Vienna Waits for You
Walking in Vienna, Austria, one can smell the rich coffees and pastries drifting out of the renowned cafes that this beautiful city is known for. But Vienna offers the traveler so much more than a strong cup of coffee in a comfortable cafÃ©. Vienna is a city of rich historical beauty, and up-to-the-minute hipness. From its grand avenues where the composers Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms lived while creating some of their masterpieces, to the world-class museums showing the works of Austrian painters Schiele and Klimt, to the new ultra-modern, House of Music, where adults and children alike can conduct the virtual Vienna Philharmonic–Vienna blends the old and new into a perfect fit.
The Vienna Festival opened the day I arrived–a month-long love fest with the arts offering 156 performances of 38 productions from 14 countries. I soon realized that Vienna was a place where the arts are truly loved and promoted.
The opening ceremony was dedicated to German and Austrian composers who had emigrated to America in the ’30s and ’40s and had found worldwide fame as the creators of scores for Hollywood movies. Nancy Wilson, the acclaimed jazz singer, was a guest performer that magical evening, as thousands of people stood in awe in the City Hall Square as The Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra played the scores to Gone with the Wind, Exodus, and other much-loved movie themes.
Walking is a great way to explore Vienna. Just head off a few blocks in any direction and you will be exposed to museums, cafes, music events and parks that will fill your day with wonder. The metro system is very easy to use as well, and even runs on the honor system. There are a number of must sees: The Museum of Fine Arts offers the world’s largest collection of paintings by Bruegel, as well as works by Klimt and Schiele. The MuseumsQuartier, one of the ten largest cultural centers in the world, opened in 2001. It’s an architectural marvel that offers museums, event spaces, cafes, and shops. Also, St. Steven’s Cathedral, the spiritual heart of Vienna, is magnificent.
Vienna is a place where food is taken very seriously. Indocchine 21, the hottest new restaurant, offers healthy cuisine from Southeast Asia, and for authentic Viennese food, try Weibel, a bistro where one can spend a long lazy afternoon savoring the sophisticated local dishes and the great Austrian wines. And of course, any trip to Vienna wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its world famous cafes like Cafe Diglas, CafÃ© Dommayer and CafÃ© Central. Social life in Vienna gravitates towards the cafes where you can sit and nurse a coffee for hours, and no one will hurry you along. To really feel like a local, visit the Naschmarkt, a multi-national food mart that offers gastronomic delights as far as the eye can see.
There are a number of excellent websites that cover Vienna; the best is The Vienna Tourist Board. It covers everything from hotels, to monthly and yearly events up to 2004.
Vienna is becoming a favorite tourist destination for Americans. The reasons are many, from hearing the Vienna Philharmonic perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, to learning how to waltz in one of the storybook local parks. It’s a city of sophistication, charm, and surprises. And…the enchanted Vienna woods are a mere hour drive from the city, and can be reached by mass transit, if you decide to hike through the countryside.