With its successful blend of imperial tradition and contemporary creativity, the Austrian capital has established itself as a major player in the global tourism market. Vienna is not only the capital of Austria, but also one of its nine federal states. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, considered the center of the city by its inhabitants, is located 16º 22’ 27’’ east of Greenwich at 48º 12’ 32’’ northern latitude, and 171 meters above sea level. The city covers 415 square kilometers and is divided into 23 districts. With woods, grassland, parks and gardens accounting for around half its area, Vienna is the city in Europe with the highest ratio of green space. “Urban green” such as Stadtpark (with the most frequently photographed motif in the city, the golden Johann Strauss monument) is joined by the woods and grassland of Prater, the extensive Schoenbrunn Palace Gardens, sections of the Vienna Woods, vineyards, farmland and the wetlands of the legendary Danube River. During the summer temperatures rarely rise above 30º C, and in winter they hardly ever fall below -5º C.
From Roman Camp to Capital of the Republic
Vienna’s history goes even farther back but it made its first major breakthrough at around 15 B.C., when the Romans founded the military camp Vindobona. The city of Vienna is mentioned in documents dating back to 1137. Around 1155 the Dukes of Babenberg chose it as their residence, and from 1278 it was where the Habsburgs reigned more than six centuries. Today’s cityscape is dominated by the Baroque and the reign of Empress Maria Theresia. However, Emperor Franz Joseph I also made his mark on the city when he leveled the city walls in 1857 and oversaw the completion of the splendid Ring Boulevard. In 1918 Vienna became the capital of the Republic of Austria. In 1995 Vienna joined the ranks of European Union capitals.
Imperial Romance and World-Class Art
Vienna owes its universal appeal to the way it excitingly combines imperial nostalgia with a highly creative cultural scene, responsibly cultivating a precious heritage and charming traditions whilst taking on board the latest trends. Architecture dating from imperial times has left an indelible mark on the city. Magnificent edifices, predominantly in baroque, historicism (“Ringstrasse”) and art nouveau styles, and the city’s grand scale cause you to forget that this is the capital of the small Republic of Austria with around 8.5 million inhabitants. In Vienna, you re-live the romance of a long-lost empire.
Yet it is not only the city’s imperial architecture that renders it a city of beauty. Vienna also boasts world-renowned museums, art collections and works of art. The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Fine Arts) houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Bruegel, as well as the Kunstkammer, a unique collection of artifacts and oddities. Meanwhile numerous works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele are exhibited at the Belvedere and the Leopold Museum in the MuseumsQuartier. This centrally located, world-class cultural complex is an architecturally fascinating combination of baroque (the former Imperial Stables) and future-oriented design by architects Ortner&Ortner. Key attractions include: the Leopold Museum with the world’s largest collection of Schieles and works by renowned modern Austrian artists such as Klimt, Kokoschka and Gerstl; the mumok – museum moderner kunst stiftung ludwig wien, Architekturzentrum Wien, and Kunsthalle Wien.
Close to the State Opera House, the Albertina houses the world’s largest collection of graphic art, spanning 60,000 drawings, some million prints and an extensive collection of photographic and architectural material. And now you can enjoy good food in the Albertina’s Do & Co restaurant after attending one of the exhibitions.
The Belvedere palaces and formal gardens make up one of Europe’s most attractive Baroque ensembles. The Upper Belvedere is home to the world’s leading collection of Austrian art, with examples spanning everything from the middle ages to the 20th century. Among the absolute highlights is the world’s largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt including his best-known composition, The Kiss. By contrast, the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery host a constantly changing line-up of seasonal exhibitions. A short distance from the Upper Belvedere is the former Austrian pavilion from the 1958 World Exhibition, which was given a new lease on life as a modern art museum from 1962 to 2001 under the name of the “20er Haus”. In November 2011 the newly adapted architectural gem opened its doors to the public once again as the “21er Haus”, presenting Austrian art from 1945 to the present day against its international context. It is also home to the Wotruba foundation collection and the Federal Government’s contemporary art holdings.
City of Music – Traditional & Modern
Vienna has traditionally accorded the arts great respect, and over the centuries has never ceased to foster creativity and attract people from all over the world. Vienna boasts 50 theaters, including four opera houses and several stage musical theaters, 150 museums, numerous galleries, and renowned drama, music and dance festivals. All this ensures an extraordinarily rich cultural program throughout the year, making the city one of Europe’s leading cultural centers. Vienna, as a city of music, enjoys a paramount reputation around the world.
No other city has been home to so many composers of international renown. Some, such as Schubert, Strauss, Schoenberg and Berg were born there, others, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms and Mahler chose to live there. It boasts one of the world’s finest orchestras – the Vienna Philharmonic – as well as the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and several other orchestras and ensembles of note. The Vienna State Opera is one of the world’s leading opera houses, and is joined by three more in the city (Theater an der Wien, Volksoper, Kammeroper).
Vienna’s architecture is booming: Dominique Perrault built the imposing DC Tower, Austria’s tallest building, Jean Nouvel constructed a modern hotel by the Danube Canal, and Coop Himmelb(l)au’s angled residential tower nestles against the old gasometers.
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