It is said that cliché’s are cliché for a reason, the fact that the understood statement is often true. If ever this were to apply to a city I would definitely say it concurs with my recent experience of Vienna. Many see Vienna as a capital of culture and a city of the arts and it excels in all of these. Perhaps as I reminisce some of my time there you will pick up on the variety and eclectic nature of this epicenter. I hope to explore as well some of the lesser known facets of this cultural cornucopia so as to give a rounded view of the town and all it has to offer.
It is best to start from what the city is known best for: In my estimation the top three delights are music, theater and architecture. The great pomp and pride this city boasts must not be thought a mere coincidence of fate. The political winds of change and the situation of this city in the very heart of the European continent have contributed vastly to its growth and influence. This area of Austria was always well ruled and the space for a city surrounded by rivers and fruitful farmland did a lot to allow the wealthy and the talented to pursue their trades. Perhaps on a general note the easiest place to find a musical performance is to head in the direction of any church steeples you may happen to see in the city.
All the churches host many different concerts and performances year round. The pipe organs alone provide for a spectacular accompaniment to the bellowing orchestras that fill these churches. I definitely recommend St. Stephen’s Church (Stephansdom) in the heart of Vienna at Stephensplaz or Karlskirche a bt further away. Besides their own impressive architecture, these churches host many fascinating compositions all year round. The State Opera House (Staatsoper) is the best and most centrally located place to catch one of Mozart’s many compositions for example. As far as theater goes the Burgtheater and the Akademietheater boast an astounding array of shows and talent every day. Don’t forget one of the best theaters of all, street performances. While many of these take place all around the world, some of the most talented men and women I’ve seen on street musical performances are to be found here. La Crème de La Crème of all musical experiences here is best taken in at the Wiener Musikveren. This is home to some of the best orchestral performances in the world. As far as architecture goes one need not look very far to see a delightful array of finely wrought structures. The theme is overall very Baroque and Romantic with lots of columns, towers, porticos and palaces. The nice part of the historical center is that it is not dominated by skyscrapers. Many modern buildings exit but they are very organically inserted into the existing array of classical structures. I definitely recommend the Palais Ferstl, The Austrian Parliament and the Modern section of Vienna. Belvedere Palace offers an exceptional view of a monumental edifice both historically and physically. By means of the very efficient and reliable metro or city bus system one may make a half day trip out to the Schonbrunn Palace. This is a must see in my opinion. The gardens, structures and sheer magnitude of this blossoming palace takes one’s breath away. Finally the town hall is simply a marvel and at Christmas time has one of Europe’s best Christmas markets as well as many performances hosted inside.
Some of the other well known attractions in this city are the wide range of museums, culinary specialties; café’s and parks. The museums range from large art collections from the Renaissance (which had a strong surge in this city) all the way until some very contemporary collections. The Hofburg for instance is a unique tribute to the dominion of the Habsburg dynasty. This museum houses much of the royal treasury and crown jewels of this famous family. Many palaces house a museum or tour within their own confines and the best place overall to explore for museums is the handily labeled: “Museumsquartier” district. Food in this area is simply ravishing. Inspired by much of the predominant Teutonic culture the food and beer here are hearty investments of meats, potatoes, kraut, sausages and many other starchy and tasty delights. Most notable among all the delights here might be the desserts. They come in compliment to a meal or are most usually eaten as a snack in one of the cozy café’s around the city. A mouth watering strudel or a sumptuous Sachertorte might be just the souvenir you are looking to add to your “belt”, or in this case waistline. Above all be sure and go for the meats if you like them, you’d never know there were so many ways to prepare such simple ingredients. As for parks, there are an abundance of them everywhere and they are crisp, manicured and fresh all year round. Fall might be perhaps the most tantalizingly beautiful time for all your senses. I definitely recommend strolling in the park alongside Belvedere palace or the Schonbrunn Palace gardens for your best views. There are so many things to explore and see you may just convince yourself to come back again. Once you are there I hope you see what I mean.
Vienna overall is very easily navigable and although it has quite a population density the streets and neighborhoods are kept exceedingly clean and the standard of living is quite high. In fact Vienna has won the award for city with the highest quality of life in recent years. The combination of good public services, opulence, leisure activities and top shelf living make for a great combination of living standards. Of course this comes at a price. The prices per units in this city are higher than most of Europe yet it is still more affordable than many other high priced destinations around the globe. Vienna impressed me in that for all its charm, culture and intrigue I did not feel overwhelmed as a budget traveler on my venture. Sure the city caters to all tastes and the finer tastes will find a wonderful haven here, but there is not a sense of elitism or snootiness which makes one feel unwelcomed or out of place. Vienna is certainly a city of strong passions and wonderful emotion. The loyalty and romance this urban center has shared with genius artists and powerful politicians over the past centuries has built an empire of more than just stone and song. The Vienna one may see and love today is the fully ripened fruit of dedication to excellence and the perfection of leisure which is the basis of all culture. Enjoy your next leisurely time here, I highly recommend it!