Things to Do in Vienna - page 2
With a permanent collection of more than 30 million objects, the Natural History Museum Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien) is one of the most renowned museums of its kind. Wander the Wunderkammer-like halls, and marvel at treasures ranging from dinosaur skeletons to the 29,500-year-old Venus of Willendorf.
The Jewish Museum in Vienna explores the history of the Jewish people in Vienna and Austria. The first Jewish museum in the city was established in 1895, but it was closed by the Nazis in 1938. The collections were confiscated, and about half of the items have never been recovered. The present-day Jewish Museum was opened in 1988 and moved to its current location at the Palais Eskeles in 1993.
Many permanent exhibitions are on display at the Jewish Museum. Some explore the history and culture of the Jewish people who lived in Vienna from the early days up through World War II, while others look at how the Jewish community of Vienna recovered after the war, up until the present. Other exhibitions show visitors about Jewish traditions, like what a kosher kitchen looks like and how holidays and milestones are celebrated. The museum also has collections of donated items that tell of the history of Jewish culture.
The Schlumberger cellars in Vienna’s nineteenth district are the oldest sparkling wine cellars in Austria. Schlumberger Cellars date back to the 18th century, and specialize in making sparkling wine. The 300-year-old cellars wind through several miles of underground tunnels, which store several million bottles of sparkling wine (‘Sekt’ in German). The brick-lined tunnels (which were designed by the famous engineer Carl Ritter von Ghega, known best for designing the Semmering Railway) provide the steady, moderate temperature that’s needed for the wine to properly ferment. The founder of the original vineyard trained as a winemaker in Reims, France, which meant that Schlumberger Cellars’ sparkling wine was allowed to be called Champagne until France changed its winemaking laws in 1900. Schlumberger Cellars is a wonderful place to visit if you’re a connoisseur of wine, or if you just like to drink it! The cellars combine a blend of contemporary and traditional features in their winemaking practices, and visitors can learn about making wine in the traditional méthode Champenoise and even riddle some bottles while touring the extensive cellars. The wine is both excellent and reasonably priced, and visitors can sample a glass of it after one of the twice-weekly tours.
Vienna’s storied Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule), established in the 16th century, is the world’s oldest haute école of classical equitation. Experience the Renaissance tradition of classical dressage—on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list—by witnessing the Viennese institution’s morning exercises.
Designed in 1818, the Burggarten park served as a private royal garden for the Habsburg family until the end of the empire in 1918. It has an English layout and is a popular place to relax. Many locals come here for a break during or after their workday. There are many statues and monuments in the park, including the Mozart Memorial in the southwest section of the garden. The memorial uses plants that form a musical clef in front of the statue of Mozart. Monuments honoring Goethe and Emperor Franz Joseph I can also be found in the park.
There is also a fountain with a statue depicting Hercules fighting with a lion. In the northeast section of Burggarten is the Palm House. It is an elegant glass building that contains a tropical environment with waterfalls and exotic plants, and it is home to hundreds of free-flying tropical butterflies. There is also a cafe inside the Palm House.
The Danube River is among Europe’s mightiest, stretching from Germany to the Black Sea, and it helped grow Vienna into a major power center. The waterway branches into two as it enters Vienna: The Danube Canal passes through the center, while the river flows across the city’s northeastern edge. Both provide opportunities to relax and take in Vienna’s sights.
With rolling vineyards of grapes and apricots, plus a collection of more than 5,000 historic monuments, it's no wonder that the Wachau Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Austria's most popular tourist attractions. The Danube River carves a picturesque path through the valley's towns of Melk and Krems, uniting a harmonious blend of wineries, Gothic churches, and medieval castles.
Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts, or Akademie der Bildende Künste Wien, may not be one of the city's best known galleries, but the collection of paintings is nonetheless impressive and worth a visit. It concentrates on Flemish, Dutch and German painters including the disturbing Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, van Dyck and Rubens. The highlight is Bosch's altarpiece Triptych of the Last Judgment from 1504 to 1508.
The Academy of Fine Arts still functions as an art school, so don't be surprised if you smell fresh paint. It has the distinction of being the school that rejected Adolf Hitler twice.
