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Tranquility in the Queensland bush

Take a walk on Queensland's wild side

It looks like a small piece of wood, a tree stump in miniature. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to miss, but inside is a female trap-door spider ready to pounce. At this startling revelation, everyone in our group immediately takes a little step backwards; but we’re already too fascinated not to slowly edge closer again, anxious to see what happens next.

With the blade of his knife, our guide – Steve Grainger of Tropical Treks – eases open the lid of the trap and we all hold our breath. But the spider is too smart for us. Aware of our presence, she’s retreated deep into her home and all we can see is the smooth, hollow core of the trap’s entrance.

For most trekkers through the forest, the spider’s home would be nothing more than an indistinguishable part of the undergrowth. But thanks to Grainger, we’re starting to see this lush, ancient rainforest environment with new eyes.

On a bespoke luxe trek, we’re walking part of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk through Kondalilla National Park. And although the luxe part involves pick-up and delivery to the entry to the national park, water and snacks, a gourmet picnic lunch, tea and coffee made on a nifty boiler Grainger pulls from his backpack like a rabbit out of a hat, and a stay at one of the region’s top boutique hotels, there’s consensus in our group of five that one of the greatest luxuries of this adventure is having access to Grainger’s experience, knowledge and passion for the natural world.

As we walk through the forest, a winding trek down to the Kondalilla waterfall and up and out the other side, he helps us identify individual birdsong, tells stories of the Gubbi Gubbi – the local Indigenous people – and of the region’s colonial and contemporary history. As we walk we smell, touch and admire the towering old-growth trees, bushes and flowers and take in the spectacular views. As the forest and its inhabitants are gradually revealed to us, our conversation deepens to cover history, ecology and conservation. From how to build a termite tower to the habits of trap-door spiders, we’ve become mini-experts in just a few hours.

Our group is all reasonably fit, but because the walking is slow (there’s so much to see and learn and we’re constantly stopping to talk) the trek is suitable for all ages, provided you’re mobile and healthy. Grainger also creates bespoke experiences tailored to different interests, fitness and age groups.

Because the walking is easy, we arrive at Narrows Escape near the hinterland village of Montville in the late afternoon pleasantly tired but not exhausted. Which is ideal, because collapsing into bed and sleeping would be a waste of this tranquil rainforest location. Child-free, Narrows was designed to be a peaceful adult oasis with private eco pavilions nestled in the forest, a large verandah looking out on to bush and a range of luxuries – including spa ensuites, high quality linens and toiletries, and complimentary local cheeses and port.

After a day’s walk, it’s a thrill to ditch the hiking boots, pour a glass of wine and enjoy the sights and sounds of the rainforest from the luscious retreat.

Tropical Treks offers tailored bushwalking and birdwatching experiences on the Sunshine Coast. ?Narrows Escape’s Luxe Trekking package includes two nights’ accommodation, a guided day walk and all meals.

Words by Justine Costigan

Image: Tourism New Zealand

A Hawke's Bay driving adventure

Dubbed “the fruit bowl of New Zealand”, Hawke’s Bay is famous for its dry, sunny climate and fertile plains. Home to more than 75 wineries as well as countless artisan producers, it’s one of New Zealand’s most delicious destinations for food and wine. Throw in Art Deco architecture, soaring mountain peaks and dramatic coastlines, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect weekend getaway.


Image: Greenhill Lodge 

Hawke’s Bay is packed with fantastic places to stay, from cosy boutique hotels to charming vineyard cottages. Our pick of the bunch is Greenhill Lodge, a historic homestead in the heart of Hawke’s Bay’s wine region. Built in 1898, the lodge is a luxurious countryside escape, with tastefully decorated suites and sweeping views of the surrounding Maraekakaho area. A highlight is the farm-to-table dining experience, showcasing local Hawke’s Bay producers and wineries*. 
103 Greenhill Rd, Hastings 4174 


Image: Bistronomy

Not only does Bistronomy have the coolest decor around (think sleek, Scandi-style blonde wood with pops of green and gold), chef-owner James Beck is New Zealand’s answer to Heston Blumenthal. This is the place to try dishes you could never dream up – such as smoked beef tartare with oyster gel, leek fondue and pine nut butter or sumac-cured kingfish with liquorice carrot and prickly pear sorbet. The food may belong in a fine dining restaurant, but the vibe is relaxed and fun. 
40 Hastings St, Napier 4110


