The weekend: The schmetterlinghaus in Vienna is almost unbearably hot in August, the high summer sun transforming the humid confines of this tropical greenhouse into a veritable sauna.
The schmetterlings seem to love it, flitting between the wet vines in a kaleidoscopic display which, combined with the sweltering heat, can make you feel delirious, as though you’ve slipped into a dream. Most impressive among the inhabitants is the owl butterfly, named for the large pair of fake eyes adorning its unfolded wings, crafted by natural selection to startle predators. Only the butterflies that best resembled an owl’s face survived long enough to pass on their genes – a kind of biological camera with a thousand year long exposure.
Outside you’ll find the former gardens of the emperor Franz Joseph, a rolling field of little hills and big trees surrounded by a palatial complex of glass and steel structures dating back to 1822. This shaded maze of greenhouses was built for Austrian royalty, and is still home to exotic plants from all corners of the globe. Some of the most impressive flora can be seen in the Palmenhaus, a brasserie and wine bar half-overtaken by a verdant rainforest. It’s a spectacular spot, and since its massive refurbishment in the 90s has become one of the city’s must see destinations.
Where? Ruby Marie Hotel Vienna is situated in the capital’s shopping district, inside a former department store and within walking (or electric scooting) distance of the city centre and the museum district. This boutique hotel’s lobby and bar are at its core, where a self-service check-in desk dispenses your door keys from brass slots, and guests mill about and socialise.
There’s a cinema showing classics every afternoon and evening, and an electric guitar hanging from the wall invites you to take it back to your room, where you’ll find your bedside table is a Marshall amp – presumably to dissuade tone deaf amateurs attempting an impromptu jam session on the rooftop terrace.
That terrace is stylish, raw Instagram fodder, all primary coloured chaise lounges, deckchairs and scattered beanbags. It’s an excellent place to bring guests for cocktails after the sun goes down.
The food: Just around the corner from Ruby Marie is Swing Kitchen, a vegan fast food spot with the finest chickenless nuggets on the continent – ideal for grabbing a quick bite on your way to find some culture. For a traditional schnitzel you’ll want to head to Gasthaus Kopp, a tavern by the Danube where the decor hasn’t been updated for decades. Inspired by Californian clean living, the plant-based menu at The LaLa is worth a look if you’re all schnitzelled out.
Need to know: Nightly rates at Ruby Marie, Vienna start from €69 per night for a Nest Room, including breakfast. For more information, visit rubyhotels.com