Vienna’s Danube Tower, also known as Donauturm, is the tallest structure in Austria at more than 250 meters high. Opened in 1964, it stands on the north bank of the Danube River in Vienna’s Donaustadt district and was built in preparation for the Viennese International Horticulture Show the same year. One of the 75 tallest buildings in the world, the tower features an observation deck at 150 meters high, a rotating café at 160 meters up and a rotating restaurant at 170 meters up. The restaurant offers Austrian cuisine and wine and the café serves homemade pastries. The observation deck is an open-air platform, while the restaurant and café are behind glass panes. During bad weather or high winds, visitors may still visit the tower, but may only be able to access the inside sections.
Two high speed elevators whisk 14 passengers each up to the observation deck in just 35 seconds. Once on top, visitors enjoy magnificent views around the old city, Danube Park and the Vienna Woods. For the thrill-seekers, there is also a bungee jumping platform, used only in the summer months.
Kunst Haus Wien in Vienna is home to the only permanent collection of the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser in the world. The building itself, a former furniture factory, was designed by the eccentric artist, along with the neighboring apartment building. The wild facade, with its irregular glass, brick, wood, ceramic and metal features, bright colors and trees sprouting from the windows, reflect the spirit of the art displayed within.
Two floors of the modern art museum are dedicated to the works of Hundertwasser, while two more feature changing exhibitions. The ground floor houses a cafe and a museum shop, while the museum also offers audio guides.
More Things to Do in Vienna
Sisi, or Empress Elizabeth, was the wife of Franz Josef 1 of Austria who she married when she was only 16. She was very beautiful and strictly maintained her 20 inch (50 cm) waistline! The headstrong girl from Munich gained a reputation for rejecting court etiquette and being a bit of free-spirit. But after the death of her daughter Sophie, Sisi became ill herself and began often going south for the warmth, separate from her husband, to write poetry and meet with a string of lovers. When her beloved son Crown-Prince Rudolf died tragically in a murder-suicide pact with his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera, Sisi was inconsolable. In 1898, aged 60, in Geneva, she herself died, assassinated by a young anarchist, Luigi Lucheni.
Her life was like a soap opera and these days she is a cult figure. The Sisi Museum houses hundreds of her personal belongings as well as a history of her fascinating life.
Located along the famous Ringstrasse, Maria Theresa Square (Maria Theresien Platz) is surrounded by many of the capital’s prominent landmarks, with the Museum Quarter to the south and the Hofburg Palace to the north. Home to two of the city’s most notable museums, the square is a highlight of historic Vienna.
The Augarten Porcelain Manufactory (Porzellanmanufaktur Augarten), founded in 1718 as the second oldest porcelain manufactory in Europe, has been making and painting porcelain by hand for nearly three centuries. One wing of the factory houses the Augarten Porcelain Museum, where visitors can see one of the company’s original kilns stretching across both floors of exhibition space.
Beginning on the upper floor, guests make their way through galleries illustrating the history of Augarten and Viennese porcelain. The more than 150 pieces on display show the evolution of the art over the years, while hands-on displays let guests touch samples of porcelain ingredients: kaolin (clay), feldspar (stone) and quartz. The first floor of the museum focuses on the company’s porcelain-making history through the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna is widely regarded as one of the best in the world and is certainly the oldest and the most beautiful. Established in 1752 by the Habsburg Imperial Family, the zoo has a circular layout that spirals outwards from an elegant Baroque pavilion and a reputation for successful conservation and breeding of some of the world’s most endangered species, including Siberian tigers, rhinos and giant pandas. In 1904, a glass-and-steel hothouse was built in Art Nouveau style to protect the vast collection of rare tropical plants owned by Emperor Franz Joseph I; over a century later this hothouse has been renovated and transformed into a show-home for cacti and other water-retaining succulents from arid regions across the world. Desert animals and birds such as lizards and humming birds roam free in the Desert House (Wüstenhaus), and there are several enclosures containing snakes and bizarre desert mole rats, which resemble a cross between a tiny walrus and a hairless rabbit. Equally eccentric is the Welwitschia tree from the Namibian desert, which has long, droopy fronds and grows in an untidy heap along the ground; it can live for up to 1,500 years.
