Things to Do in Vienna - page 3
One of the largest squares in Vienna, Karlsplatz is dominated by the huge, baroque Karlskirche church, which was built between 1716 and 1737 with designs influenced by the architect's visit to Rome. The square is also well known for a pair of pavilions that were created in 1898 and 1899 by Otto Wagner and contain marble slabs and green-painted, wrought-iron frames that are decorated with gold-colored sunflowers and gilded trim.
The western side of the square contains the Secession Building, which is an art museum, and the Naschmarkt, which is Vienna's most popular market. The eastern side of the park is bordered by a park called Resselpark where you can find several statues of famous Austrians. Also near the square are several cultural institutions including the Musikverein, a concert hall that is home to the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Kunstlerhaus, an art gallery and exposition hall. The History Museum of Vienna is located on the eastern side of the square as well.
With a capacity of 2,854 between two concert halls, the Musikverein is home to the renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It was constructed on the Vienna Ringstrasse, in elegant Neo-Classical style, by Danish architect Theophil Hansen, and as well as having some of the best acoustics in the world, it is considered one of the loveliest concert halls in Europe. Inaugurated in 1870 by the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph, the Musikverein is famous for its elaborate Golden Hall, the ornate, gilt-clad auditorium with a frescoed ceiling, dripping chandeliers and luxurious balconied stalls. The Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year concert has been broadcast all around the world from here since 1959. A chamber-music hall is used for smaller events.
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 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.
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.
Starting life in the Middle Ages as a civic garbage tip, Freyung Square has morphed down the centuries into one of Vienna’s prettiest public piazzas. It’s a triangular cobbled space dominated by the Austriabrunnen (Austria Fountain), which was gifted to Vienna in the 1840s by sculptor Ludwig Schwanthaler. The cobbles are bordered by the medieval monastery of Schottenkirche and – thanks to its location not far from the Hofburg Imperial Palace – a smattering of elegant Baroque palaces built by royal courtiers, including the ornately decorated yellow-and-white stucco façade of Palace Daun-Kinsky, which dates from 1717. The Ferstel Palace was built in 1860 and is home to Vienna’s famous Café Central as well as the upmarket, arcaded Freyung Passage shopping mall; nearby the Bank Austria Kuntsforum holds frequent cutting-edge contemporary-art exhibitions.
In Vienna’s Alsergrund district, the two imposing towers of the Votivkirche welcome travelers to the city. The Votive Church is one of the most important neo-Gothic buildings in the world and is the second highest building in the city, right after the St. Stephen’s Church. As pretty as the church looks, the reason for its construction was actually a failed assassination attempt on the Habsburg Emperor. On the 18th of February 1853, tailor Janos Libenyi attacked young Franz Joseph I with a dagger, but the assassination attempt failed and the emperor survived. In gratitude for the salvation of His Majesty, his brother, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, called for a fundraiser to build a new church in Vienna. Soon after, construction began on the votive offering, a monumental white cathedral with rose windows, gabled portals and delicate spires and buttresses.
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.
More Things to Do in Vienna
Located opposite the entrance to the Imperial Hofburg Palace, Michaelerkirche was consecrated in 1217. Although fragments of the present incarnation date back to the mid-14th century, most of it was rebuilt in 1792 in fine Baroque style, but it is still topped with its spindly Gothic spire.
Thanks to its position at the very heart of Imperial Vienna, Michaelerkirche became the parish church of the Imperial Family and by default the place of worship favored by Vienna’s aristocracy. It was in this church where Hayden played, and where Mozart’s unfinished Last Requiem was performed on the magnificent Sieber Organ after his death in 1791.
Toady Michaelerkirche is known for both its Baroque ornamentation and its music recitals but is chiefly notorious for the grisly secrets in its crypt. In the early 17th century, the graveyard surrounding the church filled up with tombs and was closed down.
Hoher Markt is Vienna’s oldest town square, dating way back to Roman times; soon after World War II, sections of the Roman military camp of Vindobona were found below the cobbles and artifacts from these remains are now displayed in the Museum of Rome at No. 3. In the middle of the square stands the marble Baroque Vermählungsbrunnen (Wedding Fountain), designed by Baroque master-craftsman Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach in 1706 to commemorate the marriage of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa to Franz Stephan of Lorraine; it sits under an ornate bronze baldacchino.
