Destination Austria: Why Not Choose… Vienna?
Ancient Vienna, modern Vienna, timeless Vienna! From magnificent Baroque style buildings to contemporary architecture, not forgetting the "golden age" of Art Nouveau, the Austrian capital is one of the most pleasant cities in the world. Although it is famous for its rich culture and fascinating history, it also stands out for its many green spaces, which are perfect for strolling and relaxation. What's more, it has wonderful cafés, which are symbols of the Viennese lifestyle.
You should of course start your visit in the old town. Delimited by the ring road (Wiener Ringstraße), the historical centre of Vienna is the place to see the city's mediaeval and Baroque architecture. Don't miss the famous, Gothic-style Saint Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom), the Imperial Palace, or the National Opera. Outside of the ring road, you can see the evolution of this traditional architecture towards the astonishing modern and secessionist architecture, particularly with the Art Nouveau Am Steinhof Church. It is this architectural diversity that leaves visitors to Vienna speechless!
Once you've seen the architecture, it's time for some museums! You can't miss the gigantic MuseumsQuartier , which contains around fifty museums. Of course, you won't be able to visit them all, but be sure to make time for the fascinating Leopold Museum, which focuses on the Golden Age of Vienna around 1900, with all the key figures of this period (Klimt, Kokoschka, Otto Wagner…).
If there is one city associated with Romanticism, it is Vienna. Throw off your fear of clichés and head for the Sisi Museum. How could you stay in Vienna without stepping at least briefly into the world of the beautiful and legendary Empress? Klimt's "The Kiss", at the Belvedere is another must-see for all visitors. This painting is the icon of the Secession, the artistic movement that made Vienna the world capital of modernity at the start of the 20th century.
Finally, for a perfect Romanticism-themed stay, relax after all these visits in one of Vienna's beautiful cafés! A true institution, according to UNESCO, they represent the Viennese lifestyle.
Vienna is also known worldwide as a city of music. Aside from the great composers who lived and worked there, including Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn and Mozart, music is omnipresent in the city. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the best in the world, and the Vienna Boys' Choir tour the world with great success. In this capital of music, you can see the prestigious Staatsoper (National Opera) and the Volksoper , or concerts and operas featuring the biggest international names. However, Vienna doesn't just offer classical music: in recent years, the city has come to offer one of Europe's best electro scenes!
Top 10 Must-Sees
Hofburg: the Imperial Palace, with the Imperial Apartments and the Imperial Treasure. Until 1918, for over 6 centuries, the Hofburg was the heart of the Habsbourg Empire. Today, it is the official residence of the Austrian president. A breathtaking tour through history and art.
The Secession Building: in 1897, Gustav Klimt left the conservative Künstlerhaus and, with other artists, founded a new artistic group called the Secession. The building of the same name was finished in 1898. It is one of the most fascinating examples of this movement of contestation, particularly for its dome in honour of Art Nouveau.
The Sisi Museum: located in the Imperial Apartments of the Hofburg Palace, the Sisi Museum examines myth and truth. The flagship exhibits include many of Elisabeth's personal effects, as well as famous portraits of this charming empress.
Schönbrunn Palace: known as the "Austrian Versailles", it is the former residence of the Imperial family.
The Spanish Riding School: the only institution in the world to preserve and cultivate the classical equestrian art of the Hohe Schule, without change, from the Renaissance to the present day. After years of training, horse and rider bond to become an indissociable unit. Spectators can enjoy an unforgettable show, thanks to the precise movements of the Lipizzaner stallions in perfect time with the music.
The Café Central: one of Vienna's legendary cafés, in the neo-Renaissance décor of the Palais Ferstel.
The Ringstraße Palaces: stroll along the world's most beautiful boulevard lined with luxurious palaces: admire the Imperial Palace, the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Natural History Museum, the National Opera and the Parliament.
Saint Charles's Church (Karlskirche): combining kitsch and magnificence, a masterpiece of the imperial monarchy and of Viennese architecture.
The Belvedere: come to admire Gustav Klimt's legendary painting "The Kiss" and key works by Schiele and Kokoschka. Marvel at the luxury of this beautiful baroque ensemble with its vast gardens.
The MAK (Museum of Applied Arts): at the MAK, design is in the spotlight. Covering everything from the Middle Ages to the present day, the museum exhibits furniture, glass and porcelain items, silverware and fabrics. There are also prestigious artisan pieces from the Wiener Werkstätte, bentwood furniture by Thonet and Art Nouveau gems such as Klimt's gold leaf embellished designs for the frieze in the dining room of the Stoclet Palace in Brussels.
Foodies won't be disappointed by their trip. The best traditions from Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans come together to create excellent dishes: Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet), the famous Gulasch, Griessnockerlsuppe (semolina dumpling soup), Tafelspitz (boiled beef fillet in broth), Kaiserschmarrn (sweet omelette) and of course the unavoidable Apfelstrudel (apple strudel).
To sample these specialities, eat in a Heuriger, a sort of open-air tavern connected to a vineyard, which serves its own wine. Often with the typical décor of an old inn, the Heurigen have a wonderful, convivial atmosphere!
April-May: Spring Festival : In the city centre, and particularly at the Musikverein, the festival boasts the world's best musicians, who come to play Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin or Dvorak.
June: Jazz Fest Wien : Since 1981, Vienna Jazz Festival has become a cultural high-point in the Pays Viennois. It offers 160 concerts and involves 2000 musicians!
July: Musical Film Festival on Rathausplatz in Vienna : For thirty years, classical music fans have enjoyed this festival in front of Vienna City Hall, which becomes an open-air cinema. The great successes of classical music, operas, concerts, etc. are projected on a giant screen.
November-December: Christmas Markets : Vienna has not just one but many Christmas markets. All around the city centre, there are markets of various sizes. The most interesting of all is on Rathausplatz. There are all sorts of goods for sale: Christmas tree decorations, local produce...
December: Imperial Ball : Held on New Year's Eve at the Imperial Palace, this exceptional ball is one of the city's most beautiful traditions. The Hofburg Palace hosts the most magical ball in the city of waltzes. A sophisticated night for those who can afford to splash out!
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