Like Vienna itself, Hostel Ruthensteiner is a piece of art. A place to play the piano if you feel like it, pick up some healthy homegrown spices, or relax surrouneded by original artwork and handmade furniture. Before you meet Courtney at HostelSkills #2 in Barcelona, here is a small tour of this amazing property.
How did you decide to open a hostel?
It opened us. We’ve been working at Hostel Ruthensteiner for years, and took the place over when the original owners retired.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing in running/managing your hostel?
Balancing guest happiness with staff happiness and making changes to old established systems. Being accessible as management but not micro-managing. Generally learning to take on a leadership role after being just ‘part of the team’ for many years.
What makes your hostel unique?
We’ve been around for nearly 50 years and have a great wealth of knowledge and tradition behind us. We have a unique style and atmosphere that has grown organically – a lot of our furniture, for example, was made in-house, and we have lots of original artwork in our common spaces & rooms, much of it made by our staff & volunteers. Our staff is also dedicated, professional, and extremely friendly (our turnover rate is generally low, and a lot of us have been working here for 10+ years). All this leads to a very amicable, family-like atmosphere, and we get lots of feedback about how comfortable and homey our place is.
What is the one thing that your guests like the most in your hostel?
Our relaxed but fun atmosphere, especially the chill-out factor (garden, bbq, musical instruments to play, etc.) – and our awesome staff.
What makes your destination/city a place everyone should visit?
Vienna is known for its rich history & culture – in 2015 it was also rated the most livable city in the world. In short, Vienna has a lot to offer – visitors can wander the city’s beautiful parks (picnic surrounded by historic architecture!), take advantage of all the public pools & swimming areas (summer and winter – the ‘Therme Wien’ city public spa has an amazing indoor facility for the cold months), & check out the many free music & cultural festivals that dot the city’s calendar. In terms of more traditional tourist fare, Vienna has several fantastic classical music venues (including the State Opera, which sells nightly standing-room tickets for under €5 – probably the best deal in Europe), as well as world-class art museums and two World Heritage sites (the historic First District, and the Palace Schönbrunn). Stick around for a few days and you might just fall in love!
What is the best time of the year to visit you?
Summer is awesome for the relaxed, slowed-down atmosphere, plus there are tons of free events, outdoor music festivals, etc. Early fall (September & October) and late spring (March – June) are also great times for a visit – the city is bustling, student life is in full swing, and there are plenty of goings-on (music, opera, cultural events, etc). End of November the incredibly charming Christmas markets open up, and keep going through New Years. January and February are the only months that can get a bit cold & boring.
What would you recommend to your guests as a must see/must do in your city?
- Take a walk from our doorstep down Vienna’s loveliest shopping boulevard (the Mariahilferstrasse) and into the historic ‘Old City’ – check out the gorgeous architecture around the ‘Ringstrasse’ (Ring Boulevard), wander medieval alleyways to the famous Stephansdom Cathedral, & sample some local specialties (Käsekrainer at the Bitzinger Sausage Stand, or a ‘Wiener Melange’ & ‘Torte’ at the Cafe Central).
- Visit the World Heritage Palace Schönbrunn – Take a walk in the huge & beautiful gardens (entry is free!) – stroll up to the ‘Gloriette’ at the top end of the palace grounds for a lovely view over the city (the Gloriette coffee house makes a great apple strudel). For a fee, you can also: tour the palace itself, and/or check out the outdoor Labyrinth, the ‘Palmenhaus’ (an art-deco style greenhouse filled with tropical plants), and/or the world-class city zoo (the oldest zoo in the world).
- Spend an evening at the Opera (September – June) – standing room tickets are available almost every evening – you get a GREAT view of the stage for under €5!
- Eat some excellent (& affordable!) Viennese food at the charming Gasthaus Quell, just a few minutes walk from our place.
- Check out HAPPY HOUR at the Hostel Ruthensteiner Bar – sample local wines & micro-brewed beer, get to know the other folks staying here, and get a group together to go explore Vienna’s nightlife!
Runners-up (for those who have a bit more free time):
- See ‘The Kiss’ by Gustav Klimt at the Belvedere Palace
- Visit the Hundertwasser House – check out the crazy exterior of this social housing project, built by Viennese Eco-Avant-Garde artist & architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser – then move on to the Kunsthaus (a museum also built by Hundertwasser), where you can walk around inside & check out his life’s work. Don’t miss the Tian Bistro on the ground floor – they make the best Flammkuchen in Vienna!
- Take the Wachau Valley biking&wine-tasting tour
- Check out the Naschmarkt, Vienna’s most beautiful open-air market