Vienna

Vienna is a handsome, lively city, and it pleases me exceedingly

Frederic Chopin

This is how we feel – we like her architecture, the culture she represents and her relaxed way of life.

Everything seems to work beautifully in Vienna. There does not appear to be any ugly parts of the city, rather just older post war buildings without real character. That’s probably reflective the Teutonic precision that means everything needs to be functional and serve its purpose. Vienna is walkable, bikeable, and blessed with an excellent and extensive public transport system. Vienna is a beautiful city, it looks wonderful, is well kept and tidy. The streets are clean and there are plenty of parks and trees all around, which makes the city look airy and nice.

One of the things Vienna has going for it is its seemingly perennial reputation as the most liveable city in the world. Certainly, it is beautiful and old-world, with its Baroque palaces and elegant looks, but it’s also energetic, cosmopolitan, and modern – I think that I could live here. It is as pretty as Paris, and less crowded. Palaces as opulent as Versailles. A cosmopolitan city, rich with culture, history and tales of kings and queens to add to the mix. 

Vienna’s ‘inner city’ is a city with detailed architecture and dreamy streets which look inviting. The centre is dotted with boutiques for shopping lovers and there are a myriad of museums waiting to be discovered. It is fair to say that Vienna is incredibly versatile and can cater for any type of traveller. The historical centre is easily walked. You can encompass many of the beautiful buildings and pop into any of the museums or palaces without venturing too far and wide.

The inner city contains almost all of the ‘must see attractions’ of Vienna. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is in the middle of the city and the tower offers a nice view. Located between St. Stephen’s Cathedral and the Stock Exchange, you’ll find the premier shopping district in the most historic quarter – all the major luxury brands are here.

The Stephansdom (St Stephen’s cathedral) is built in Romanesque and Gothic styles and has been standing since the 12th century. Inside, you’ll find an ornately decorated church with high archways, vaulted ceilings, and a plethora of statues and religious paintings. Additionally, there are two beautiful altars: the High Altar and the Wiener Neustadt Altar. The cathedral also has two towers, though one remains unfinished. The multi-coloured tiled roof is particularly interesting.

Located in the heart of the city, Albertina is the largest former private Habsburg residence. Today Albertina houses an amazing array of art, including permanent and temporary exhibitions.

St Michael’s square is impressive for its architecture, the Hofburg Palace and the Spanish Riding School. Here, you appreciate the opulence and grandeur of Vienna’s architecture. Located at the Hofburg Palace, the Spanish Riding School was a surprise for a non-horse person. I will say that the horses are originally from Lipica, Slovenia, but are now bred in Austria. We watched the summer performance, which was essentially the school showing off the mares and foals as the main performing horses are having a spell in the alps. What we saw, though, made us want to see a full performance when we return to Vienna!

The Imperial Palace was built in the 13th century and is a giant complex with multiple attractions. You can easily spend half a day here. First, there are the Imperial Apartments, which is really three activities in one: the silver collection featuring thousands of royal dinnerware, the Sisi exhibit highlighting the life of the beloved Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and the royal apartments themselves. The Sisi exhibit is a refreshingly honest portrayal of the Austrian Empress.

The Museumsquartier is now home to three different museums: the Leopold Museum for Art Noveau and Experessionism; Kunsthalle Wien, an exhibition center with rotating exhibitions; and the Museum of Modern Art, which has the largest collection of modern art in central Europe. The Museumsquartier is also home to a number of festivals throughout the year. Basically, if you love modern art, this is your go to Viennese excursion.

If Dr Suess was an architect, he would have designed the Hundertwasser Haus. This is a superbly colourful apartment complex that challenges the traditional architectural styles and norm of Vienna. You can’t actually visit it, but you can glean from the outside just how inspiring it is and how it differs so much from traditional Viennese architecture. Within this complex, there are 53 apartments, 4 offices, 16 private terraces, 3 communal terraces, and countless trees and shrubs. It is considered a cultural heritage. This is incredible work.

The traditional Sunday pursuit for locals when most shops are closed and the city retains a sleepier vibe, is spending time in one of the many beautifully presented parks (Stadtpark, Burggarten or Volksgarten. These are verdant and elegant parks located at the edge of the city centre and are beautifully presented and kept with wonderful rose gardens, monuments and statues to classical masters and local notable citizens. Mozart has pride of place in the Burggarten near the Albertina and MuseumsQuartier.

For many years, the Vienna film festival in Rathauspark, in front of Vienna City Hall, has taken place for two months during the summer. The unique location attracts significant numbers of visitors each summer to enjoy the special atmosphere, listen to selected musical highlights (operas, operettas, classical, pop and jazz concerts) and indulge in the many international culinary delights. It was a delight to experience this relaxed event.

The area around the Karlschirche also have an open air theatre set up for summer evening film viewing.

Taking a walk along the Danube, you see that there are a number of bars and cafes along the shoreline and during the summer, there are also a few small “beaches” where you can relax and soak up some sun and relax on a nice day.

Vienna waits for you

Billy Joel

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