Whilst a student at University, I attended a public talk by Dr Sabine Wieber (a lecturer in History of Art at Glasgow University) who had been working on the National Gallery’s exhibition ‘Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900’. This really reshaped what many people in my class knew of as Vienna, it is unfortunately so often overlooked. The lecture itself set to place that a lot of what we conceive as ‘modern’ in the art world actually originated and developed in Vienna with Gustav Klimt and the Secession. If you know me, then you know I love a city break.
In the early 1900’s Vienna really came into it’s own as a fashion forward avant-garde city. In essence, the place had a lot of wealth.
I went to Vienna a fair few years back to see a singer with parents. Although we didn’t initially expect too much of Vienna I was taken back by it’s beauty, history and architecture. I can’t honestly remember exactly where we stayed in Vienna so I won’t be discussing hotels this time. The fact I can’t remember probably says a lot about the rest of Vienna cause I remember so much. I had heard both Vienna’s nicknames the ‘City of Music’ and the ‘City of Dreams’ due to different reasons: one it’s large musical legacy and the other it being the home of Sigmund Freud (who was extremely influential during the early period of Vienna). I’d obviously heard a lot about their art world having a love for Gustav Klimt and his ‘golden age’ portraits. But really I knew little of this place.
This actually reminded me a lot of the palaces in Russia. It was beautiful, clean and well structured of all things. It’s open 8:30am- 5pm daily with an entrance fee of 14 euros 50 cents. You can however get some good grouped tickets on this website. I would particularly recommend the ‘Sisi’ ticket, as she’s an interesting figure in Viennese aristocracy unfortunately assassinated in 1898. I remember a lot about the exhibitions on her, she was one of the first to introduce the fasting diet (which was unhealthy for her at her size). Her rapid exercise routine was added into her life and left us with a somewhat tiny waistline. You can just about fit your hand around when you see from her dresses on display. Her Jewellery was also fascinating- she started many trends and for any of you social historians/jewellery lovers out there you’d gaze into these for hours. Think Christine’s costume from Phantom of the Opera and you’ll be inspired.
The Palace itself boasts a Rococo interior, and the surrounding gardens show not only did they appreciate interior design but also garden landscaping.
TIP:Try explore the Palace, Gardens and Zoo in one day.. it will be busy, but well worth it.
Okay, not technically one attraction, but a number of them. You can walk around here for hours and bask in all that is left of the Historic city, best of all.. it’s free! The architecture is particularly heavy in Baroque features, with some 19th century additions. There are plenty of free gardens and public buildings you can enter. Yet, one of the best things to do is explore the old shops- which sell interesting items such as walking sticks with Viennese emblems on. You can fill up your water bottles from many of the drinking fountains around the city, or rest your aching feet in the cafes that envelop the streets. Best of all, the city still operates ice cream trucks! Why not get a 99er (although I’m not sure they sell those) and sit in a park and look around you.
Vienna Opera House:
The first building to be built on the large ring road of Vienna (the Ringstraße) it was commissioned by the city expansion fund which in the early 1860’s was set to rejuvenate the city. Through my eyes a very beautiful building, it was unfortunately not seen this way by all contemporaries at the time. It was one of the buildings created in hope to match or top the beauty of other works in the city. Unlucky for the builders at the time, the plans kept changing due to the road developments and the work carried out could not be as grand as initially designed. There were many complications with the death of architects which did not help the process, but finally on May 25th 1869 it opened with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I believe the Vienna Philharmonic perform here now, so it would well be worth your time to try to get tickets. The building externally is stunning, and from photographs the inside looks as luxurious. I can’t even imagine the atmosphere that could be made with the appropriate musical setting, and will definitely be getting tickets next time I visit.
As you know, I studied Art History, so I couldn’t visit a city without exploring at least one art gallery. The Kunsthistorisches Museum costs 14 euros for a visit and takes around 2-3 hours to get around. It’s open 10am-6pm daily with a late night on Thursday closing at 9pm. It shows many types of Art, collected by the dynasty of the Habsburg family. Thanks to the Google Art Project you can see a few of the works that are on display here.
Not only does this Museum house a coin collection, a pottery collection and sculpture. But some of the greatest Italian Artists known to art history: Titian, Canaletto and Reni. I was surprised to find a number of Rembrandt and Rubens works- which shows just how diverse this art collection is. It’s very rare should extremes can be put together- Titian was thought to be one of the great masters of traditional painting, Klimt was thought to be on the breakthrough of what would be ‘modern’. So go open your minds, and explore this great place!
Some of my most famous Klimt wall decorations are in here on the Egypt walls. So what I would say here as my TIP: is… take your time around each room. Look at all of the wall and ceiling decoration around the paintings- you’ll be surprised who’s work you will find.
Das Wiener Risenrad:
Or as I called it, the old Ferris Wheel. Constructed in 1897 it was the tallest wheel from 1920-1985. My dad was interested in this really, with it being built by an English Engineer: Walter Bassett. It was built in celebration of Vienna’s Emperor at the time Franz Joseph I upon his golden Jubilee. This is the most risket-y amusement ride I’ve ever been on. It’s survived a lot.. bombing during the war, and a few attempts of demolition which haven’t been carried out due to funding. I was terrified all the way round! It just didn’t feel stable so I don’t recommend this if you’re scared of heights or feel uneasy on rides. Everything was fine and I did make it back down and live to write this tale down today. My dad however, sat on the bench in the middle of the carriage clenching the seat. So there’s a warning for you fearful ones! It costs 9 euros for adults and 4 euros for children and it’s open 10am-10pm most days with a few later 11pms during the week.
Let them eat cake!
Or to be more precise, the world famous Sachertorte, created in Vienna in Hotel Sacher Wien in 1832. It’s a mixture of delicious chocolate sponge with apricot jam, a Viennese delicacy. I tried this with my parents and it was so nice we bought a full cake to take home! It came in a charming little wooden box with a metal clasp on it… very classy I must say.
You cannot miss this place as it is opposite the Opera house in the centre of Vienna. You will probably see some queues or a very very busy place. Please don’t let this put you off, they gave my family amazing service considering how busy they were.
All in all, I liked Vienna. I liked the art and culture and I really REALLY liked the cake.