Key Notes: The Levante Parliament, Vienna

levante parliament

Joining a handful of Vienna hotels that embrace a cool 21st-century design sensibility over a lush 19th century romanticism, the Levante Parliament is located in a handsome 1908 Bauhaus structure tucked behind, yes, the Parliament. In the past, the building served as a sanatorium and a student dorm, but it has shed its institutional history for sleek rooms outfitted with buff-colored marble, dark wenge wood, streaks of orange in the bedding and chairs, plus the requisite flatscreen TVs and high-tech lighting—the overall effect being that of a glorified West Elm catalog. If possible, nab a room overlooking the hip, loungey, enclosed courtyard, a much better bet than those facing the hotel's busy and not-very-picturesque street, Auerspergstrasse.

The hotel was designed, in part, to showcase art, all of which is for sale. The most interesting stuff is Ioan Nemtoi's colorful Chihuly-esque glass pieces which punctuate the hotel's Nemtoi restaurant, lobby, and courtyard. Less successful are Curt Themessl's cheesy black-and-white photographs of local dancers, which line the halls and stairs. Strangely, the photo canvas in our room was partially obscured by a tall mirror, perhaps placed there by another unimpressed guest.

The location—in five minutes we could be traipsing through the vibrant Museum Quarter, home to the Leopold Museum, the city's children's museum, the very contemporary MUMOK, and dozens of lithe sunbathers, or sipping a melange across the street from the center of it all, St. Stephen's Cathedral. In another ten minutes, we could be eating weisswurst or grilled octopus in the bustling outdoor Nachtmarkt. But the hotel is situated just far enough off the beaten path to breathe a sigh of relief when you return from, say, the mobbed scene at the opera screenings in front of City Hall (where thousands of locals gather on summer evenings to eat, drink, smoke, and watch opera projected on a huge screen). Plus, the non-touristy area right behind the Levante has great little zigzagging streets and antique shops full of weird stuff.

The smirking hotel manager. When I balked at paying 7 euros to have one pair of my son's pint-sized Levi's washed by the hotel's laundry services and asked for directions to the nearest Laundromat (where it cost 15 euros for a whole suitcase full of dirty laundry to be washed and folded, thank you very much), I was met with unnecessary attitude. The other staff, however, were more helpful, and did find us an amazing babysitter one night, whom we wanted to pack in with all that clean laundry and smuggle back to the States with us. I also didn't love the small, overly bright, marble-clad bathrooms, which are equipped with showers only—no tubs. And all that marble gets slippery—my son suffered a major wipeout in there, and one morning we heard cries from down the hall when one of the cleaning women took a spill (we thought at first it was those other kinds of cries you sometimes hear in hotels, and I wish it had been).

Design-happy travelers whose introduction to Austrian music was Falco, not Mozart.

Not any time soon—a stay in Vienna demands digs with a little more soul.

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