Image: Craggy Range 

Situated at the rugged foothills of Te Mata Peak, Craggy Range offers one of the country’s best wine-tasting experiences*. At the cellar door, knowledgeable sommeliers present a range of consistently outstanding new world wines. Afterwards, relax in the French country setting of the award-winning Terrôir restaurant, where much of the menu is sourced from the surrounding gardens. 
253 Waimarama Rd, Havelock North, 4230


Image: Cape Kidnappers 

With its dramatic clifftop setting and sweeping views of the Pacific, the Cape Kidnappers Golf Course has been hailed as one of the best places in the world to tee-off. Legendary US golf architect Tom Doak designed the 18-hole course and said of the site: “If it were any bigger or any more dramatic, it would probably be cordoned off as a national park”. The course is a par 71 and is a must-play for golfers of all abilities.
Forestry Rd, Clifton 4172


Image: Hawke's Bay Tourism

Don’t leave Hawke’s Bay without driving up the legendary Te Mata Peak, which rises 396 metres above sea level and offers incredible views of the Hawke’s Bay. Thanks to hairpin switchbacks and the odd stray sheep, the winding journey to the top is a thrill in itself. At the top, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views of rolling farmlands, vineyards, rugged mountain ranges and the coast. On a clear day, Mount Ruapehu is often visible in the distance.
Te Mata Peak Road, Hastings 


Image: iStock

Curating some of the best names in New Zealand design, Aroha and Friends is both a fashion boutique and art studio, stocking super cool men’s and women’s fashion as well as hand-printed homewares and artworks. The store is run by creative couple Rakai Karaitiana and Melaina Newport-Karaitiana and is located in the picturesque seaside village of Ahuriri.   
9 Ossian St, Ahuriri, Napier 4110

Words Alice Galletly

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 
Image: Tourism New Zealand

Explore warm-weather Queenstown

Framed by the soaring Remarkables and the northern shore of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is ridiculously good-looking, and it knows it. Along with the jaw-dropping scenery, Queenstown has more than its fair share of luxurious hotels, innovative restaurants and adrenaline experiences – and the warmer months are the ideal time to explore this stunning part of the world.


Image: Eichard's Private Hotel 

If it’s all-out luxury you’re after, nowhere serves it up better than Eichardt's Private Hotel. Sitting in prime position on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, the property is an historic icon dating back to 1869. Today the sumptuous hotel features five suites, four boutique apartments and a private lakeside residence, with chic interiors by New Zealand designer Virginia Fisher. A fireside cocktail* at The Eichardt’s legendary bar is mandatory, as is lingering over breakfast with a view.
2 Marine Parade, Queenstown 9348


Image: The Sherwood

One of Queenstown’s hippest haunts is The Sherwood, a hillside hotel, restaurant, live-music venue and yoga studio overlooking Lake Wakatipu. Even if you’re not spending the night, be sure to stop by for some of the best food in town – think house-made sourdough, foraged greens and free-range local cuts, served with organic natural wines* and killer lake views.
554 Frankton Rd, Queenstown 9348


Image: Onsen Hot Springs 

Whether you’ve been hiking the slopes or sampling pinot all afternoon, the Onsen Hot Pools are a magical place to unwind at the end of the day. Perched high on a hillside overlooking the Shotover River canyon, each private hut opens out onto it’s own spectacular vista. It’s especially magical after dark, when the stars are on display and twinkling Japanese lanterns adorn the huts.
160 Arthurs Point Rd, Arthurs Point 9371


Image: Jack's Point Golf Course 

If you’re struggling to keep your eye on the ball at Jack’s Point Golf Course, it’s understandable. Set against a backdrop of the Remarkables and overlooking Lake Wakatipu, Jack’s Point has been billed as one of the world’s most spectacular golf courses. The 18-hole, par 72 course is designed around native tussock, rocky outcrops, steep bluffs and native bush.
Jack's Point Restaurant, 9348, Mcadam Dr, Kawarau Falls


