Things to Do in Vienna - page 4
Located in the first psychiatric hospital ever built in Austria, the Collection of Anatomical Pathology—an exhibit of the Natural History Museum Vienna—is showcased in a creepy old tower that formerly housed the mentally ill and the criminally insane. The ‘Narrenturm’ (‘mad tower’) was built under Emperor Joseph II in 1784, next to the site of the old Vienna General Hospital, which is part of the University of Vienna’s campus today. The Narrenturm still has the same cells, barred doors, and chains that once restrained the unfortunates living there. After the psychiatric hospital closed in 1866, the tower was used as doctors’ and nurses' quarters, and for university clinics and workshops. The Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum has been stationed in the Narrenturm (which is now owned by the University of Vienna) since 1971. The museum has an unusual collection including wax molds of different body parts, organs, and diseases; created for medical students to study from in the prephotography era. This offbeat museum presents a fascinating, and slightly disturbing, side of Vienna’s scientific history.
For good old family fun and a rip-roaring jaunt through history, Time Travel Vienna is the city’s newest kid on the block, and where great culture meets light-hearted Disney. Housed in the former monastery of St Michael, the history of Vienna from its beginnings as Roman Vindobona is presented in a magical 5-D show featuring animatronics and multi-media special effects. After this, visitors come face to face with the Vienna of Strauss, Mozart and the waltz as well as the great characters in the Habsburg dynasty before experiencing an air raid during World War II. Proceedings come bang up to date with a simulator ride taking in today’s major sights in Vienna. Shows last about 50 minutes and there are several in English per day.
One of a string of Imperial palaces and mansions built across Vienna in the 17th and 18th centuries, Palais Auersperg is Vienna’s oldest Baroque palace, built between 1706 and 1710. Its white, lacy façade bears the unmistakable stamp of Baroque master architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and his sidekick Lukas von Hildebrandt, and it was designed to be a center of European culture, music and politics. Stalwarts of the Vienna musical scene such as Mozart, Haydn and Gluck all wrote music here and the palace played host to lavish balls and weddings frequented by European royalty. When Austria was under German occupation during World War II, Vienna resistance members met in Auersperg to lay the foundations of post-war Austria; the palace was later seized and became the HQ of the German police.
Close to the Baroque masterpiece Schönbrunn Palace and the Rathuis (City Hall), Palais Auersperg is today one of the most luxurious concert venues in Vienna, dripping in chandeliers, gilded ornamentation and marble statuary. A full repertoire of Mozart and Strauss concerts are played year around; especially popular are the white-tie New Year’s Eve extravaganzas, when Vienna’s haute monde dresses up to enjoy a genteel night of dancing to waltzes and polkas.
Located just off the famous Ringstrasse, to the south of Maria Theresa Square, Vienna's Museum Quarter (MuseumsQuartier) ranks among the world's largest cultural complexes, housing over 70 facilities.Notable highlights include the Leopold Museum, housing a sizable collection of Austrian art, including the world's largest selection of works by Egon Schiele; the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK), Central Europe's largest museum of its kind; and the Kunsthalle Wien, where international contemporary photography, video and film make up the majority of exhibitions. The Vienna Dance Quarter, the Vienna Architecture Center, the Tobacco Museum and the ZOOM Children's Museum also call the area home.
Completed in 2001, the vast Museum Quarter covers 645,000 square feet (60,000 square meters), taking over the site of the former imperial stables to encompass a number of cafés, bars, restaurants, shops and public spaces, among its many museums and art institutions. A marvel of modern city planning, effortlessly blending baroque and modernist architecture, the massive redevelopment cost $165 million (€145 million) to complete.
In the 1980s travelers flocked to these popular rock and roll-themed cafes to collect iconic Hard Rock t-shirts from locations around the globe. And while that trend may have passed, the upscale bar, scenic outdoor terrace and huge live entertainment space still at Hard Rock Café Vienna still attract plenty of visitors to this historic city.
