Things to Do in Vienna - page 2
Designed in 1818, the Burggarten park served as a private royal garden for the Habsburg family until the end of the empire in 1918. It has an English layout and is a popular place to relax. Many locals come here for a break during or after their workday. There are many statues and monuments in the park, including the Mozart Memorial in the southwest section of the garden. The memorial uses plants that form a musical clef in front of the statue of Mozart. Monuments honoring Goethe and Emperor Franz Joseph I can also be found in the park.
There is also a fountain with a statue depicting Hercules fighting with a lion. In the northeast section of Burggarten is the Palm House. It is an elegant glass building that contains a tropical environment with waterfalls and exotic plants, and it is home to hundreds of free-flying tropical butterflies. There is also a cafe inside the Palm House.
With a history dating back to 1889 and a permanent collection made up of over 20 million objects, the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) is one of the largest and most renowned natural history museums in the world. The counterpart to the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum), both museums are located on Maria Theresien Platz in central Vienna and rank among the city’s top attractions.
Based on the collected works of Emperor Franz Stefan, husband of Empress Maria Theresia, Rudolph II and Prince Eugène of Savoy, exhibits include a vast assemblage of minerals, rocks, fossils, meteors and flora specimens; a zoological display featuring a series of rare stuffed animals and extinct species; and a Dinosaur Hall, which houses the skeleton of a Diplodocus.
Vienna’s most beautiful concert hall was completed in 1867 on the edge of the Stadtpark (City Park), close to the gilded statue of composer Johann Strauss, whose music is enjoyed there nightly. The Kursalon was designed by Austrian architect Johann Garben in Neo-Renaissance style and its original use was as a spa; just a year after it opened it was given over to music and became the meeting place of choice for Viennese high society.
Recently given a facelift, the Kursalon is now returned to its gleaming, romantic best and its halls once more drip with chandeliers and elegant stucco decoration. It is known for its nightly repertoire of favorites from Strauss, Schubert, Mozart and other Baroque musicians, played by the Salonorchestra Alt Wien, which was founded in 1994.
The Jewish Museum in Vienna explores the history of the Jewish people in Vienna and Austria. The first Jewish museum in the city was established in 1895, but it was closed by the Nazis in 1938. The collections were confiscated, and about half of the items have never been recovered. The present-day Jewish Museum was opened in 1988 and moved to its current location at the Palais Eskeles in 1993.
Many permanent exhibitions are on display at the Jewish Museum. Some explore the history and culture of the Jewish people who lived in Vienna from the early days up through World War II, while others look at how the Jewish community of Vienna recovered after the war, up until the present. Other exhibitions show visitors about Jewish traditions, like what a kosher kitchen looks like and how holidays and milestones are celebrated. The museum also has collections of donated items that tell of the history of Jewish culture.
As the sole female ruler of the Habsburg Empire and one of the most revered of Austria’s royals, it seems only fitting that Empress Maria Theresa should have a public square named in her honor. Located along the famous Ringstrasse, at the heart of historic Vienna, Maria Theresa Square (Maria Theresien Platz) is surrounded by many of the capital’s most prominent landmarks, with the Museum Quarter to the south and the magnificent Hofburg Palace to the north.
Laid out in the 19th century, the square centers around an enormous statue of Maria Theresa by Kaspar Zumbusch, encircled by a series of formal gardens, dotted with monumental fountains and sculptures. Maria Theresa Square is also home to two of the city’s most notable museums – the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Naturhistorisches Museum, whose grand neo-Renaissance facades were created as part of the grand imperial Kaiserforum, the masterwork of German architect Gottfried Semper.
The Academy of Fine Arts, or Akademie der Bildende Kunst, may not be one of Vienna's best known galleries, but the collection of paintings is nonetheless impressive and worth a visit. It concentrates on Flemish, Dutch and German painters including the disturbing Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, van Dyck and Rubens. The highlight is Bosch's altarpiece Triptych of the Last Judgment from 1504 to 1508.