Image: Amisfield 

Queenstown is an ideal base for exploring the Central Otago Wine region, famous for producing pinot noir that rivals the best of Burgundy. While you’re spoiled for choice, be sure to add Amisfield* to your cellar-door list. Set in an iconic stone building between Lake Hayes and the Remarkables, the winery is known for it pinot, riesling and sauvignon blanc varietals. Enjoy an informal wine tasting at the cellar door, or take time to enjoy the spectacular setting in the elegant bistro.
10 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd, Frankton, Queenstown 9371


Image: Heli Tours, photographer Nina Boyes – Life in Thirds Photography 

Queenstown looks plenty pretty from the ground, but the best way to truly experience the soaring mountain peaks, glaciers and alpine lakes is from the air. Take to the skies with Heli Tours, which offers scenic flights, ranging from quick 20-minute tours to three- or four-hour packages that include activities such as hot pools, picnics or wine tasting.* 
Sir Henry Wigley Drive, Queenstown Intl Airport, Queenstown 9300

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

Looking for more adventure?

Step back in time in northern Japan

Japan’s Tohoku region is often overlooked in favour of frenetic Tokyo and Osaka or storied Kyoto. But this agricultural region, encompassing six prefectures on the northern tip of the main island Honshu, lays quiet claim to some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. Jump on a bullet train north and discover a Japan of another era.

Visit sacred sites and cherry blossoms

Away from the tourist trail and economic centres, Tohoku is a time capsule for the feudal ages.

The samurai neighbourhood of Kakunodate in Akita prefecture has remained remarkably unchanged since the 17th century. At the Kabazaiku Arts Center, diminutive dressers will wrap you with surprising strength in complex vintage kimono. Appropriately attired, wander the neighbourhood where wealthy samurai lived in elegant wood compounds, most still inhabited by local families.

The three-tiered keep of Hirosaki Castle in Aomori prefecture was the seat of the samurai Tsugaru clan, rebuilt in 1810 after fire destroyed the original. Hirosaki Park is one of Japan’s most popular sakura cherry blossom viewing sites in spring, when over 2500 trees scatter a snowstorm of petals in the moats. Not to be outdone, autumn brings a red blaze to the maple trees dotting the grounds.

In the Iwate prefecture city of Morioka, traditional timber houses and shop fronts sit side-by-side with high-rises beneath volcanic Mt Iwate. In the temple district is Hoonji Temple, known as the "temple of 500 disciples" for the golden statues watching over the shrine (in actuality 499, after one mysteriously disappeared). Each expressive figure, carved by master craftsmen from Kyoto in the 1700s, is completely unique. It’s said you will find your likeness if you look long enough.

Yamadera Temple, meaning "Mountain Temple", perches in the steep mountain-side.

Over 1000 steps wind up through towering pine trees to Yamadera Temple in the crook of a mountain. On your climb, look out for moss-covered Buddha statues hidden among the ferns. First built in 860, the temple commands sweeping views of the valley. The tranquility here inspired famous poet Matsuo Basho to write one of his most enduring haikus in 1689, inscribed at a rock on site. Yamagata prefecture is renowned for cherries; before you leave try a scoop of cherry ice cream in the quaint village below.

Accommodation options

Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) first started welcoming weary travellers in the Edo period (1603–1868), and in their hey-day could be found along most highways. Most were built over natural hot springs, onsen, where guests could soak and socialise. While ryokans have disappeared from larger cities, a stay in a traditional ryokan is not to be missed in rural Japan.

Alternatively, near scenic Lake Towada, Hotel Towadaso combines ryokan traditions with modern conveniences. Their intricate kaiseki banquet includes bite-size sashimi, delicate crab, tender local beef and an array of morels both familiar and less so. As you dine, or relax in the on-site onsen, a futon is laid out in your spacious tatami room.

From dining to accommodation, ancient Japanese traditions are still popular in the Tohoku region.

Take a bath

Mixed-sex baths were common in ancient Japan, and while changing social conventions have seen them dwindle, they are still popular in Tohoku. The 300-odd year old Sukayu Onsen Ryokan in Hakkoda Mountains is famous for sennin buro, the "thousand-person bath" – two large sulphuric pools in a vaulted timber building. Afterwards, try the ryokan’s multi-course kaiseki meal, including the Aomori Prefecture’s signature soba noodles.

