With its successful blend of imperial tradition and contemporary creativity, the Austrian capital has established itself as a major player in the global tourism market. Magnificent edifices, predominantly in baroque, historicism (“Ringstrasse”) and art nouveau styles, and the city’s grand scale cause you to forget that this is the capital of the small Republic of Austria with just under 8.5 million inhabitants. The St. Stephen’s cathedral is the icon and center of Vienna. The locals call it “Steffl” and its walls bear witness to the lives of many famous musicians. The Schönbrunn Palace is a World Cultural Heritage site and Austria's most-visited sight. Visitors will find numerous attractions here, from a tour through the authentically furnished residential and ceremonial rooms of the Imperial Family in the palace, to the maze and the labyrinth in the gardens and a separate Children's Museum. The banks of the Danube Island are a sensation in Vienna and can be reached by the U1 (Donauinsel), U6 (Neue Donau) and U2 (Donaumarina and Donaustadtbrücke) underground lines.
Experience Vienna, the world’s capital of music, by tracing the footsteps of some of the famous composers who have lived and worked here: Ludwig van Beethoven, Alban Berg, Johannes Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Joseph Haydn, Franz Liszt, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss senior and junior, Richard Strauss, Antonio Vivaldi and many more. Vienna boasts one of the world’s finest orchestras – The Vienna Philharmonic – as well as the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and several other orchestras and ensembles of note. An institution by the very definition of the word, the Staatsoper offers performances by leading international artists on almost 300 days of the year. Vienna’s second largest opera house, the Volksoper, offers a rich variety of stage performances, from opera to operettas, musicals, ballet, and contemporary dance. The Musikverein is known to music lovers all over the world as one of the most illustrious concert halls of them all, where only the crème de la crème are invited to perform. The Golden Hall is probably the world’s most famous concert hall thanks to the worldwide broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day Concert. The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Klangforum Wien are all resident at the Wiener Konzerthaus. The Vienna Boys’ Choir enchants music lovers the world over. The choir’s new state-of-the-art concert hall, MuTh, located next to the boys’ school and residences in the Augarten park, opened in 2012. A very special way to enjoy music is presented at the House of Music, a unique high-tech voyage of discovery into the phenomenon of music. A further attraction is the Mozarthaus Vienna which opened on Mozart’s 250th birthday – in his former residence at Domgasse. ► Check www.oeticket.com for concert tickets.
Yet it is not only the city’s imperial architecture that renders it a city of beauty. Vienna also boasts world-renowned museums, art collections and works of art. Close to the State Opera House, the Albertina houses the world’s largest collection of graphic art, spanning 60,000 drawings, some million prints and an extensive collection of photographic and architectural material. The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Fine Arts) houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Bruegel. Meanwhile numerous works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele are exhibited at the Belvedere and the Leopold Museum. MuseumsQuartier, a cultural attraction of international standing located in the city center close to famous museums, opened in 2001. Key attractions include: the Leopold Museum (mentioned above), the mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Architekturzentrum Wien, and Kunsthalle Wien.
The Naschmarkt, Vienna’s multinational fruit and vegetable market which also features a flea market every Saturday, has witnessed the emergence of an extraordinarily diverse gastronomic scene in its vicinity over the past years. During the summer, Viennese and tourists alike throng to Prater park with the famous Giant Ferris Wheel.
New clubs, bars and contemporary art spaces are springing up all over the Austrian capital – sometimes in the places you would least expect to find them. Although each location has its own distinctive identity they all manage to pull off a typically Viennese blend of tradition and innovation. ► Check www.falter.at and www.hauptstadt.at for a daily guide to the city’s music and cultural life.
The range of shopping options is particularly rich and diverse in Vienna’s historic first district. Here, the main – and most exclusive – shopping streets of Kohlmarkt, Graben and Kärntner Straße form a pedestrianized area, which is known locally as the Golden U. A few buildings down is the equally illustrious Meinl am Graben, with its delectable delicacies. Kärntner Straße is home to one of just a handful of department stores in the city. The nearby Ringstraßen Galerien is a spacious, indoor shopper’s paradise containing 70 shops and restaurants. Mariahilfer Straße, a street linking the historic center with Schönbrunn Palace, has been transformed into the city’s largest shopping street since the completion of the U3 underground line. It is also the city’s newest pedestrianized zone.
For visitors to the city it is an attraction, for locals a second home, and for artists and literati an institution: the Viennese Coffeehouse. Viennese coffeehouse culture was officially added to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list in 2011. Today, coffeehouses in Vienna are much more than just places to drink coffee – they are a way of life. According to documentary evidence, the earliest Viennese coffeehouse was opened in the heart of the old town in 1685 at what is now Rotenturmstrasse 14. After the great lull in the coffeehouse tradition in the 1960s and 1970s, many cafés were restored to their former glory in the subsequent 20 years, including such well known establishments as Schwarzenberg at Kärntner Ring and Landtmann. Other old Viennese cafés reinvented themselves as contemporary espresso bars, much to the delight of the young and fashionable.
Where the best coffee is served:
Café Central - tradition revived Dommayer - illustrious past in a great location Hawelka - artists' haunt, congenially shabby Hofburg - large café in an imperial setting Landtmann - next door to the Burgtheater (not far away from the Juridicum, where politicians and artists meet [Sacher(]http://www.sacher.com/sacher-cafes-de-DE/sacher-cafe-vienna-de-DE/) - elegance par excellence Schwarzenberg - Vienna's first Ringstrasse café Sperl - coffehouse romanticism at its finest