At the crossroads of European cultures
Quiet and refined, the Austrian capital’s prestigious past does not outshine its dynamic present. As you stroll around, you will discover a Vienna that sparkles as much as its white wine.
Vienna is sometimes characterised as being provincial, and living in the past, but quite the opposite is true. The Austrian capital is a creative, vibrant, and bold city. In fact, visitors often feel that a weekend is not long enough to enjoy its many facets. Sauntering about at will, you may mark a pause in front of a facade, enter a church, or simply heed the call of its traditional cafés and restaurants.
Wherever you go, of course, the city's pastis palpable. The Habsburgs did not rule for six centuries without leaving their mark. The Emperor Franz Joseph in particular shaped the city, as did his wife Elizabeth, nicknamed Sissi and immortalised in cinema by Romy Schneider. Their memory hangs over the Schönbrunn Palace, the magnificent summer residence of the court.
Perhaps you will have the opportunity to attend one of the sumptuous balls that are held every winter after the famous New Year's concert, which invariably ends with 'The Radetzky March'. Long dresses for women, shiny leather shoes, white gloves and coats for men: the old traditions are perpetuated. Music is still loved, as it was in the past, in the imperial court in Vienna. Beethoven, a German who spent much of his life in Vienna, composed a number of masterpieces here, as did Mozart, whose most creative and successful period was spent in this city. Later, Brahms made his career here, as did Strauss, the king of the waltz with his unforgettable 'The Blue Danube'. The repertory of the National Opera, the Staatsoper, inaugurated in 1869, is legendary.
The museums contain a rich heritage spanning several centuries, so you will definitely find something to keep you busy for a few studious afternoons. For taking the air, especially with children, there is nothing better than a stroll in the Prater, the former imperial hunting reserve, which has become the favourite promenade of the Viennese. Here you can take a ride on the Great Ferris Wheel, the very one you see in The Third Man, starring Orson Welles and directed by Carol Reed (1949). For nostalgic cinephiles, this film is regularly screened in the city.
But a trip to Vienna would not be complete without sampling some of the local fare. Viennese cafés, and their wide variety of coffees, are an institution unto themselves, but don’t forget to sample specialities like Tafelspitz and Sachertorte. You can also enjoy–in moderation of course–refreshing wines in a local Heuriger, or wine tavern. Then, you will start feeling like a true Viennese…
When to go
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© Text and photography courtesy of EnVols