With some of the world’s highest snowfall, the Tohoku region is blanketed in soft powder every season. Recover from the slopes in the open-air baths of Nyuto Onsen. The eight onsen resorts deep in beech forest in Akita Prefecture were popularised by samurai recovering from battle over three centuries ago. To this day, they are still relatively unknown to tourists. Stay at century-old rooms at Tsurunoyu Onsen, and dine on a banquet prepared on traditional sunken hearths called irori.

Dress the part

Cotton yukata gowns are the preferred ryokan attire, tied left over right (right over left is reserved for the dead), with leather slip-ons for different rooms. While many modern onsen have made allowances for tourists, Tohoku onsen are generally more beholden to tradition. Complete nudity is the norm, no bathers or modesty towels here, and uncovered tattoos are a no-no.

Change comes slowly to Tohoku, and mercifully so has the crowds. Discover it for yourself, before the rest catch on.

Words Krysia Bonkowski

Discover Tasmania’s Piermont Estate

Winding your way from Hobart up to the Freycinet Coast is the perfect scene-setter for what lies ahead at Piermont Estate. Just minutes after leaving the city, Tasmania’s landscapes slowly begin to be revealed – meandering rivers and rolling hills dramatically give way to forests and mountainous climbs, before the scenery changes once again.

The reward at the end of this stunning drive (as if the road trip wasn't an experience in itself) is the recently refurbished Piermont Estate and Piermont Homestead Restaurant.

Making an entrance

Turning into the significantly un-gated driveway, you are immediately struck by the untouched coastal view. Even on a cool late winter’s day, the sea sparkles and the sky reveals wispy blues. A tray of local Tasmania bubbles awaits our group, arranged under a tree that borders the classically designed amphitheatre. It’s clear that this is not an average boutique hotel. 

A walking tour of the property with owners Marie Von Haniel and Juan Maiz Casas reveals where Piermont came from – and where it is heading.

Exploring Piermont

The property was acquired by Von Haniel’s father decades ago, as he sought far-flung adventure and warmer climes beyond the confines of Germany. The property became home – but only for a few years, before the family again relocated, this time to Argentina. 

Von Haniel always felt a connection with the property and returned years later, determined to transform it into one of the island’s most luxurious retreats. This family heritage remains significant – a relaxed welcoming feel is important for Von Haniel – hence no gates on the driveway.

Guests can stay in either self-contained chalets or spa suites, and have the option to dine in the newly refurbished Hecker Guthrie-designed Piermont Homestead Restaurant. Naturally, in the eatery, seafood features heavily, as does locally grown produce. Chef Chad Woolford’s carefully curated menu includes the likes of Tasmanian Pacific oysters shucked to order, freshly baked bread, pepper crusted kangaroo loin with roasted mash potato, bacon and caramelised onion and chocolate fondant with a chilli and lime sorbet. The perfect accompaniment, of course, is a selection of Tasmanian wines, handpicked from local wineries.

Like the menu, the quietly restrained trademark Hecker Guthrie designs speak for themselves. The thoughtful interiors imbue a sense of paired-back sophistication and have been designed to make the most of the changing weather and light palette. Keeping the atmosphere casual is the inviting bar area and the cozy lounge by the fire.

See and do

Between meals, guests can spend their days exploring the property’s two private beaches, frolicking in the water in the summer months, enjoying a game of tennis, lounging by the pool or simply kicking back in front of a cosy fireplace when the weather rolls in. 

Beyond the property’s border there’s plenty to keep visitors occupied. Choose between a visit to nearby Freycinet National Park, take in a wineries tour, explore the world-famous Great Eastern Drive or embark on a scenic helicopter flight to Hobart’s MONA. For those seeking more physical activities, take your pick from hiking some of Australia’s most stunning trails, kayaking or sailing.

While exclusivity is key to Piermont’s success, Von Haniel and Casas are embarking on a restrained expansion with a new cluster of 32 waterfront residences from architects and designers, Jackson Clements Burrows and Hecker Guthrie. With these carefully considered construction plans underway, the future looks bright for Piermont Estate.

For more on this, and other exclusive accommodation around the world, read the November 2016 issue of Mercedes-Benz Magazine.

