Things to Do in Vienna - page 4
The composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) spent the last decade or so of his life in Gumpendorf, just outside of Vienna, composing the majority of his late work – including ‘The Seasons’. Upon the 200th anniversary of his death, his house was restored and is now a museum. The Haydnhaus museum focuses on the last years of the composer’s life, and the permanent exhibitions represent the political and social atmosphere of Austria in the early 19th century when Haydn lived there. The main focus of the exhibit revolves around Haydn’s music, his life, and the end of his years. He was an internationally renowned composer who was celebrated by his colleagues – indeed, he was the most famous composer in all of Europe when he died. Part of the exhibit includes the records and memoirs of the international visitors who came to pay Haydn their respects in his final years.
One of a string of Imperial palaces and mansions built across Vienna in the 17th and 18th centuries, Palais Auersperg is Vienna’s oldest Baroque palace, built between 1706 and 1710. Its white, lacy façade bears the unmistakable stamp of Baroque master architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and his sidekick Lukas von Hildebrandt, and it was designed to be a center of European culture, music and politics. Stalwarts of the Vienna musical scene such as Mozart, Haydn and Gluck all wrote music here and the palace played host to lavish balls and weddings frequented by European royalty. When Austria was under German occupation during World War II, Vienna resistance members met in Auersperg to lay the foundations of post-war Austria; the palace was later seized and became the HQ of the German police.
Close to the Baroque masterpiece Schönbrunn Palace and the Rathuis (City Hall), Palais Auersperg is today one of the most luxurious concert venues in Vienna.
In the Museumquarter, between the Leopold and MUMOK is the Kunsthalle, or Art Hall, a collection of exhibition halls showcasing local and international contemporary art. Its high ceilings, open space and pure functionality have seen the venue rated among the top institutions for exhibitions in Europe. Programs, which run for 3 to 6 months, tend to focus on photography, video, film, installations and new media.
The concept behind the gallery is to foster new and exciting trends and experiments in contemporary art so expect the unexpected.
In the 1980s travelers flocked to these popular rock and roll-themed cafes to collect iconic Hard Rock t-shirts from locations around the globe. And while that trend may have passed, the upscale bar, scenic outdoor terrace and huge live entertainment space still at Hard Rock Café Vienna still attract plenty of visitors to this historic city.
Travelers can saddle up to the bold art deco bar and sip on signature cocktails before settling in to one of the space’s cozy tables for a meal that blends typical Hard Rock fare with more traditional, hand-crafted local food that’s always made from scratch. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with an impressive array of musical memorabilia, which includes international superstars as well as local legends like Christina Sturmer and Parov Stelar, which means this place stays true to the Hard Rock vibe.
Located in the first psychiatric hospital ever to be built in Austria, Vienna’s Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum is a creepy old tower that formerly housed the mentally ill and the criminally insane. The ‘Narrenturm’ (‘mad tower’) was built under Emperor Joseph II in 1784, next to the site of the old Vienna General Hospital, which is part of the University of Vienna’s campus today. The Narrenturm still has the same cells, barred doors, and chains that once restrained the unfortunates living there. After the psychiatric hospital closed in 1866, the tower was used as doctors’ and nurses' quarters, and for university clinics and workshops. The Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum has been stationed in the Narrenturm (which is now owned by the University of Vienna) since 1971. The museum has an unusual collection including wax molds of different body parts, organs, and diseases; created for medical students to study from in the prephotography era.
For good old family fun and a rip-roaring jaunt through history, Time Travel Vienna is the city’s newest kid on the block, and where great culture meets light-hearted Disney. Housed in the former monastery of St Michael, the history of Vienna from its beginnings as Roman Vindobona is presented in a magical 5-D show featuring animatronics and multi-media special effects. After this, visitors come face to face with the Vienna of Strauss, Mozart and the waltz as well as the great characters in the Habsburg dynasty before experiencing an air raid during World War II. Proceedings come bang up to date with a simulator ride taking in today’s major sights in Vienna. Shows last about 50 minutes and there are several in English per day.
The Liechtenstein Princely Family chose to make Vienna their home for generations until the Anschluss (annexing of Austria into Nazi Germany) of 1938 forced them back to their tiny mountain principality wedged between Switzerland and Austria. They left behind not one but two palaces full of treasures, which were eventually moved to Liechtenstein and stored.
After decades of gathering dust in the vaults of Vaduz, Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein’s private collection of artwork, showcasing masterpieces from the 16th to the 19th centuries, was transferred back to Vienna and installed into the fabulously ornate Garden Palace, which had been the Princely Family’s summer home.
