Things to Do in Vienna - page 2
Part of the complex of Kunsthistorischen museums at the Schloss Schönbrunn, the Imperial Carriage Museum opened four years after the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was conceived as a home for part of the redundant fleet of 600 vehicles no longer required by the Imperial Family and opened in 1922 in the former Imperial Riding School, presenting the very finest carriages used by the Viennese court, from sedan chairs to ceremonial state coaches. Among the 170 vehicles displayed, highlights include the elaborate black-and-gold embossed coronation landau from 1825 and an ornate, late 19th-century hearse, subtly decorated with painted and carved black flowers. However, the stars of the show, indicative by their sheer opulence of the wealth and power of the Habsburg dynasty, are the two gold carriages: the golden carousel made in 1742 for Empress Maria Theresia, and the Imperial Carriage, built for Emperor Joseph II in 1764.
The Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) is one of the largest museums of modern and post-modern art in Central Europe. Founded in 1962, the museum features 10,000 pieces by 1,600 different artists, including some of the biggest names in 20th- and 21st-century art, like Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Gergard Richter and Yoko Ono. Classical modernism, nouveau realism, Vienna Actionism, photorealism and pop art are all represented.
The museum’s Wednesday evening film program screens thematic film series and films related to the works of art on display. Visitors inspired by the art on display have the chance to participate in hands-on workshops to experiment with various artistic techniques. Once per month, Art on Thursdays invites guests to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine before taking a gallery tour.
Built into Vienna’s old city fortifications, the Beethoven Pasqualatihaus was named after its 18th-century owner, Josef Benedikt, the Baron Pasqualati. The musical prodigy Ludwig von Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 but made his residence in Vienna for 35 years; for eight years from 1804 onwards, the fourth-floor apartment of this whitewashed townhouse was his home. The Romantic composer wrote several symphonies, his opera Fidelio and the famous piece ‘Fur Elise’ while living here. His light, airy suite of rooms have now been transformed into a museum of his life; highlights of the displays include copies of his instruments, various imposing marble busts, manuscripts from the Fifth and Seventh symphonies, personal papers and family paintings as well as the renowned portrait by German artist and musician Willibrord Joseph Mähler in 1804.
From 1891 to 1938 Sigmund Freud, considered the founding father of psychoanalysis, resided in Vienna at Berggasse 19 before fleeing to Britain when the Nazi’s annexed Austria. Today, his former residence houses the Sigmund Freud Museum and its collection of original furniture, antiques from Freud’s collection and several autographed first editions of his works.
Freud’s youngest daughter, Anna, helped transform the house into a museum in 1971, and she also helped compile a series of historic films of Freud and his family during the 1930s. The museum has steadily expanded since its opening and now includes a library, museum shop and exhibition hall. In addition to the Freud-centric permanent collection, the museum also hosts special exhibitions and a rotating contemporary art collection, displayed in a former butcher shop storefront in the same building as Freud’s living quarters.
Founded in 1752 as a menagerie by Franz Stephan, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, or Vienna Zoo, is the oldest zoo in the world. It houses some 750 animals of all shapes and sizes; the most recent arrivals to excite crowds were giant pandas in 2003 although lemurs, armadillos and baby Serbian tigers spurred plenty of interest in 2006. Thankfully most of the original cramped cages have been updated and improved, but the odd one still remains.
The zoo's layout is reminiscent of a bicycle wheel, with pathways as spokes and an octagonal pavilion at its center. The pavilion dates from 1759 and was used as the imperial breakfast room; it now houses a fine restaurant (so you can feel regal, too). Feeding times are staggered throughout the day - maps on display tell you who's dining when.
Housed in two buildings connected by a modern ticket office, the Imperial Furniture Collection forms part of the Kunsthistorischen museums based at the Schloss Schönbrunn. Both museum buildings are notable in their own right; the furniture repository at Mariahilferstrasse 88 was commissioned in 1901 by Emperor Franz Joseph II to store the overspill from the Imperial Family’s vast stockpile of priceless antique furniture. The other half of the museum is found in a simple, Bidermeier-style townhouse dating from the early 19th century.
Able to draw on over 165,000 pieces – the largest collection of furniture in the world – the museum stages changing exhibitions of Empire and Bidermeier furniture interspersed with oddly intimate artifacts such as wheelchairs, displayed in elegant panelled rooms. Among the masterpieces of three centuries of rabid accumulation is the fabulous Egyptian Cabinet, designed for Empress Maria Ludovica in 1812.
The Augarten Porcelain Factory, founded in 1718 as the second oldest porcelain manufactory in Europe, has been making and painting porcelain by hand for nearly three centuries. One wing of the factory houses the Augarten Porcelain Museum, where visitors can see one of the company’s original kilns stretching across both floors of exhibition space.
Beginning on the upper floor, guests make their way through galleries illustrating the history of Augarten and Viennese porcelain. The more than 150 pieces on display show the evolution of the art over the years, while hands-on displays let guests touch samples of porcelain ingredients: kaolin (clay), feldspar (stone) and quartz. The first floor of the museum focuses on the company’s porcelain-making history through the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Remise is a museum about the history of public transport in Vienna, Austria. It is situated on the site of a former tram depot (“remise” means “depot” in German), which was built in 1901 in Vienna’s Erdberg district, and was still an operational tram station until 1990. It documents 150 years of public transport in Vienna via 14 different themed exhibits, highlighting everything between horse-drawn trams to the more modern underground network. It opened on September 13, 2004. The museum helps visitors understand the role of public transport in the development of the city and the everyday lives of people, and provides a behind-the-scenes look inside the operations of public transport; for example, visitors can experience the routes of the five subway lines as the driver sees them thanks to a multimedia subway simulator.
The Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna is widely regarded as one of the best in the world and is certainly the oldest and the most beautiful. Established in 1752 by the Habsburg Imperial Family, the zoo has a circular layout that spirals outwards from an elegant Baroque pavilion and a reputation for successful conservation and breeding of some of the world’s most endangered species, including Siberian tigers, rhinos and giant pandas. In 1904, a glass-and-steel hothouse was built in Art Nouveau style to protect the vast collection of rare tropical plants owned by Emperor Franz Joseph I; over a century later this hothouse has been renovated and transformed into a show-home for cacti and other water-retaining succulents from arid regions across the world. Desert animals and birds such as lizards and humming birds roam free and there are several enclosures containing snakes and bizarre desert mole rats, which resemble a cross between a tiny walrus and a hairless rabbit.
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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.
Situated on Vienna’s lovely (and triangular) Freyung Square, the present incarnation of the Bank Austria Kunstforum dates from 1988 and was designed with a bizarre Art Deco entrance portal by architect Gustav Peichl. In recent years it has become a major player on the Vienna art scene, as Bank Austria now holds one of the best private collections in Europe, specialising in avant-garde post-WWII work. With an excess of 10,000 pieces of stellar art to call on, the bank sponsors innovative and well-received exhibitions, with recent successes including premier-league shows from big guns Georges Braque, Picasso, Kandinsky, Karel Appel and Magritte. Such has been the success of the venue that it has been extended several times to accommodate more visitors to the exhibitions. The Kunstforum also exhibits the Bank Austria photography archive, with around 400 images from great names such as Diane Arbus, Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
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.
The St Stephen's Cathedral, or Stephansdom, is the heart of Vienna both geographically and emotionally. It is a magnificent dark Gothic church, beloved and unmissable in Vienna.
A church has stood on this site since the 12th century, but little remains of the original structure aside from the Riesentor (Giant's Gate) and the Heidentürme (Towers of the Heathens). Both features are Romanesque in style. The Riesentor (rumor has it that the gate was named because a mammoth's tibia, mistaken for a giant's shin, once hung here) is the main western entrance, topped by a tympanum of lattice patterns and statues. Stephansdom's Gothic makeover began in 1359 at the behest of Habsburg Duke Rudolf IV, who earned the epithet of 'The Founder' by laying the foundation stone.
The church's dominating feature is the skeletal Südturm (south tower). Standing 450 ft (136.7m) high, it was completed in 1433 after 75 years of hard labor.
Hemmed in by the famous Ringstrasse, which marks the route of the former city walls, and encompassing the majority of the capital’s top attractions, the historic center of Vienna is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Known as the First District, or Inner City, and inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, a walk through historic Vienna reveals enough landmark sights to keep your camera snapping all day long.
The central district is characterized by its breathtaking architecture, from medieval hangovers like St. Stephen's Cathedral through the golden age of the Habsburg Empire, represented by the grand Imperial Palace. The 19th-century Ringstrasse is also lined with iconic buildings, with the Vienna City Hall, the Parliament buildings and the Kaiserforum all within close proximity, and the lively Museum Quarter adding a modernist flavor.
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.
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.
Vienna’s oldest church was made from stone taken from the ancient Roman settlement of Vindabona and was originally Romanesque in design, with its origins reaching as far back as 740 AD. It has a dumpy and largely unprepossessing exterior that dates from the 12th century, although it has been destroyed by fire and repeatedly enlarged down the centuries. It is dedicated to St Rupert, who is (confusingly) the patron saint of Salzburg and also connected with salt mining, which was big business around Salzburg in the Middle Ages. The simple interior is whitewashed with a simple stone altar, quite unadorned with the exceptions of the vast brass Baroque crucifix and the exquisite stained-glass windows dating from the 1990s, when the church was restored. However, one window has survived from the 13th century and it is found in the vaulted apse, depicting Christ on the cross with the Madonna and Child standing below.
Marking the boundary of the First District, where the old city walls once stood, the series of boulevards that make up the Ringstrasse trace a 5km scenic loop around the historic center of Vienna. Created in the late 19th century to replace the fortification walls demolished under Emperor Franz Joseph, the Ringstrasse was designed to accommodate some of the city’s most spectacular works of architecture.
For visitors to Vienna, following the route of the Ringstrasse is a popular way to take in the sights, starting with the dramatic neo-Gothic Rathaus, or City Hall, set in the landscaped Rathauspark and the neighboring Parliament buildings. The magnificent Burgtheater and Volksgarten park stand opposite, and heading south, the ring road passes Maria Theresa Square and Franz Joseph’s elaborate Kaiserforum, now home to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Naturhistorisches Museum (Museum of Natural History).
For sheer grandness, the Neo-Gothic Rathaus, or Vienna City Hall, steals the Ringstrasse show. Completed in 1883 by Friedrich von Schmidt, it was modeled on Flemish city halls. Its main spire soars to 335 ft (102m) if you include the pennant held by the knight at the top. You're free to wander through the seven inner courtyards but must join a guided tour to see the interior, with its red carpets, gigantic mirrors, and frescoes.
Between the Rathaus and the Ringstrasse is the Rathauspark, with fountains, benches and several statues. It is split in two by Rathausplatz, which is lined with statues of notable people from Vienna's past. Rathausplatz is the sight of some of the city's most frequented events, including the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market), Musikfilm Festival and the Wiener Eistraum.
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.
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.
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.
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