A Jewish community existed in Vienna from medieval times, centered around Judenplatz where the city’s first synagogue was built. That was burnt down during an uprising in 1420, by which time the Jews controlled much of the city’s wealth. A second Jewish enclave grew up in Leopoldstadt in the 15th century and flourished until the 1930s; there were synagogues all over the city and the Jews were part of wealthy Viennese society. All that came to an abrupt end in 1938 with the Nazis marching in to the city, and many thousands of Jews fled Austria following the burning of their businesses and houses on Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938.
Altogether 65,000 Viennese Jews died during World War II and the city’s Holocaust Memorial stands in Judenplatz, a controversial and austere white marble box that contrasts sharply with the ornate Baroque architecture that surrounds it. Designed in 2000 by British artist Rachel Whiteread, it is made of concrete and steel and recounts the names of the concentrations camps where Austrian Jews were murdered. The Museum Judenplatz is found alongside the memorial and provides a virtual tour through 900 years of Jewish history in Vienna. Coming full circle historically, it is built over the site of the synagogue that was destroyed back in 1420; its excavations form part of the exhibition.
In the Museumquarter, between the Leopold and MUMOK, is the Kunsthalle, or Art Hall, a collection of exhibition halls showcasing local and international contemporary art. Its high ceilings, open space and pure functionality have seen the venue rated among the top institutions for exhibitions in Europe. Programs, which run for 3 to 6 months, tend to focus on photography, video, film, installations and new media.
The concept behind the gallery is to foster new and exciting trends and experiments in contemporary art so expect the unexpected..
As the world's most famous waxworks museum, Madame Tussauds needs no introduction. And where better to rub shoulders with movie stars, music icons, and historic figures than Vienna? Snap a selfie with everyone from Brad Pitt to Barack Obama, take a walk through Austrian history, and entertain the whole family with fun, interactive exhibitions.
The Austrian Parliament Building, a Greek-revival style building completed in 1883, is where the two Houses of the Parliament of Austria conduct their sittings. It is located in Vienna’s city center, close to the Hofburg Imperial Palace and the Palace of Justice. Despite sustaining heavy damages during WWII, most of the building’s interior has been restored to its original impressive appearance.
The parliament building is one of the largest structures on the Ringstraße. It was originally built to house the two chambers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’sReichsrat (Austrian legislature). Today, it is the seat of both theNationalrat (National Council) and theBundesrat (Federal Council). The building contains over 100 rooms, including the chambers of the national and federal councils, the former imperial House of Representatives, committee rooms, libraries, lobbies, dining-rooms, bars, and gymnasiums. It is a working government building, and the site of state ceremonies – most notably the swearing-in ceremony of Austria’s president and the state speech given annually on National Day (October 26).
Housed in two buildings connected by a modern ticket office, the Imperial Furniture Collection (Hofmobiliendepot) forms part of the Kunsthistorischen museums based at the Hofburg Palace. Both museum buildings are notable in their own right; the furniture repository at Mariahilferstrasse 88 was commissioned in 1901 by Emperor Franz Joseph II to store the overspill from the Imperial Family’s vast stockpile of priceless antique furniture. The other half of the museum is found in a simple, Bidermeier-style townhouse dating from the early 19th century.
Able to draw on over 165,000 pieces – the largest collection of furniture in the world – the museum stages changing exhibitions of Empire and Bidermeier furniture interspersed with oddly intimate artifacts such as wheelchairs, displayed in elegant panelled rooms. Among the masterpieces of three centuries of rabid accumulation is the fabulous Egyptian Cabinet, designed for Empress Maria Ludovica in 1812 and complete with ornate carved figures; and several sets taken from 1950s movies featuring the much-loved Empress Elisabeth (nicknamed Sisi), who was assassinated in Geneva in 1898.
The Remise Transport Museum (Verkehrsmuseum Remise) is a museum about the history of public transport in Vienna, Austria. It is situated on the site of a former tram depot (“remise” means “depot” in German), which was built in 1901 in Vienna’s Erdberg district, and was still an operational tram station until 1990. It documents 150 years of public transport in Vienna via 14 different themed exhibits, highlighting everything between horse-drawn trams to the more modern underground network. It opened on September 13, 2004. The museum helps visitors understand the role of public transport in the development of the city and the everyday lives of people, and provides a behind-the-scenes look inside the operations of public transport; for example, visitors can experience the routes of the five subway lines as the driver sees them thanks to a multimedia subway simulator.