Images courtesy Piermont Estate

Words Lucy Siebert

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Discover Réunion in 2017

Réunion is arguably one of the world’s best-kept island secrets, an overseas department of France that is nestled in the remote south Indian Ocean. Despite its far-flung location, the island is surprisingly easy for Australians to get to and offers a truly unique cultural experience. Located 6042km west of Perth, 226km southwest of neighbouring Mauritius and 942km east of Madagascar off the coast of East Africa, the 2512 sq km island is a mere dot in the vast sea of blue.

In addition to offering visitors a French cultural experience, the island is home to volcanic landscapes and the Piton de la Fournaise or ‘Peak of the Furnace’, one of the most active volcanos in the world, which earlier this year blew its 2632m-high stack twice.

Along with Mauritius, which is often looked upon as a big sister – although it is an entirely separate country, and nearby Rodrigues, Réunion forms part of the Mascarenes, sometimes called the Vanilla Islands.

As a French overseas territory or a département of France, Réunion accepts much financial support from the fatherland but relies heavily on tourism. Although reputedly one of the richest islands in the Indian Ocean with a high standard of living, it is, for all intents and purposes, a colourful, exotic, tropical (although not strictly in the tropics) island with a wonderful mélange of cultures and traditions.

It is believed the first visitors to the island were Malay, Arab and European mariners – but none stayed. In the mid 1600s, the French settled the island but it wasn’t till the beginning of the 18th century that the French government and the French East India Company took control. When coffee was introduced between 1715 and 1730, slaves shipped in from Africa and Madagascar formed the nucleus of the strong Creole heritage that has survived and prospered ever since.

While French is the official language, most inhabitants speak Creole – a sort of pidgin French. In the capital Saint-Denis, you can take a guided tour of Creole houses and even be introduced to the Creole language through a fun workshop. Boulangeries sell baguettes alongside Creole specialties, Chinese corner stores, Indian linen shops and Arab bazaars trade alongside Malagasy craftspeople in the Grand Marché market. Throughout the island, restaurants feature local Creole dishes such as carri (or curry) of seafood, chicken, duck or pork cooked over an open fire in a sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, thyme, ginger and tumeric, and rougail – a similar sauce but with sausages, cod or perhaps goat.

Luxury stays

At LUX Saint Gilles, you can watch carri chef Henri Romily prepare one of his famous carri dishes over the open charcoal grill. You can later choose a selection of such carris for lunch – perhaps vanilla duck, chicken, eggplant, octopus with red wine or spicy Creole sausage.

Located in the island’s northwest, LUX Saint Gilles is one of just three five-star resorts on the island, and the only one with direct access to a lagoon beach. It makes the ideal base, offering comfortable accommodation for 450 guests in charming colonial-style wooden units, surrounding a central complex with three restaurants, bars, their signature LUX me spa and the island’s largest swimming pool.

According to Christophe Adam, sales and marketing director of the hotel, some 50 per cent of guests are from France, who take advantage of up to six flights daily from Paris while 30 to 40 percent are repeat guests. Not surprisingly, the island’s peak season coincides with the French school holidays. With LUX resorts on both islands, he says many guests combine a visit to Réunion with on Mauritius, too. For Australians, there are direct flights from Perth to Mauritius and regular connections onwards from there to Reunion. Alternatively, fly direct to Johannesburg from either Sydney or Perth and connect onwards from there.

While many of the near half million of visitors to Réunion come to chill out on the beaches and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle, a surprising number come to participate in the more adventurous aspects that the island has to offer, with some 70 different outdoor sports and pursuits from hiking – the number one activity – to climbing, diving, paragliding, white water rafting and canyoning.

Crowned in the north by the circular remnants or cirques of three former volcanoes and in the south by the still active volcano, Le Piton de la Fournaise or ‘Peak of the Furnace’, if you were able to iron it flat, its rugged oval shape would probably double in size. In 2010, almost half of the island was designated a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site.

