Austria: Hotel Sacher Wien                                                    

Opened in 1876, the Hotel Sacher Wien is echt Old Vienna. But thanks to an ambitious renovation, the rooms in this stately hotel are light and airy. The Hotel Sacher offers enticing food as well, from the celebrated Restaurant Anna Sacher to the original sachertorte to one of the most expansive breakfast buffets in Vienna. The Hotel Sacher Wien, which was opened in 1876 by Eduard Sacher (son of Franz Sacher, who at age 16 invented the sachertorte, is echt Old Vienna: the ornately decorated common rooms; the white gloves and top hats greeting you at every turn; the fin-de-siècle furnishings; the linens, carpets and drapes so plush and weighty even your most fleeting movements and thoughts take on a supernal elegance. But the Sacher is new, too, and not just because of the Wi-Fi, the flat-screens in every room, the high thread counts, heated marble floors in the bathrooms, and all the other updated trappings of modern luxury travel. Thanks to an ambitious renovation, the spacious rooms (my deluxe room was 430 square feet) breathe more freely than they did, with lighter colors, more air and space, more parquet floor showing. There must be a multisyllabic German word for that ineffable combination of the stately and the ethereal, the traditional and the modern that would best define the Sacher.
That combination characterizes the Sacher's food, too. You can find ebullient expressions of traditional Wiener schnitzel and tafelspitz in the Rote Bar. And at the jewel-box of a kaffehaus, Café Sacher, there is of course the hotel's signature sachertorte: Rich chocolate cake laced with apricot jam, dolloped with whipped cream. (Tip: While that torte is very, very good, the apple strudel is even better.) The feistier action is at the many-splendored Restaurant Anna Sacher, serving modern riffs on classic Viennese cuisine, running the gamut from marinated venison with dried pears and lardo to turbot with nutmeg pumpkin and fig-coffee gravy to yellowtail confit with beets and chanterelles. And then there's the hotel's buffet-style breakfast, served in the hotel's marble hall, which is so beguilingly extensive that you need a good week's worth of two-hour morning feasts to sample all it offers. Exquisite butters and preserves surround mountains of delicate croissants (you do know, don't you, that the croissant originates in Austria and not France?). Then, pastries, next to a table covered with various cakes and tortes. Platters of smoked and cured fishes and meats. Breads from hard ryes to pain de mie to sourdoughs. Smoothies. Myriad Northern European cereals and muesli. Fruits, olives, vegetables pickled and fresh. So many yogurts! That's all at the elegant buffet; there's also a station for infinite egg orders, and then there's a full menu though I never dared. It's breakfast as Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk: synthesizing, comprehensive, unifying. In this century that remains afflicted by tensions between old and new, Hotel Sacher's graceful resolution of them is instructive, and delicious. —Joe Appel