Hotel Tyrol, Vienna

Hotel Tyrol, Vienna
photo provided

Das Tyrol: A house with soul

The boutique hotel Das Tyrol on Vienna’s Mariahilfer Strasse, only a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, enchants with its extraordinary interior, but even more so with its unique atmosphere.

Numerous visitors book the Tyrol primarily because it is just a stone’s throw from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, guests who are then amazed there are almost as many paintings on the walls of the illustrious boutique hotel as there are a few hundred metres away in the magnificent rooms of the Haus am Ring.

This is the case due to the hotel’s patron, Helena Ramsbacher, who loves art, and long before she started collecting hotels, she was already collecting works of art. Investing a lot of attention, love, and also money in the work of young artists, and building up a considerable collection of modern works, which she now shares with the guests of her hotel, full of pride and without the slightest fear for her treasures. And in doing so, she gives the Tyrol an inimitable aura, a relaxed feel-good atmosphere, ennobled by the uniqueness of the paintings on display – all originals, of course, breathing the spirit of their creators – the likes of which are rarely found even in boutique hotels.

But let’s start a little earlier. The house in which Das Tyrol is located today looks back on a long and eventful history. It was built in 1876 (other sources say 1902) after the previous building had to be demolished. It used to be the site of the Meierhof of the Queen's Monastery (which also no longer exists) in the centre of Vienna, situated on the so-called Bettlerstiege, which in turn led in the direction of the Vienna River.

During the reorganisation of the city, including the demolition of the city walls and the construction of the Glacis, these former suburbs were also redesigned and modernised. The resulting house at Mariahilfer Straße 15 /Königsklostergasse 2 was a narrow, elegant townhouse whose history was chequered. At first it housed flats, later it is said to have been home to a brothel for some time, but nothing is known for certain.

After the Second World War, the house became a hotel, which, possibly out of consideration for the French soldiers who counted the sixth district as part of their occupation zone, was not christened ‘Tirol’, but rather ‘Tyrol’. As such, it survived the decades without shining or attracting attention. Nevertheless – or perhaps precisely because of this – at some point in the late 1990s, someone did notice it, namely a hotelier's daughter from Carinthia who had moved to the federal capital for work: Helena Ramsbacher.

Uncut diamond

If you want to find a diamond, you need good eyes and a lot of experience, because by nature, the gemstone does not reveal itself as such, looking like any other lump in the earth. Only those who can see what is hidden behind the unadorned shell will be rewarded with a rich yield.

“I always passed the Hotel Tyrol on my way to work and quickly found it interesting,” Helena Ramsbacher recalled. “It was well run and very solid, but not very spectacular. But it gave the impression that it had always been here, and that gave the house a very special aura that appealed to me very much.” And because she wanted to change careers anyway, she started negotiating with the owners about selling. After six months, they finally agreed: “Above all, the old owners wanted the house to be in good hands. I was able to promise them that without hesitation.”

From duckling to swan

That was more than 20 years ago, and if the former owners could see Das Tyrol today, they probably wouldn’t recognise it. Since a complete renovation in 2018, the hotel has looked more like an art installation devised by 1990s fashion designer Gianni Versace and the American artist Jeff Koons. According to Helena: “The Tyrol anno 2023 is colourful, dazzling and glittering like a palace in Dubai, it is exuberantly decorated like the Graben in the pre-Christmas season; it is a radiant oasis in the grey wasteland of Mariahilfer Strasse – and it is above all one thing: infinitely cosy and charming.”

The charm, this aura that Helena Ramsbacher already felt on her first visit to the house has remained in the Tyrol to this day – not least because the hotelier is constantly working on it. “You have to feel good in a hotel, the atmosphere has to be right, that is incredibly important to me. After all, I live here myself when I’m in Vienna and share my apartment building with my hotel guests, so to speak,” added Helena.

And because she likes to have company while she works, she often moves her desk to the day bar on the ground floor and types emails while tourists sit near and review the day’s experiences over an Aperol Spritz.

Word has long since spread that Das Tyrol is a particularly good place to stay. The 30 rooms of the four-star hotel ("We are a four-star hotel with five-star comfort," said Helena) are usually booked up well in advance, and many customers have long been regulars. On Trip Advisor, the hotel has a rating of 9.6, which is top for a city hotel. And the hotel’s good reputation also precedes it in the area of staff. While other hotels are desperately looking for staff, most of the employees at the Tyrol are now regular guests themselves.

“Many have been with me for a decade or even longer because they find the family atmosphere in the hotel so pleasant," Helena explained, with pride before adding: “The Tyrol is basically the essence of my being. The artworks, the interior, the atmosphere, the spirit – this house has also become like me in the meantime. It is my home.”

People often say that houses are like people. In this house you immediately feel very comfortable, because it has a beautiful soul.

Martin Kubesch
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