Air adventures

The best way to appreciate the island’s majestic landscape is to take a helicopter ride with Helilagon Aviation who have been flying guests over the island for 25 years and have nine choppers. Depending on the weather, there are several circuits they fly. Although clouds prevent us flying over the volcano, I take the flight over the northern cirques that circle the island’s highest point, Le Piton des Neiges at 3070 metres. We fly over seaside towns and head for the verdant green centre where the jagged cirques are edged by drop-away peaks. Mountain-top villages cluster on small plateaus between countless rivers and valleys carpeted with thick natural scrub and tree-ferns. Waterfalls cascade between rocky crevices like runny icing on a giant bundt cake. Former French military pilot Jean Claude points out the impressive fast-flowing 400m-high cascade of Trou de Fer: “The same height as the Eiffel Tower,” he says.

Back at the resort, I sit under the shade of feathery filao trees that edge the water and lunch on a salad of local palm heart and seafood as whales breach and spurt in the distance. Between June and October, whales give birth on the reef’s edge with possible early morning sightings of dolphins all year round. While this little corner of paradise might be relatively unknown at the moment, I’m suspecting it won’t take long for word of its idyllic lifestyle to start making news of its own – and, for all the right reasons.

Words Tricia Welsh

Ubud for the “conscious traveller”

A firm favourite with Australians, a holiday in Bali can mean different things for different people. For tourists seeking an authentic and environmentally friendly experience, intimate luxury guesthouses are a great place to stay and they are often located within easy reach of fantastic restaurants and attractions.

On arriving at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, there’s no mistaking where you are. Aromas of spice and sea salt simultaneously hit passengers as they exit the plane – signalling you have indeed arrived at one of Asia’s most beloved and spiritual destinations.

Leaving the airport for the road transfer to Ubud, the traffic is maddening, but the journey offers a slideshow of life in Bali.

On this particular Ubud holiday, the aim is to “travel with a conscious” – by actively engaging with local communities, food and activities for an authentic Balinese holiday experience.

Where to stay

Of course, there is no shortage of fantastic accommodation options in Ubud – from swanky hotels perched over river rapids to eco-friendly health retreats, villas commanding rice paddy vistas and guesthouses that provide an intimate and authentic stay.

Located in Kutuh Kelod village and about 400m from the main road of Jalan Raya Ubud, Kano Sari is a delightful guesthouse that is entirely built from natural materials such as marble and locally sourced wood.

The villa’s light airy communal living areas immediately make an impression on newly arrived guests.

Within the guesthouse, each spacious room features beautifully appointed local items that are hand-selected by owner and manager Karen Lewis. With a view to reducing the number of plastic bottles that tourists use on the island, unlimited filtered drinking water is provided in each room.

The Jepun Suite (meaning frangipani) is popular due to its separate living room that is perfect for a family and its balcony that overlooks the gorge. Although many of the rooms have gorgeous outlooks, guests in all rooms will wake to the early morning alarm clock of spine-tingling chanting that echoes through the ravine; an exquisite start to the day.

Lewis is passionate about living in Ubud and running a business there, saying she loves “being part of the community and the staff are like family”.

What to do

Ubud is considered Bali’s spiritual capital and there is a plethora of yoga, meditation and other spiritually minded things to do.

One option is a Hindu water blessing at Tirta Empul water temple. While one visit might not fully purify the soul, it will leave you refreshed as you pray while dunking your head beneath the numerous water spouts.

Also known for its art, Ubud has plenty of galleries for visitors to browse.

Nothing, however, beats watching the artists in action. Batuan Village is famed for its paintings of Hindu daily life and mythology. Here, works of art can take up to five years to complete and are sometimes so intricate that they are created under a microscope.

Keliki Village has derived a similar style from the Batuan teachings with its Keliki Painting School, which trains children to paint. There are more than 1000 pieces to view and enjoy, with some pieces for sale. Prices start from $400 and all proceeds go to supporting the village and artists.

Where to eat

Ubud’s eating scene is just as prolific as Seminyak’s and if you want to support local farmers, head to The Elephant, which serves eco-friendly vegetarian fare. At just 2.5sqm, the tiny Fair Warung Bale sees the proceeds from every meal providing two free medical treatments for those in need.

Other ethical options include Element (Jalan Penenstanan Kelod) and Locavore.

Words Carmen Jenner. She was a guest of Kano Sari and Bali Assist.

Explore Vienna with the experts

After you’ve listened to the Vienna Philharmonic, wandered through Vienna’s grand museums, feasted on cake and coffee at its well-known Belle Epoque cafes, it’s time to escape the Austrian capital’s tourist hordes and dig a little deeper. Here is a selection of Little Black Book entries from some of the city’s finest art and museum curators. These are people who live and breathe Vienna and whose profession requires a discerning eye. It’s difficult to imagine more useful insider guides.

