Things to see and do - Vienna
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Vienna, the art of living :
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Vienna, the art of living
Vienna, the art of livingPedestrian, 8 km, 2 days
Vienna can be covered largely on foot and you can taste and breathe the city through its cafés and mythical concert halls... The splendour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as celebrated by Stefan Zweig is still present, not in the relics of the past, but as the embers of a fire that burns on for some of the greatest artists and writers of the 20th century.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
With the familiar «Steffl», its elegant spire soaring to the skies at a height of 137m, St Stephen's Cathedral, with its varnished roofs and mass of carved stonework, is the monument that is most symbolic of the city of Vienna. Often damaged by war but always restored, it has shared all the great moments in the history of the city. It is also an excellent landmark where the city centre's busy shopping and pedestrian streets all converge.
A former imperial palace, the majestic Hofburg was the Habsburg winter residence until 1918. An extraordinary range of buildings and historic collections, it has been added to down the centuries with each period leaving its mark; pomp, charm and extreme elegance in turn. As with the empire of which it formed the very centre, this palace (even more sprawling than the Louvre in Paris) was added to successively over the passage of the centuries.
This well-proportioned square, with an equestrian statue of Josef II in the centre, is one of the finest in Vienna. It resembles a Main Courtyard and is framed on 3 sides by several wings of the Hofburg whose façades were harmonised by Pacassi in the 18C. The National Library façade has a quadriga and large globes supported by atlantes. The fourth side is formed by two palaces.
With over 1 million engravings and 60 000 drawings and watercolours, the Albertina Graphic Arts Collection is undoubtedly one of the largest in the world. Housed in the former Tarouca family palace since 1795, it owes its name to its founder, Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen. The Dürer Collection, assembled by Emperor Rudolf II in the late 16C, is exceptional. There are many other masterpieces by some of the greatest names in European art, from the Renaissance to the 20C.
The Habsburg passion for art is legendary. Over the centuries they built a collection which, thanks to their knowledge and taste, is without equal in terms of both variety and quality. The five departments range from Eastern, Greek and Roman antiquities to sculpture, as well as one of the greatest collections of decorative arts in the world. Not to be missed is the outstanding picture Gallery, with its globally pre-eminent collection of works by Bruegel the Elder.
When the Secession Pavilion was built by Josef Maria Olbrich in 1898, it represented a brutal intrusion of avant-garde into the blue sky of triumphant historicism. This enormous white cube with a dome composed of 3,000 golden laurel leaves was perceived as provocation. However, it was to lead Vienna into the age of modernity. Since 1986, it has housed Gustave Klimt's dazzling Beethoven Frieze, illustrating the various themes of the 9th Symphony.
The prestigious Wieden district lies south of the Innere Stadt (inner part of the city) with St Charles Square between the two districts, not far from the Ring. This is a main junction for the city's underground and tramway lines. It is not only a busy thoroughfare for pedestrians but also a crossroads of Viennese architecture where the great Baroque, Historicism, Secession and Jugendstil styles are represented with considerable impact in the large buildings around the square.
Inaugurated in 1869, the fine Renaissance façade of the Staatsoper (State Opera House) proudly overlooks the Ring. Of worldwide renown, the greatest conductors and international stars, past and present, have or will pass through its portals. It is steeped in history and, with its 300 performances a year, is an absolute must for any music lover. Tickets are not easy to come by, but visitors should at least take a look at the main staircase and the Schwind Foyer.
Vienna owes Belvedere not to an Emperor but a general, Eugène of Savoy, one of the most inspired of the time. Returning to more princely activities after his victorious campaigns against the Turks and Louis XIV, he commissioned the finest Baroque ensemble in Vienna. The two palaces, built between 1716 and 1722, are linked by a formal garden. The Lower Belvedere houses the Baroque collections, and the Upper Belvedere is home to the Art Gallery containing 19C and 20C works.
Leaving the narrow streets of the Old town, the appearance of Vienna changes radically as you reach the Ring, the ring of boulevards around the city. The city's old fortifications became the site of the most extensive urban development programme ever to be undertaken in the imperial capital, as it was at the time. Between 1857 and 1913 a series of imposing public buildings were erected, their façades each in a particular «historic» style, opposite each other on either side of vast parks.
The MAK or Museum of Applied and Decorative Arts, occupies a building along the Ring. The pre-eminence of its collections reflects Vienna's passion for decorative arts and modern design. The arrangement of certain of its displays has been enturusted to contemporary artists: Baroque items by Donald Judd; glass and lacework by Franz Graf; Empire and Biedermeier by Jenny Holzer; and the 20C by Manfred Wakolbinger.