Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom
What is it? Opened last December, Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom is an opulent temple of 21st-century design created by French architect Jean Nouvel. The bold 18-storey tower of glass, steel and concrete makes a strong statement in a city that dazzles with sumptuous 19th-century imperial architecture.
Opulence, you say? Describing the hotel as both minimalist and opulent might sound like a contradiction in terms, but Nouvel has used novel ideas to combine the two. The hotel's 182 rooms and suites come in three colours: white, grey and black. In place of wall hangings, rooms have window partitions that can be moved around to form picture frames of the views of Vienna. In the tradition of the masters who built the Austrian capital's splendid cathedrals and palaces, Nouvel gathered a talented team of artists to come up with creative and innovative ways of bringing colour to the monochromatic decor.
The first five floors of the hotel house the public areas, including the lobby, winter garden, meeting rooms and 'wellbeing space'. Colour, light and the views are used to brighten the public areas, coming together in an atrium at the entrance, five colourful animated ceilings that make up a kaleidoscope on the fifth floor, created by artist Pipilotti Rist, and a 600-square-metre vertical garden.
Is the spa anything to write home about? The spa is a contemporary temple of relaxation, with five treatment rooms, a hammam, a panoramic sauna and a spa lounge with breathtaking views of Vienna's cathedral. The menu offers 30-minute 'starters', for those in a hurry, as well as 'main courses' and 'desserts', which last an hour and include massages, facials and hot-stone massages.
We'd go if we didn't have children: Sofitel's Magnifique Family package encourages families to travel together by offering 50 per cent off the cost of a second room for the children and a host of extras. Those with youngsters might be more comfortable requesting a grey room, as the white rooms are difficult to keep spotless. Sofitel supports the Antoine de Saint-Exupery Youth Foundation, providing financial support and local initiatives for young people around the world.
Don't tell us, the food isn't bad either? Three-star Michelin chef Antoine Westermann serves up a menu of contemporary French fare beneath a multicoloured video ceiling at Le Loft. The cuisine is of the standard you would expect from a three-star Michelin chef, and the video art and city views are just as spectacular.
What's the bottom line? Rates start from Euro195 (HK$2,100) a night. Sofitel's Magnifique Family package offers 50 per cent off a second room for the children, complimentary breakfast for the children and late checkout (4pm).
Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom is at Praterstrasse 1, Vienna, tel: 43 1906160; www.sofitel.com.