market in there too! I highly suspect that a christmas market could be chucked in to any empty available space - not that it’s a bad thing. You could get your punch fix anywhere you go, really. 

Upper BelvederePrinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Vienna | Opens daily 1000 - 1800 | Grounds are free, admission tickets prices varies

Lower BelvedereRennweg 6, 1030 Vienna | Opens daily 1000 - 1800, Wednesday 1000 - 2100 | Grounds are free, admission tickets prices varies

Hofburg Palace

Unlike Schönbrunn and Belvedere, Hofburg Palace is situated in the centre of Vienna. Also unlike the other two palaces, Hofburg was the winter palace of the Habsburg and the rulers of the Austro-Hungary empire. 

We joined a walking tour conducted by our hostel - Wombats City Hostel (The Naschmarkt), which covered some parts of the Hofburg Palace during the tour. We did not pay to visit any museums or exhibitions inside the palace. Entrance fees do eat up our budget quite a lot, so we were really selective about it. Of course if you are willing to and are planning to cover many of these spots, it will be beneficial to purchase the Vienna Card, which has discounts for admission tickets, cafes and more.

I found the Hofburg Palace's layout probably the weirdest of all. In all typical palaces, there'd be some kind of symmetry, with everything in balance, but not the Hofburg. It's architecture layout was kind of all over the place - a sign of it being rebuilt and having wings built added on and on as years passed. Another thing to note is how huge these buildings are. I feel that they are the ultimate representation of imperialism in Austria. 

The sheer size and intricacy of these buildings still amazes me and I thoroughly enjoyed viewing them. Vienna being the giant, is so different from other smaller cities. It is so clean and sleek. Though much more commercialised, I can still see why people flock there for a vacation. 

The grounds are open somewhat 24 hours, with no gates to them hence no closing hour. Be sure to take a walk around the area at night to see the night view as the whole place lights up with spotlights. It is quite beautiful. The lights turn off at midnight though, so make sure you know the low light settings on your camera and you're good to go.

Hofburg Palace | Michaelerkuppel, A-1010 Wien | Opens daily | Grounds open 24 hours | Grounds are free