A Place Like Vienna

Ah, Vienna. Vienna is definitely in my top three favourite places in Europe. Even though I’ve only been there twice, I fell utterly in love with it. Vienna has got everything you could want from a cultural city break:

Architecture

Everywhere you turn, you are greeted by a fascinating building. Before I went to Vienna, a friend told me that it reeks of wealth, and she was right. Once the seat of the Hapsburg Empire for around 700 years, no expense was spared and its grandeur is overwhelming. The grand Gothic structure of St Stephen’s Cathedral is probably the most recognized building in Vienna, and the Austrian Parliament Building and the Austrian National Library are both definitely not to be missed.

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St Stephen’s Cathedral
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Austrian National Library
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Austrian Parliament Building

It has its quirky buildings too. My favourite place in Vienna is the Hundertwasserhaus, a little gem of expressionist architecture. Bright and vivid, not only is it aesthetically impressive, but the philosophy behind it is also interesting. Hunderwasser wanted architecture to be closer to nature rather the reigning over it.

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Music

Vienna is often dubbed as the capital of classical music and for good reason too. When considering the top ten composers in history, figures from the Viennese classical period consistently make the ranks. The ‘Vienna Four’ (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert) all worked in Vienna from 1750 to 1825, not forgetting Strauss and other greats who were either born in, or lived in the city.

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Johann Strauss in Stadtpark

You can see statues of famous musicians throughout the city, and can even visit some of their places of residence. If you wish to take a trip to the famous State Opera while you’re in the city, then you will need to book well in advance. Alternatively, there is a myriad of other concerts offered, which is what we opted for.

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‘An Evening with Strauss and Mozart’ performed by The Vienna Residence Orchestra

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Mozarthaus


Museums

Vienna has such a rich history that it houses around one hundred museums. Many of them revolve around the history of the monarchy. There are an array of palaces open to visitors including the Hofburg Palace, the Belvedere Palace (home to Klimt’s The Kiss) and the summer residence Schönbrunn Palace, which is home to the oldest zoo in the world, founded in 1752.

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Schönbrunn Palace
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Belvedere Palace

There is also an entire museum in the Imperial Apartments dedicated to Austria’s most beloved member of royalty, Emperor Elisabeth, or ‘Sisi’ as she was known.

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“Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Courtly Gala Dress with Diamond Stars” by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Vienna is also home to some of the best art collections in the world. The Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum) is probably the biggest, with the Albertina coming in close second with an extensive collection. The Museumsquartier is an entire area full of museums and cafes, most notably the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (mumok). Also, be sure to check out the performances given by the Spanish Riding School. You can book online here. I’d definitely recommend doing so in advance, as they sell out quite quickly. We waited until we were in Vienna and could only see the morning exercises as a result (tickets for which can’t be booked online and have to be bought on the day). If you are a student, make sure you keep your student ID on you at all times as many museums offer discounts.

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Kunsthistorisches Museum
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The morning exercises at the Winter Riding School

Cake, cake, cake

Need I say more? Vienna has the best confectionery that I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. Purely on a research basis of course, I took it upon myself to sample as many as I could. It is home to traditional Austrian deserts like apfelstrudel and kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes with rum soaked raisins).

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It is also the birthplace of the famous Sachertorte (go to Hotel Sacher for the best one), the recipe of which was originally created for royalty. Demel, the famous pastry shop and chocolaterie which supplied to the royal family, was established in 1786 and is still going strong today.

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