Visitors are also taken on a journey through time with historical vehicles on display such as a steam train, an old double-decker bus, and a city train carriage. A bus that plunged into the Danube following the collapse of the Reichsbrücke Bridge in 1976 is also exhibited.
Situated on Vienna’s lovely (and triangular) Freyung Square, the present incarnation of the Bank Austria Kunstforum dates from 1988 and was designed with a bizarre Art Deco entrance portal by architect Gustav Peichl. In recent years it has become a major player on the Vienna art scene, as Bank Austria now holds one of the best private collections in Europe, specialising in avant-garde post-WWII work. With an excess of 10,000 pieces of stellar art to call on, the bank sponsors innovative and well-received exhibitions, with recent successes including premier-league shows from big guns Georges Braque, Picasso, Kandinsky, Karel Appel and Magritte. Such has been the success of the venue that it has been extended several times to accommodate more visitors to the exhibitions. The Kunstforum also exhibits the Bank Austria photography archive, with around 400 images from great names such as Diane Arbus, Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Filled to bursting with Austrian art from the early 20th century, the Leopold Museum has an appropriately contemporary design. Constructed in Vienna’s innovative MuseumsQuartier by design partnership Ortner & Ortner, the museum opened in 2001 and is essentially a gleaming white, limestone cube that contrasts neatly with the flamboyant Baroque architecture of Imperial Vienna.
Named after philanthropist and art collector Rudolf Leopold, who died in 2010, the museum holds around 5,200 works of art; the permanent exhibitions displayed around the vast atrium and open galleries range from masterly silverware and ceramic decorative arts from the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) of 1903–32, to stylish Art Nouveau furniture designed by Kolomon Moser, and some rather brutal portraits by Expressionist Oskar Kokoschkar.
However, the standout pieces in the Leopold’s collections are by two world-famous artists who bring in the crowds in their thousands: portraits swathed in gilt and landscapes by Gustav Klimt – including his peerless Death and Life – and the world’s most important collection of portraits and nudes by the enfant terrible of Austrian Expressionism, Egon Schiele, who was mentored by Rudolf Leopold throughout his career.
The composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) spent the last decade or so of his life in Gumpendorf, just outside of Vienna, composing the majority of his late work – including ‘The Seasons’. Upon the 200th anniversary of his death, his house was restored and is now a museum. The Haydnhaus museum focuses on the last years of the composer’s life, and the permanent exhibitions represent the political and social atmosphere of Austria in the early 19th century when Haydn lived there. The main focus of the exhibit revolves around Haydn’s music, his life, and the end of his years. He was an internationally renowned composer who was celebrated by his colleagues – indeed, he was the most famous composer in all of Europe when he died. Part of the exhibit includes the records and memoirs of the international visitors who came to pay Haydn their respects in his final years. The house’s ground floor displays portraits of Haydn’s guests from those days, and the rooms are divided up as they were in Haydn’s time. The highlight of the Haydnhaus is the small garden, which is modeled after the symmetrical bourgeois gardens of the time.
With an extensive collection, large exhibition halls, themed special exhibits, and a rich program of events, Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art (commonly called the MAK) is a great place to spend an afternoon. The museum is located in the ‘Innere Stadt’ (Vienna’s First District), and combines the applied arts, contemporary art, design, and architecture under one roof. The MAK boasts a unique collection of applied arts and is known worldwide as a first class destination for contemporary art. The museum’s spacious halls in the impressive Ringstraße building have been redesigned by contemporary artists to best showcase the MAK’s permanent collection, keeping the artistic heritage of the building as part of the viewing experience. The windows of the MAK are distinctively illuminated by James Turrell’s light sculpture, which was permanently installed in 2004.
The MAK is more than just a place to view art, though. The museum prides itself on being a ’laboratory of societal knowledge,’ which means it continues to be a hub of collecting, research, preservation, education, and interactive learning – plus it’s a really cool place to have a glass of wine and engage in a little people watching on Tuesday nights.
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