Northern province of the Romans; crown of the Habsburg empire; bastion of baroque and birthplace
of Jugendstil and the Secession; to classical music what Nashville is to country and London to
punk; queen of the Christmas cities; home to the most successful socialist system Europe has ever
seen, and sight of some of the worst atrocities against the Jewish people. Vienna, a city of unquestionable
historical significance and extraordinary beauty, is a mix rarely seen today.
Classical Vienna provokes a gamut of images in most people’s minds. Angelic choirboys
singing in perfect harmony while proud white stallions strut in measured sequence. The
grandeur of the Habsburg imperial palaces, Hofburg and Schönbrunn, sitting comfortably
beside breathtaking baroque architecture of the Schloss Belvedere and Karlskirche. Sublime
Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) masterpieces executed by Otto Wagner and Gustav Klimt complement
the sublime art collections of the Kunsthistorisches and Liechtenstein museums.
And of course strong coffee, delicate pastries and divine cakes are served in traditional
Kaffeehäuser (coffee houses). Then there’s the music. Just let it roll off your tongue: Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert,
Strauss, Brahms, Mahler, Schönberg. For lovers of classical music, it doesn’t get
any better than this.
But Vienna is so much more than its past. It certainly revels in its impressive history, but it’s not about to spend all its time living on bygone eras. Like the rest of the Western world, the Viennese have acquired a taste for the exotic and want it on their own turf. Asian diners, kebab houses and conveyor-belt sushi restaurants compete with, but don’t overpower, the
traditional Beisl (beer house) and Heuriger (wine tavern). The upwardly mobile while
away the wee small hours in unpretentious bars alongside black-clad night-owls, before
moving on to clubs where DJs spin the latest electronica. Modern art venues, like
the MuseumsQuartier, constantly host thought-provoking contemporary artists
who aren’t afraid to push boundaries.
With almost half the city given over to green spaces (more than any other European
capital), the not-so-blue Danube (Donau) slicing the city in two and Beethoven’s
inspiration, the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), on its western fringes, this is also a city for the
pursuit of the great outdoors. And then there’s the vast expanse of vineyards, which makes
Vienna the largest wine-growing city in the world.
It doesn’t matter when you arrive, the city looks just as glorious – some would say even
more so – under a layer of snow as it does under the gaze of a midsummer sun. And the
constant turnstile of festivals and events rivals anything most other European cities can
muster. Come Christmas the good burghers of Vienna roll out the welcoming mat to
Christkindlmärkte, Christmas markets full of charm and grace, and the all-important Glühwein
(mulled wine); when summer shines through so does a plethora of musical
events. The granddaddy of them all is the Donauinselfest, a free – yes, free – concert
attracting over three million screaming revellers.
In between, cultural and musical festivities line up beside each other, all vying
for attention. The only drawback to the summer is the holiday season: many of the
city’s world-famous institutions, such as the Vienna Boys’ Choir, the Lippanzer Stallions
and the Staatsoper, all take breaks, so a little planning can prove very advantageous.
Vienna is a place where culture, history,
art and nightlife all mix together seamlessly.
With only a few days on your hands, there
is a lot to experience, but any time spent in
this magical city will bring rich rewards.
Vienna sport facilities