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Hotel Sacher Vienna
History, review and photos of the luxury hotel

Hotel Sacher, Philharmonikerstrasse 4, A-1010 Vienna, Austria.
Article added on February 13, 2012; details added on February 17, 2012

The Sacher is an institution in Vienna. The luxury hotel is better than ever since, in 2005, it has been enlarged by a spa as well as two additional floors on top with 43 new rooms and suites in two color schemes: red and blue. The 6th and 7th floor are the fruit of the collaboration between interior designer Pierre Yves Rochon and the Gürtler-Winkler family. The result is “Sacher light”, a fresh design which can be best described as contemporary classic.

My favorite rooms are on the seventh floor with its terraces overlooking Vienna. I stayed in the junior suite 701 with a fantastic view from both the bed and the bathtub overlooking the next door Opera House and the Kärntner Strasse. The bathroom is one of the best in the entire hotel. Four suites to the other side of the hotel offer even better views. Among them is suite 708 with a large terrace overlooking the Albertina Museum, the Opera House and the Hofburg.

In December 2011, the six-year renovation of seven floors of the Sacher has been finished. Calming colors, wooden floors and state-of-the-art technology are part of the concept. Only original art works are displayed in the rooms and suites.

The history of the Sacher - It all started with a cake

It all started with a cake. In 1832, with the words „Let there be no shame on me tonight“, Prince Metternich ordered a dessert from a 16-year old apprentice in his second year, Franz Sacher. His soft and fluffy chocolate cake with a thin layer of apricot jam became an instant success: the Original Sacher-Torte.

Franz Sacher (1816-1907) was an apprentice working for the family of Count Esterhazy, first in Pressburg (today's capital of Slovakia: Bratislava), then in Budapest. Franz Sacher moved on to become the chef de cuisine at the Casino in Pressburg and afterwards at the Casino in Budapest. During this period already, the reputation of the Sacher Torte spread throughout the entire Austrian Empire.

After the revolution of 1848 and its nationalistic troubles, Franz Sacher decided to move from Budapest to Vienna. He first established his culinary business in Vienna's suburb of Margarethen. In 1858, he had the honor of catering to a crowd of 1200 people for the opening of the Empress-Elisabeth-Westbahn. Franz Sacher died as a successful businessman at the age of 91.

Together with his wife Anna, Eduard Sacher (1843-1892) worked closely with his father. As the second son of a wine and delicatessen merchant, Eduard enjoyed an excellent professional education. He traveled to Paris and London, where he saw for instance the rise of the new Langham hotel.

In 1864, Eduard returned to Austria and opened an inn in Vienna's suburb Döbling. Two years later, he opened a restaurant in Vienna's famous Kärntner Strasse where, in the Palais Tedesco built by the architects Ludwig Förster and Theophil Hansen, he established chambres séparées after the Parisian model. The success offered him the chance to build a hotel at the place of the Kärntnertortheater, just opposite his restaurant and opposite the Vienna State Opera (at the time called Hofoper), which had opened in 1869 with Mozart's Don Giovanni.



The opening of the Vienna Hotel Sacher in 1876 - Anna Sacher makes it a legend

The purchase contract for the new hotel between four businessman and the government was signed in 1872. In the following years, during which the site of the former Kärtnertortheater was transformed into a hotel, Eduard Sacher continued to make money. For the World Exhibition of 1873, Eduard opened the Sacher Garten in the Prater, Vienna's amusement park in the city garden. It was such a success that, the following year, he opened a second café-restaurant in the Prater.

Built by the architect Frankl, the luxurious accommodation finally opened in 1876 as Hôtel de l'Opéra. It was renamed after its owner in the 1890s. The restaurant also featured chambres séparées, an ideal place for flirts, gossip, political talks and intrigue.

In 1880, Eduard Sacher married the 21-year old Anna Fuchs, the daughter of a rich Viennese butcher. Anna was right away involved in the running of the hotel. Her role increased over the years because her husband's health was deteriorating.

The flourishing business allowed Eduard to rent the next door building and to connect it on all floors with his hotel. In 1887 already, as many as 200 to 400 Sacher cakes were baked daily and delivered as far as to Berlin, London and Paris.

Unfortunately, the thriving businessman died relatively young. In 1892, his widow, Anna Sacher (1859-1930) took over the hotel and turned it into the legend it remains until today. She was famous for smoking cigars, accompanied by her favorite French bulldogs. She was introduced to cigar smoking by the Hungarian-born multi-millionaire Nikolaus von Szemere, a regular guest at the Sacher, who occupied large parts of the hotel with his personal secretaries and servants.

As a friend of the royal family, Nikolaus von Szemere refused an invitation by the heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand (the one who was shot in 1914 in Sarajevo, which led to the Second World War), because the archduke's cuisine could not match the one of the Sacher. Franz Ferdinand replied politely that he would no longer invite von Szemere to the Belvedere, but that he would accept all the millionaire's invitations to dine at the Sacher. With a smile, Franz Ferdinand added: “May I ask you a favor? Don't tell my wife!”

Anna Sacher ran the hotel with a strong hand and a big heart. She made the Sacher the hotel of the aristocracy. Even the emperor's sons were among the hotel's habitués. In 1907, even history was made in one of the chambres séparées, where a new reconciliation between Austria and Hungary was negotiated between Prime Minister von Koerber and Koloman von Szell.

The Sacher featured the latest technology, including fridges. In order to offer fruit even in winter, Anna Sacher had a small green house built which for instance featured peaches.