Travelers can saddle up to the bold art deco bar and sip on signature cocktails before settling in to one of the space’s cozy tables for a meal that blends typical Hard Rock fare with more traditional, hand-crafted local food that’s always made from scratch. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with an impressive array of musical memorabilia, which includes international superstars as well as local legends like Christina Sturmer and Parov Stelar, which means this place stays true to the Hard Rock vibe.
Vienna's Theatermuseum is found in the delightfully Baroque Lobkowitz Palace, steps away from the Schloss Schönbrunn, and is part of the Kunsthistorischen museums complex. Dating from the late 1690s, the Lobkowitz was one of the first urban palaces built in Vienna after the Imperial Family made the city its main home. It was here that Beethoven premiered his ‘Third Symphony’ and here that many glittering society balls were held over the years.
During its Imperial years, Vienna was packed with theaters, many of which – such as the Burgtheater and the Volkstheater – are still going strong. Being avid collectors of just about anything, the Habsburg emperors began to hoard theater artifacts back in the 18th century. Today these are artfully brought together among the gilt, stucco and delicate ceiling frescoes of the Lobkowitz Palace; an unrivaled collection of hundreds of stage sets, props and costumes from across three centuries as well as more than 70,000 theatrical images dating from the early 20th century onwards. Great names such as Oskar Kokoschka and Pablo Picasso had a hand in designing some of the costumes, there are flyers for concerts played in 1713 and autographs from famous musicians such as Wagner, Strauss, Mähler and of course, Beethoven.
Classical concerts are held in the Eroica Hall and summer sees the cultural action move outside to the courtyard of the Lobkowitz Palace; tickets for these events always sell out fast so book well ahead of time.
The pastel-hued façade of Vienna’s Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) may pale in comparison to the dramatic neo-gothic towers of the modern City Hall, but it remains a charming reminder of medieval Vienna. Today the building is home to the intriguing Museum of the Austrian Resistance Movement documenting the resistance against the Nazis.
Serving a triple role, the Third Man Museum (Dritte Mann Museum) shines a light on post-war Vienna at the start of the Cold War, looks at movie making in the 1940s and 50s, and features artifacts from the famous movie of the same name. The Third Man was a British film shot in Vienna and released in 1949, featuring the spy Harry Lime; it was a worldwide smash hit and made the careers of both Orson Welles – who played the lead part – and the composer of the famous theme tune, Anton Karas. The privately owned museum is the brainwave of Karin and Gerhard Strassgschwandtner, who have collected more than 2,500 relics of the film, including posters, screenplays, cameras used on set, the original zither that Karas played for the film, and stark black-and-white images depicting life in divided Austria during the Cold War. They often lead tours around the museum themselves, and regular zither concerts are held there as well.
Located in the middle of the Arsenal and designed by Ludwig Foerster and Theophil Hansen in the 1850s, the Museum of Military History (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) is the oldest museum in Vienna and one of the most important military history museums in the world. The museum’s five sections take visitors through the history of the Habsburg empire and Austria, beginning in the late 16th century and continuing through the dissolution of the Austrian monarchy in 1945.
Much of the gallery space features pre-Turkish conquest weaponry, but various medals, military uniforms, flags and artwork depicting battles are also on display. A “tank garden” behind the museum exhibits several armored battle vehicles from Austria and around the world. Rotating special exhibitions focus on more recent international conflicts.
Found in the apartment where he wrote the world-famous ‘Blue Danube’ waltz, the Johann Strauss Museum (Johann Strauss Wohnung) was home to Austria’s best-loved composer for seven years between 1863 and 1870. Born in Vienna in 1825, the be-whiskered ‘Waltz King’ was part of a musical dynasty that included his father Johann the Elder and brothers Josef and Eduard; although they all enjoyed comparative success in their careers, Johann’s talent eclipsed them all. The museum showcases his pianos and violins and his work as a conductor and composer but also highlights Strauss the (much-married) family man, who played billiards and drew cartoons of his contemporaries.
More Things to Do in Vienna
Vienna was the home of the Liechtenstein Princely Family for generations until the Anschluss (annexing of Austria into Nazi Germany) of 1938 forced them back to their tiny mountain principality between Switzerland and Austria. The family left behind not one but two palaces full of treasures.