More Things to Do in Vienna
The focal point of the Volksgarten in Vienna is the Theseus Temple. It is a Greek-style temple that was built in 1820-1823 as a replica of the Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion) in the ancient Agora of Athens. It was originally built to house one piece of art, the “Theseus and the Minotaur” sculpture. The sculpture is now located in the Art History Museum. The temple was recently renovated, and as part of the Art History Museum's Modern and Contemporary Art Program, it showcases exceptional works of art one piece at a time.
Volksgarten is an elegant park in Vienna that was once a favorite gathering place for the aristocracy. It was designed in a formal French style with geometric flowerbeds and rose gardens. Along with the Theseus Temple, there are several fountains and other interesting monuments, such as the Kaiserin Elisabeth-Denkmal and the Grillparzer Monument. The park is a popular place for relaxing or taking a leisurely stroll.
The Vienna Boys' Choir, Wiener Sängerknaben, is one of the oldest boys' choirs that is not part of a church or college. In the late 15th century the choir was part of Maximilian I's court music and sang in the Imperial Chapel which he founded, but the roots of the choir go back as far as the 13th century. The choir still sings in the Imperial Chapel in Vienna on Sundays, but the boys also tour a lot. The choir has its own grammar school to ensure that its members maintain their schooling.
The choir is organized into four touring choirs named after famous Austrian composers associated with the history of the choir: Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. The Vienna Boys' Choir is a private, not-for-profit organization and is housed at the Hofburg.
Melk stands at the western end of the Wachau Valley wine-producing region in Lower Austria, accessible from both Vienna and Salzburg. It is a small town on the south side of the Danube River with a Baroque center and is an ideal base from which to explore the vineyards. Seasonal cruises down the river also stop off here.
However, Melk is best known for its staggeringly massive Benedictine monastery, which was founded in 1089 in a medieval fortress belonging to the House of Babenberg. After 1,000 years it’s still functioning as an abbey and school today. In the 15th century the abbey’s monks played a leading part in central European monastic reform and it took its present magnificent Baroque form after a devastating fire in the early 18th century. The abbey church with its enormous dome and ornate golden-hued bell towers now stands proud on a rocky bluff high over the Danube River.
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.
The Klosterneuburg Monastery, or Stift Klosterneuburg in Austrian, is an Augustinian abbey founded in 1114. The baroque structure, notable for housing men’s and women’s religious orders until 1568, has undergone several facelifts over the years, most recently in 1892. The historic abbey dominates the skyline of Klosterneuburg, and the treasures housed within are just as impressive as the structure that contains them. Among the most valuable and impressive pieces is the enameled altar of Nikolaus of Verdun, one of the most exquisite examples of medieval enamel work. The altar, made in 1181, depicts a variety of biblical scenes on its 51 panels.
Throughout its history, the monastery has been involved in winemaking. Today visitors can tour Austria’s oldest wine-growing estate, visiting the baroque cellar complex and witnessing the production using traditional and modern methods.
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.
Located just off the famous Ringstrasse, to the south of Maria Theresa Square, Vienna’s Museum Quarter (Museum Quartier) ranks among the world’s largest cultural quarters, housing over 20 museums. Completed in 2001, the vast complex covers 640,000 square feet, taking over the site of the former imperial stables and encompassing a number of cafés, bars, restaurants, shops and public spaces, among its many museums and art institutions. A marvel of modern city planning, effortlessly blending baroque and modernist architecture, the massive redevelopment cost 145 million euros to complete.
Notable highlights of the Museum Quarter include the Leopold Museum, housing a sizable collection of Austrian art, including the world's largest collection of works by Egon Schiele; the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK), Central Europe’s largest modern art museum; and the Kunsthalle Wien, where international contemporary and modern photography, video and film make up the majority of exhibitions.
Running for more than 300 kilometers, the Danube Bike Path is a scenic path that follows the Danube River from Passau, Germany to Vienna, Austria. The road is both smoothly paved and wide, making it popular with cyclists of all ages and skill levels. In fact, it has been called the most popular place for leisure cycling in Europe. In total the bike path passes through nine countries.
With the Danube River flowing on one side and the scenery changing around you on the other, the landscape varies throughout the journey. Mountains, forests, castles, vineyards, and small European villages are common sights. This route passes through the historic Wachau Valley as well as the Austrian town of Linz. Most of the land is sparsely populated and the roads are calm and traffic-free, making this a relaxing way to enjoy the beautiful nature of this region.
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