The Academy of Fine Arts still functions as an art school, so don't be surprised if you smell fresh paint. It has the distinction of being the school that rejected Adolf Hitler twice.
Sisi, or Empress Elizabeth, was the wife of Franz Josef 1 of Austria who she married when she was only 16. She was very beautiful and strictly maintained her 20 inch (50 cm) waistline! The headstrong girl from Munich gained a reputation for rejecting court etiquette and being a bit of free-spirit. But after the death of her daughter Sophie, Sisi became ill herself and began often going south for the warmth, separate from her husband, to write poetry and meet with a string of lovers. When her beloved son Crown-Prince Rudolf died tragically in a murder-suicide pact with his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera, Sisi was inconsolable. In 1898, aged 60, in Geneva, she herself died, assassinated by a young anarchist, Luigi Lucheni.
Her life was like a soap opera and these days she is a cult figure. The Sisi Museum houses hundreds of her personal belongings as well as a history of her fascinating life.
Kunst Haus Wien in Vienna is home to the only permanent collection of the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser in the world. The building itself, a former furniture factory, was designed by the eccentric artist, along with the neighboring apartment building. The wild facade, with its irregular glass, brick, wood, ceramic and metal features, bright colors and trees sprouting from the windows, reflect the spirit of the art displayed within.
Two floors of the modern art museum are dedicated to the works of Hundertwasser, while two more feature changing exhibitions. The ground floor houses a cafe and a museum shop, while the museum also offers audio guides.
More Things to Do in Vienna
The lovely green, gold and white-marble pavilion on Vienna’s Karlsplatz has finally found a new purpose in life; designed by Otto Wagner in 1897 as part of the city’s new train station, it has now become the permanent home to an exhibition on the life of this extraordinary, forward-thinking Art Nouveau architect. The revamped interior of the pavilion presents a detailed look at Wagner’s architectural legacy to Vienna, including churches and private houses as well as the Russian Embassy, which he completed in 1886. The museum also acts as a springboard to other Wagner-related sites around the city, such as his monumental Post Office Savings Bank on the palatial Ringstrasse.
Donaupark, or Danube Park, is huge - 2,600,000 square feet (800,000 square metres). Located on the north bank of the impressive Danube River, it even has beaches for the summer months. There is a stage with live entertainment, a mini train to ride, a giant chess board, tennis courts, a skater park, bike paths and a small zoo!
Until 1945 it was a military firing range, then it was used for landfill. Finally it became a park, originally for the Vienna International Flower Show of 1964. At this time, Vienna's tallest structure, the Danube Tower, was also built in the park. It's 826 ft (252 m) high and has a revolving restaurant and viewing platforms. In 1983, Pope John Paul II celebrated a mass at the base of the tower. And of course, people bungee jump from the tower.
A Jewish community existed in Vienna from medieval times, centered around Judenplatz where the city’s first synagogue was built. That was burnt down during an uprising in 1420, by which time the Jews controlled much of the city’s wealth. A second Jewish enclave grew up in Leopoldstadt in the 15th century and flourished until the 1930s; there were synagogues all over the city and the Jews were part of wealthy Viennese society. All that came to an abrupt end in 1938 with the Nazis marching in to the city, and many thousands of Jews fled Austria following the burning of their businesses and houses on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.
Altogether 65,000 Viennese Jews died during World War II and the city’s Holocaust Memorial stands in Judenplatz, a controversial and austere white marble box that contrasts sharply with the ornate Baroque architecture that surrounds it. Designed in 2000 by British artist Rachel Whiteread, it is made of concrete and steel.
The Austrian Parliament Building, a Greek-revival style building completed in 1883, is where the two Houses of the Parliament of Austria conduct their sittings. It is located in Vienna’s city center, close to the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Palace of Justice. Despite sustaining heavy damages during WWII, most of the building’s interior has been restored to its original impressive appearance.