After decades of gathering dust, Prince Hans-Adam II's private collection of artwork, showcasing masterpieces from the 16th to the 19th centuries, was transferred back to Vienna and installed into the fabulously ornate Liechtenstein Garden Palace (Gartenpalais Liechtenstein).
The Princely Collections make up one of the most valuable and important private art collections on earth. Highlights include the highly elaborate and inlaid 16th-century Badminton Cabinet and a number of Renaissance and Baroque works, including no less than 30 paintings by Flemish artist Pieter Paul Rubens. You'll also find pieces by Franz Hals, Anthony Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Raphael. An ornate carriage, gilded and adorned with painted side-panels of cherubim painted in the workshops of Boucher, was made by Parisian craftsman Nicholas Pineau in 1738, and is a rare survivor of the French Revolution.
The architecture of the Garden Palace is a highlight itself, with opulently frescoed apartments frothily decorated by the Austrian Baroque master Johann Michael Rottmayr and complemented with sweeping marble staircases and ceiling paintings by Andrea Pozzo.
Vienna’s first museum dedicated purely to photography opened in 2011 in a former glass factory and the following year combined its collection with the OstLicht Gallery in Absberggasse, which curates special exhibitions of hard-hitting, edgy contemporary photography.
WestLicht Center for Photography has Vienna’s biggest collection of historic cameras, ranging from daguerreotypes produced in the 1840s – the world’s first commercial camera – to KGB spy cameras and a Hasselblad that went into space with the Apollo missions. As well as temporary exhibitions throughout the year – past shows have featured landscapist Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson – the museum also participates in the annual World Press Photo, which celebrates award-winning photo-journalism.
Along with a stylish café and bar, the WestLicht also has an arty shop selling images shot by contemporary photographers such as Canadian rock singer Bryan Adams and German film-maker Wim Wenders.
The focal point of the Volksgarten in Vienna is the Temple of Theseus. It is a Greek-style temple that was built in 1820-1823 as a replica of the Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion) in the ancient Agora of Athens. It was originally built to house one piece of art, the “Theseus and the Minotaur” sculpture. The sculpture is now located in the Art History Museum. The temple was recently renovated, and as part of the Art History Museum's Modern and Contemporary Art Program, it showcases exceptional works of art one piece at a time.
Volksgarten is an elegant park in Vienna that was once a favorite gathering place for the aristocracy. It was designed in a formal French style with geometric flowerbeds and rose gardens. Along with the Theseus Temple, there are several fountains and other interesting monuments, such as the Kaiserin Elisabeth-Denkmal and the Grillparzer Monument. The park is a popular place for relaxing or taking a leisurely stroll.
Franz Schubert was unique in that he was one of the few composers able to make a living from the music he wrote during his lifetime. Schubert was born in 1797 in the kitchen of a small apartment near Vienna, and lived there with his family for the first five years of his life. Today the apartment has been converted to a museum that documents and illustrates most of the composer’s biography including: his training, his musical development, his friends, and his family. Objects on display at the Schubert Geburthaus (or Schubert’s birth home, in German) include famous contemporary portraits of Schubert by Moritz von Schwind, Wilhelm August Rieder, and Leopold Kupelwieser. The composer’s trademark spectacles are also on display, and visitors may listen to works composed by Schubert while sitting at his desk. Though the museum is small and simple, with a little imagination the visitor can transport themselves back 200 years and imagine what life might have been like in Austria at that time.
The Vienna Technical Museum (Technisches Museum Wien) is a place to play with science. The museum prides itself on being a showplace for technological developments past, present, and future. By regional, and even international, standards the museum boasts unique collections. The collections include exhibits from the fields of transportation, energy, heavy industry, everyday life, mobility, media worlds, and musical instruments. In addition to the collections, interactive demonstrations and live laboratories enriched with graphics, experiments, films and texts provide educational entertainment for adults, kids, families, and groups. The museum’s unique multimedia presentations show the influence of Austria’s technological achievements on its modern society, economy, and culture.