On February 25, 1930 Anna Sacher died in her hotel room. She had owned and managed the Sacher for half a century. In the streets of Vienna, tens of thousands of people bid farewell to the city's most famous hotelier.



Crisis, Second World War and Rebirth

In 1934, F
ranz Kroneder was appointed the new hotel manger. Unfortunately, the world economic crisis had hit hard already at the end of the reign of Anna Sacher. In 1934, the hotel had to file for bankruptcy. The same year, the lawyer Hans Gürtler (1895-1970) together with the owner of a hotel at the Schwedenplatz and the Café Siller, Josef Siller, took over the Sacher.

In 1936, under the new first ladies of the hotel, Poldi Gürtler and Anna Siller, the Sacher underwent an important phase of restoration. Central heating, electricity, hot and cold running water were installed.

The new hotel owner's baptism of fire came with wedding banquet for Princess Irma von Windisch-Grätz and prince Franz von Weikersheim in 1936. The European aristocracy left the Sacher satisfied, which was again a leading address in the Old World.

Another highlight of 1936 came with the visit of Edward VIII, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions as well as the Emperor of India. He fell in love with the Sacher while staying on a state visit at the nearby Bristol. He insisted on giving a lunch at the Sacher. After his abdication, as the Duke of Windsor, he became a return guest at the Sacher. He was the first to sign the new guest book. Manager Rudolf Paller remembered him well because, as a bellboy, he had served  him as the English King at the Bristol.

Among the hotel's famous guests of the 1930s was the British actor and playwright Noël Coward, whose play Reunion in Vienna premiered at the Lyric Theatre in London in 1935. It features an archduke who seduces the shy wife of a psychoanalyst (a reference to Freud) in a hotel called Lucher (a reference to the Sacher).

In 1937, Greta Garbo was one of the last famous guests to stay at the Sacher before Austria ceased to exist for several years. The Sacher had to fly the Nazi flag but, according to Andreas Augustin, it never became the first choice for the leading Nazis.

Hans Gürtler, as a lawyer, protected several hotel guest from the Nazi regime. In 1945, the next door State Opera was severely damaged, whereas the Sacher emerged almost intact from the Second World War.

After the liberation from the Nazis, Austria was divided into four zones. The Russians took over Vienna and stayed at the Sacher. The marble dining room became a horse stable. Luckily, the Sacher area quickly became part of the British zone of occupancy. The marble hall quickly became a restaurant again. In 1951, the British troops restituted the Sacher to the two owner families (Josef Siller had died in 1949).

The hotel needed again a thorough renovation. The central heating and the kitchen were updated. The hotel was quickly enlarged from 18 to 40 rooms with bath. Hans Gürtler laid the foundation stone for the impressive collection of Austrian paintings which ornate the Sacher until today.

After the death of Anna Siller in 1962, the Gürtler family took over the hotel entirely. After the death of Hans Gürtler in 1970, his son Rolf took over the house. He died just a few months later in a tragic accident. His son Peter Gürtler became the new man in charge.

Peter Gürtler was successful enough to be able to take over the Hotel Österreichischer Hof in Salzburg in 1988. After his death in 1990, it was his widow Elisabeth Gürtler how became the new hotelier. Together with her daughter and junior-chef Alexandra and her son Georg, she is running the Sacher until today.

Elisabeth Gürtler is the daughter of the entrepreneur Fritz Mauthner. She is a very dynamic lady who organized, in addition to running two leading hotels, the famous Vienna Opera Ball eight times until 2007 and is now Managing Director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna!

Among the hundreds of famous guests having stayed at the Sacher since the Second World War, let's mention Grace Kelly, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan (the artistic director of the State Opera next door from 1957-1964), John F. Kennedy, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. And, last but not least, Graham Greene. The author stayed at the hotel in 1948, where he researched material for The Third Man. The British Club was at the Sacher. In his autobiography, Graham Greene writes how a British intelligence officer told him about the penicillin racket and the underground police working in Vienna's sewer system, which became part of the plot of The Third Man (order the legendary film with Orson Welles from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk).

An interview by John Lennon and Yoko Ono caused a scandal. They had invited the press to a sleep-in at the Sacher, giving an interview totally naked, but lying in the hotel bed under the sheets, which frustrated many of the hundreds of photographers who had come to the hotel for the occasion.

Family hotels are often either among the best or the worst. The Sacher in Vienna is a brilliant example of a successful family business, offering a legendary history, comfort, luxury and atmosphere.

Sources: own research, information provided by the hotel management and Andreas Augustin's 79-page book The Sacher Treasury as well as its German version
Hotel Sacher Wien. Gelebte Tradition. 125 Jahre Hotel Sacher Wien. 86 pages.

Hotel Sacher, Philharmonikerstrasse 4, A-1010 Vienna, Austria.


The Swan Lake Junior Suite.
Photo © Hotel Sacher Wien.


The Deluxe Junior Suite Baal.
Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


The
Sacher. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


The rooms and suites on the 6th and 7th floor are my favorites. Their design is contemporary classic. Here a view of a Deluxe Double Room. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


The bathroom in my junior suite. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


A terrace on my favorite top floor. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


My favorite Red Bar - Rote Bar. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


The Deluxe Junior Suite Béatrice et Bénédict. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


A Deluxe Junior Suite Bathroom. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


The lobby. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.


The Blue Bar - Blaue Bar. Photos Copyright © Hotel Sacher, Vienna.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.