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.
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.
The Austrian Theater Museum is found in the delightfully Baroque Lobkowitz Palace, steps away from the Schloss Schönbrunn, and is part of the Kunsthistorischen museums complex. Dating from the late 1690s, the Lobkowitz was one of the first urban palaces built in Vienna after the Imperial Family made the city its main home. It was here that Beethoven premiered his ‘Third Symphony’ and here that many glittering society balls were held over the years.
During its Imperial years, Vienna was packed with theaters, many of which – such as the Burgtheater and the Volkstheater – are still going strong. Being avid collectors of just about anything, the Habsburg emperors began to hoard theater artifacts back in the 18th century. Today these are artfully brought together among the gilt, stucco and delicate ceiling frescoes of the Lobkowitz Palace.
Vienna’s Augarten is a public park in Leopoldstadt, home to a former Imperial palace of the same name and several other buildings of note. The grounds themselves cover 52.2 hectares and are Baroque in design, remodeled from previous gardens in the early 18th century for the ever-acquisitive Habsburg Emperor Joseph II. The court architect Isidore Canevale was responsible for planting hundreds of trees that now provide the shady pathways as well as the layout out the formal flowerbeds. Facilities for visiting families in the gardens today include paddling pools, sports fields and a couple of restaurants, including Décor, rather fabulously sited in a former Nazi anti-aircraft bunker.
Other attractions in Augarten include the spectacular Baroque palace, now the winter home of the world-famous Vienna Boys Choir; a contemporary art gallery that is an outpost of the Belvedere; a film archive; and a Jewish study center.
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.
The pastel-hued façade of Vienna’s Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) may pale in comparison to the dramatic neo-gothic towers of the modern City Hall, but the former administrative center is still a charming reminder of medieval Vienna. Although first built in the 13th century, the majority of the present-day building stems from its 18th-century baroque redesign, featuring details like the striking Renaissance portico and the monumental Andromeda Fountain by Georg Raphael Donners.
The Old Town Hall housed the magistrate of Vienna until 1885, but today is home to the Museum of the Austrian Resistance Movement, a museum devoted to the Austrian resistance against the Nazis. One of the city’s most intriguing museums, the fascinating exhibitions include photographs, original documents and personal reports, detailing the work of Austrian resistance fighters and the victims of the Nazi regime.
The Vienna Museum of Technology is a place to play with science. The museum prides itself on being a showplace for technological developments past, present, and future. By regional, and even international, standards the museum boasts unique collections. The collections include exhibits from the fields of transportation, energy, heavy industry, everyday life, mobility, media worlds, and musical instruments. In addition to the collections, interactive demonstrations and live laboratories enriched with graphics, experiments, films and texts provide educational entertainment for adults, kids, families, and groups. The museum’s unique multimedia presentations show the influence of Austria’s technological achievements on its modern society, economy, and culture.
Located in the middle of the Arsenal and designed by Ludwig Foerster and Theophil Hansen in the 1850s, the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) is the oldest museum in Vienna and one of the most important military history museums in the world. The museum’s five sections take visitors through the history of the Habsburg empire and Austria, beginning in the late 16th century and continuing through the dissolution of the Austrian monarchy in 1945.
Much of the gallery space features pre-Turkish conquest weaponry, but various medals, military uniforms, flags and artwork depicting battles are also on display. A “tank garden” behind the museum exhibits several armored battle vehicles from Austria and around the world. Rotating special exhibitions focus on more recent international conflicts.
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.
Things to do near Vienna
- Things to do in Schwechat
- Things to do in Bratislava
- Things to do in Graz
- Things to do in Linz
- Things to do in Cesky Krumlov
- Things to do in Budapest
- Things to do in Hallstatt
- Things to do in Passau
- Things to do in Salzburg
- Things to do in Prague
- Things to do in Zagreb
- Things to do in Pilsen
- Things to do in Lower Austria
- Things to do in Upper Austria
- Things to do in Bohemia