The parliament building is one of the largest structures on the Ringstraße. It was originally built to house the two chambers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Reichsrat (Austrian legislature). Today, it is the seat of both the Nationalrat (National Council) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council). The building contains over 100 rooms, including the chambers of the national and federal councils, the former imperial House of Representatives, committee rooms, libraries, lobbies, dining-rooms, bars, and gymnasiums.
The Vienna Woods lie alongside the River Danube in the north of Vienna, a region of gentle forested uplands that roll northwards towards the foothills of the Austrian Alps. Originally hunting grounds for Viennese royalty, the region was forested in the 16th century, and thanks to the onslaught of urbanization, some 1,350 km2 were given protected status by UNESCO in 2005 in order to stop the decimation of the eco-system. Now the woods form a haven for rare birds and green lizards as well as mammals including deer and wild boar.
At weekends walkers and hikers flock out from the city to follow way-marked routes through the forests; one of the most popular trails leads in four hours up the slopes of the 484-meter-high peak of Kahlenberg for superb views back across the city. The Vienna Woods are covered with vine-clad hills, making Vienna one of the few cities in the world to have its own vineyards.
Filled to bursting with Austrian art from the early 20th century, the Leopold Museum has an appropriately contemporary design. Constructed in Vienna’s innovative MuseumsQuartier by design partnership Ortner & Ortner, the museum opened in 2001 and is essentially a gleaming white, limestone cube that contrasts neatly with the flamboyant Baroque architecture of Imperial Vienna.
Named after philanthropist and art collector Rudolf Leopold, who died in 2010, the museum holds around 5,200 works of art; the permanent exhibitions displayed around the vast atrium and open galleries range from masterly silverware and ceramic decorative arts from the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) of 1903–32, to stylish Art Nouveau furniture designed by Kolomon Moser, and some rather brutal portraits by Expressionist Oskar Kokoschkar.
With an extensive collection, large exhibition halls, themed special exhibits, and a rich program of events, Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts (commonly called MAK) is a great place to spend an afternoon. The museum is located in the ‘Innere Stadt’ (Vienna’s First District), and combines the applied arts, contemporary art, design, and architecture under one roof. The MAK boasts a unique collection of applied arts and is known worldwide as a first class destination for contemporary art. The museum’s spacious halls in the impressive Ringstraße building have been redesigned by contemporary artists to best showcase the MAK’s permanent collection, keeping the artistic heritage of the building as part of the viewing experience. The windows of the MAK are distinctively illuminated by James Turrell’s light sculpture, which was permanently installed in 2004.
Madame Tussauds is a worldwide favorite with children for its realistic waxwork models of famous rock stars, royalty, movie stars, athletes and historical figures. The Vienna outpost opened in 2011 and is found close to the rides, sideshows and landmark Ferris wheel of Prater, the world’s oldest amusement park.
Although displays change frequently as the world of stardom waxes and wanes, Madame Tussauds Vienna is currently divided into eight themed sections packed with family fun. Film fanatics can shoot a movie with producer Quentin Tarantino or join Audrey Hepburn for tea, while history buffs learn about European history from Empress Maria Theresa or the German World War II hero Oskar Schindler. President Obama and the Dali Lama feature in the Politicians and Visionaries exhibition while a smattering of world-famous stars—Angelina and Brad, Robbie Williams—all attend Vienna’s most exclusive A-list party.
An outpost of Vienna’s fabulous Kunsthistorisches Museum, Neue Burg forms a semi-circular wing of the Hofburg Palace complex, which was commissioned for the Habsburg Imperial Family in 1881. True to the Habsburg motto that bigger is better, the palace is of spectacular Baroque design inside and out; it originally contained the personal memorabilia of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination in 1914 sparked off World War. Today the Neue Burg holds three important Imperial collections, including the Imperial Collection of Arms and Armor (Hofjägd und Rüstkammer), which moved into its palatial new home in 1935 and whisks through centuries of battle armor worn by both man and beast, displayed to stunning effect in long, marble-floored corridors. The Habsburg musical instruments (Sammlung Alter Musik Instrumente) arrived at Neue Burg post-war in 1945; highlights include archaic wind instruments, mandolines and priceless violins.