A highlight is the high voltage demonstration in which a ‘singing’ Tesla coil creates extremely high voltage that forms lightning bolts – and they play music! The electricity from the coil’s discharge gets channelled in such a way that the lightning itself becomes a speaker, playing a musical repertoire ranging from ‘The Blue Danube’ to ‘Smoke on the Water’. Several other technological innovations and regular special exhibits make a visit to this museum a worthwhile experience for visitors of all ages.
In 1828, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert spent the last few weeks of his life at his brother’s apartment near Vienna. Although Schubert was dying of either typhoid fever or syphilis, he continued to compose during this time, completing a series of piano sonatas and his last work, ‘Der Hirt auf dem Felsen’ (The Shepherd on the Rock). The two-room apartment where Schubert spent his last days (40, to be exact) is now a poignant museum that documents the final weeks of his life, his funeral, and his grave – he was buried next to Beethoven in the local cemetery at Wahring, although both composers have since been exhumed and reburied in Vienna’s central graveyard. Schubert was a keen admirer and contemporary of Beethoven, and even carried a torch at Beethoven’s funeral (little knowing he would only outlive the great composer by a year or so). Although the Schubert Sterbewohnung (‘Schubert’s Death Apartment’) doesn’t have many of the composer’s personal effects, there are many touching letters to and from his family that were written around the time Schubert discovered he was dying, and visitors to the museum may also listen to some of Schubert’s music there.
Opened in 1913 in a beautiful Art Nouveau building, the Wiener Konzerthaus is one of the largest and most artistically progressive musical institutions in the world. After World War II, it played a crucial role in reviving the Austrian musical scene and soon became the leading organizer of contemporary music in the country, as well as a popular stage for international jazz performances.
The original Konzerthaus was home to three concert halls in which concerts could be played simultaneously and featured a historic organ installed in 1913. A complete renovation of the building between 1998 and 2001 added a fourth hall and made updates to make the Konzerthaus one of the most modern concert houses in the world. The four halls have capacities ranging from 336 to more than 1,800 and together they host more than 700 different events during the season, which runs from September to June. The Kozerthaus also hosts several festivals throughout the year, including the Early Music Festival Resonanzen in January, the Vienna Spring Festival in April and May, the Internationale Musikfest in May and June and the Wien Modern in the fall.
A world away from the magnificent palaces and regal monuments of Vienna’s historic center, the Vienna Museum of Illusions (Museum der Illusionen) makes a fun addition to any sightseeing tour. The museum is filled with weird and wonderful illusions, puzzles, and mirrors that are entertaining for all ages.
It’s hard to miss Vienna’s Haus des Meeres - Aqua Terra Zoo, which is housed in a World War II antiaircraft tower. With more than 10,000 animals, the family-friendly zoo features sharks, tropical fish, and monkeys, among other wildlife. Kids especially love to watch the feedings.
The Vienna Boys' Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben) is one of the oldest boys' choirs that is not part of a church or college. In the late 15th century the choir was part of Maximilian I's court music and sang in the Imperial Chapel which he founded, but the roots of the choir go back as far as the 13th century. The choir still sings in the Imperial Chapel in Vienna on Sundays, but the boys also tour a lot. The choir has its own grammar school to ensure that its members maintain their schooling.
The choir is organized into four touring choirs named after famous Austrian composers associated with the history of the choir: Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. The Vienna Boys' Choir is a private, not-for-profit organization and is housed at the Hofburg.
Donaupark, or Danube Park, is huge - 2,600,000 square feet (800,000 square metres). Located on the north bank of the impressive Danube River, it even has beaches for the summer months. There is a stage with live entertainment, a mini train to ride, a giant chess board, tennis courts, a skater park, bike paths and a small zoo!
Until 1945 it was a military firing range, then it was used for landfill. Finally it became a park, originally for the Vienna International Flower Show of 1964. At this time, Vienna's tallest structure, the Danube Tower, was also built in the park. It's 826 ft (252 m) high and has a revolving restaurant and viewing platforms. In 1983, Pope John Paul II celebrated a mass at the base of the tower. And of course, people bungee jump from the tower.
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