Museum curator's top picks

Dr Ursula Storch, deputy director of the Wien Museum, has recently wrote a book on The Prater, Vienna’s iconic park, and the museum’s fascinating exhibition, Meet me at the Prater, details the park’s history since Emperor Joseph II opened his imperial hunting grounds to the general public 250 years ago.

Dr Storch recommends having lunch at The Lusthaus, located in a pretty rotunda at the bucolic end of the Prater. Further afield, she suggests visiting another locale of the Wien Museum: Hermesvilla, Empress Sissi’s “Palace of Dreams” located in Lainzer Tiergarten Park.

On the outskirts of the city, she also loves going to Wirtshaus Steirerstöckl restaurant, located in a rustic former hikers’ shelter on the edge of Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark beside the Vienna Woods. Here, feast on traditional Styrian dishes based on ingredients from the restaurant’s own farm. If you are visiting the eccentric Hundertwasser Museum in the 3rd District, for a little retail therapy she recommends the beautifully curated collection of scarves, jewellery and other colourful gifts at the tiny nearby Dea gift shop at Salmgasse 16. 

Discover hidden cultural gems 

Freelance curator and arts consultant Paul Asenbaum was one of the guest curators at the National Gallery of Victoria’s exceptional exhibition, Vienna: Art and Design. He recommends exploring Vienna in search of its striking modernist architecture from the turn of the 20th century. Top of the list is the whimsical gold-domed Austrian-style Art Nouveau Secession Building designed by Joseph Maria Olbrich. Inside you’ll discover Gustav Klimt’s erotic Beethoven Frieze and, as a bonus, see exhibitions of today’s avant-garde from an artist-run cooperative.

He also suggests admiring the minimalist LoosHaus on Michaelerplatz, Adolf Loos’ radical departure from the Neo Renaissance architecture of the Imperial Palace directly opposite. And he loves Otto Wagner’s work, both the Art Nouveau Stadtbahnstation on Karlsplatz and his sleek-lined modernist Postal Savings Bank. If you are keen to purchase any of the rare decorative arts from Vienna’s Modernist and Art Nouveau artists and designers, he suggests visiting Galerie bei der Albertina and Galerie Wolfgang Bauer.

For a contemporary take on Vienna’s design, fashion and café scene, he suggests exploring the neighbourhoods of Neubaugasse and Gumpendorferstrasse, which are both near the Museumsquartier.

Eat, drink and shop 

Dr Alfred Weidinger is deputy director of Vienna’s esteemed Belvedere Museum, the UNESCO World Heritage Baroque palace which is home to the world’s largest collection of the works of Gustav Klimt (including The Kiss). One of his favourite places is Supersense, which is a fascinating contemporary wunderkammer, a perfect German word to describe its cabinet of curiosities. Located on the ground floor of a Venetian-style Palazzo, it is a café that serves excellent coffee and Tyrolean craft beer as well as a shop with a carefully curated collection of photography and hand-made paper products plus a studio that hand-cuts vinyl records and offers the highest quality “direct-to-disc” live recordings.

Independent curator of contemporary art, architecture and design Jade Niklai is a big fan of the MAK, Vienna’s Museum for Applied Arts, which shows furniture, glass, china, silver and textiles from the Middle Ages to the present day as well as offering a space for experimentation for applied arts at the interface of design, architecture and contemporary art. The design shop is a terrific place to find the most interesting gifts. She also recommends annual festivals Impulstanz, one of the world’s largest festivals of contemporary dance, and Curated by Vienna where international curators conceive exhibitions across 20 commercial Viennese galleries.

For the latest in Viennese fashion, she loves the work of Ukrainian-born, Viennese-trained Petar Petrov and for exquisite bags made from full-grain leather and (yes) fish scales, she suggests looking for the Vienna-based Batliner label.

As for places to stay, her pick is the contemporary/retro Austro-Hungarian monarchy style of Hotel Grand Ferdinand, right on the Ringstrasse, which celebrates a life full of relish with a generous dash of good humour.

Words Susan Gough Henly