Sitting on the Danube River in Lower Austria, Dürnstein is one of the most-visited villages in the Wachau Valley wine-growing region and is accessible from both Vienna and Salzburg. It’s a charming mix of medieval and Baroque architecture, with labyrinthine cobbled lanes and pastel-hued houses with red-tiled roofs. Full of traditional Austrian restaurants and stores selling local vintages, it’s the perfect lunchtime stopover on driving, cycling or walking tours through the valley. Often packed out by day – especially in summer – by night most visitors have left and the village reverts to its tranquil, romantic best.
Dürnstein Abbey perches right on the edge of the Danube, its stately blue Baroque tower is a local landmark. Although first mentioned as a nunnery in 1289, by the 16th century it had become an Augustine monastery and 200 years after that it was given its present Baroque facelift.
Mozart had multiple residences in Vienna, but only one survived to the present day. The Mozarthaus Vienna at Domgasse 5 served as the composer’s home from 1784 to 1787, during the height of his musical success. Within his first-floor apartment, Mozart penned some of his most iconic works, like the opera The Marriage of Figaro.
Audio-guided tours of the house begin on the building’s top floor, where exhibits explain the lifestyle and prominent figures of society life in eighteenth century Vienna. Heading down a floor, visitors are immersed in all things music; a highlight is a holographic performance of a portion of The Magic Flute. On the ground floor, visitors enter Mozart’s bedroom, furnished with pieces from the time to give a sense of what his living quarters might have looked like.
Housed in the oldest part of the Imperial Palace in Vienna, the Imperial Treasury is one of the most significant treasuries in the world. The collection shows of the decadence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through its 1,000 years of treasures, as well as a variety of religiously significant relics. The highlight of the Secular Treasury is the behemoth imperial crown, a gemstone-embellished piece dating back to 962. Other items of note include a 2,680-carat Colombian emerald, one of the world’s largest sapphires, a golden rose, a narwhal’s tusk once mistaken for a unicorn horn and an ornate bowl which some believe to be the holy grail.
The Ecclesiastical Treasury, which often elicits a bit of skepticism in visitors, claims among its relics fragments of Jesus’s cross, a thorn from his crown and a swatch of the tablecloth used at the Last Supper.
Founded in 1741 by Empress Maria Theresia, the resplendent Burgtheater is not only the Austrian National Theatre, but one of the largest and most important theaters in Europe. The ‘Burg’ started out in a banqueting hall of Hofburg palace, but moved to its current location in 1888, becoming one of the final monumental buildings to adorn Vienna’s Ringstrasse, sited opposite the grand City Hall. Designed by German architect Gottfried Semper, the ornamental façade takes on an Italian high-Renaissance style, flanked by Corinthian pillars and adorned with sculptures and elaborate friezes.
The opulent interiors, the handiwork of local architect Karl von Hasenauer, are similarly breathtaking, with highlights including the 60-foot ‘Worshippers of Bacchus’ relief by Rudolf Wyer and the dazzling foyer, featuring hand-painted staircases and ceiling frescoes by Ernst and Gustav Klimt.
The Wachau Valley is a stretch of the Danube River between Melk and Krems in Lower Austria. It has been peopled since prehistoric times. How do we know this? Because its surrounding mountains contains traces of millennia of civilization, from agricultural use to architecture including villages, castles and monasteries, particularly dating from medieval times. Melk Abbey is rich in art and history and is a good place to start. Another way to see the area is by boat cruise down the Danube, seeing the many villages unfold as you round each bend in the river.
In 2002, UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Cultural Landscape so it must be good.
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