Let the cultural Vienna surprise you!
The Austrian capital is full of the expected Mozart, Baroque palaces, sachertorte and schnitzel, but far from being a dusty old grand dame, Vienna is busy reinventing itself as a youthful and dynamic 21st-century city. It remains one of the most architecturally impressive and beautiful of cities – the five-kilometer Ringstrasse, home of the opera house, town hall and parliament, is possibly the most magnificent avenue in Europe. But beyond all the pomp, there’s a more playful and relaxed side.
Take the Museums Quartier, where a former stables dating from 1725 is now the centre of a vibrant cultural complex of exhibition and performance spaces, with a plaza that’s busy at weekends with families lounging on colourful ‘beds’ while enjoying the DJs and open-air dining.
It’s also a city of parks – green space makes up over half of Vienna. There are city centre parks, such as the Burggarten, with its 1901 palm house that is now an excellently atmospheric restaurant, and the vast expanses that surround the inner city, like the Prater, a former royal hunting ground that covers 60 square kilometers, and has pools, beer gardens, boating on the Danube and a fun fair with the giant ferris wheel that features in The Third Man. A little further afield, the Tiergarten is one of the most distinctive zoos in the world, as well as the world’s oldest, built all the way back in the 18th century for the imperial family.
Vienna also excels at the quirky. Reopened in 2013 after almost a decade closed, is the Kunstkammer (Chamber of Wonders) at the colossal Kunsthistorisches Museum where, alongside oddities such as ostrich egg trophies, you’ll find Benvenuto Cellini’s 16th-century Saliera, an exquisite salt cellar hand-crafted from rolled gold. This joins the disturbing KriminalMuseum, which presents a lurid crawl through the city’s more macabre past, the Pathology Museum, which is a medical house of horrors in a tower of the University campus, and there’s even a small museum devoted to snow globes.