Things to Do in Austria - page 3
Although still standing on the site of the original medieval castle, which was in place by 1463, today’s majestic Imperial Habsburg Palace has undergone several transformations over the centuries, reflecting Innsbruck’s own political fortunes. The first Gothic castle was extended by Emperor Maximilian I between 1495 and 1519, and was subsequently given a Renaissance makeover in the 1560s. With the transition of political power to Vienna after the Thirty Years War, Innsbruck and the Hofburg lost importance; it was not until the 1750s that Empress Maria Theresa revived the fortunes of this great palace and gave it a glorious Baroque and Rococo facelift.
The palace offers a series of 25 ornate Imperial Apartments open to the public, from the Guard Room and the Giant’s Hall, both smothered with great paintings depicting the history of the Habsburgs, to the Furniture Gallery with its elegant examples of Biedermeier styling.
In Vienna’s Alsergrund district, the two imposing towers of the Votivkirche welcome travelers to the city. The Votive Church is one of the most important neo-Gothic buildings in the world and is the second highest building in the city, right after the St. Stephen’s Church. As pretty as the church looks, the reason for its construction was actually a failed assassination attempt on the Habsburg Emperor. On the 18th of February 1853, tailor Janos Libenyi attacked young Franz Joseph I with a dagger, but the assassination attempt failed and the emperor survived. In gratitude for the salvation of His Majesty, his brother, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, called for a fundraiser to build a new church in Vienna. Soon after, construction began on the votive offering, a monumental white cathedral with rose windows, gabled portals and delicate spires and buttresses.
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.
Housed in the oldest part of the Imperial Palace in Vienna, the Imperial Treasury is one of the most significant treasuries in the world. The collection shows of the decadence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through its 1,000 years of treasures, as well as a variety of religiously significant relics. The highlight of the Secular Treasury is the behemoth imperial crown, a gemstone-embellished piece dating back to 962. Other items of note include a 2,680-carat Colombian emerald, one of the world’s largest sapphires, a golden rose, a narwhal’s tusk once mistaken for a unicorn horn and an ornate bowl which some believe to be the holy grail.
The Ecclesiastical Treasury, which often elicits a bit of skepticism in visitors, claims among its relics fragments of Jesus’s cross, a thorn from his crown and a swatch of the tablecloth used at the Last Supper.
Mozart had multiple residences in Vienna, but only one survived to the present day. The Mozarthaus Vienna at Domgasse 5 served as the composer’s home from 1784 to 1787, during the height of his musical success. Within his first-floor apartment, Mozart penned some of his most iconic works, like the opera The Marriage of Figaro.
Audio-guided tours of the house begin on the building’s top floor, where exhibits explain the lifestyle and prominent figures of society life in eighteenth century Vienna. Heading down a floor, visitors are immersed in all things music; a highlight is a holographic performance of a portion of The Magic Flute. On the ground floor, visitors enter Mozart’s bedroom, furnished with pieces from the time to give a sense of what his living quarters might have looked like.
Starting life in the Middle Ages as a civic garbage tip, Freyung Square has morphed down the centuries into one of Vienna’s prettiest public piazzas. It’s a triangular cobbled space dominated by the Austriabrunnen (Austria Fountain), which was gifted to Vienna in the 1840s by sculptor Ludwig Schwanthaler. The cobbles are bordered by the medieval monastery of Schottenkirche and – thanks to its location not far from the Hofburg Imperial Palace – a smattering of elegant Baroque palaces built by royal courtiers, including the ornately decorated yellow-and-white stucco façade of Palace Daun-Kinsky, which dates from 1717. The Ferstel Palace was built in 1860 and is home to Vienna’s famous Café Central as well as the upmarket, arcaded Freyung Passage shopping mall; nearby the Bank Austria Kuntsforum holds frequent cutting-edge contemporary-art exhibitions.
With an extensive collection, large exhibition halls, themed special exhibits, and a rich program of events, Vienna’s Museum of Applied Arts (commonly called 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.
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The state-of-the-art funicular railway connecting Innsbruck with its hilly suburb of Hungerburg was opened in 2007. This futuristic cable railway is the work of British Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who was also responsible for the Ski Jump Stadium at Bergisel, and it provides the first link in the journey from the Congress Centre right up to the slopes of Hafelekar, which are as high as 7,545 feet (2,300 meters), in under half an hour. The glittering Hungerburgbahn terminus at Congress strongly resembles the spaceship in Star Trek. On exiting the station, the funicular train crosses the River Inn before ascending 1.15 miles (1,838 meters) into the alpine foothills on the Hungerburg plateau. There are two stations on the line, including a stop at the Alpenzoo Innsbruck, Europe’s highest zoo. From Hungerburg skiers, boarders and hikers can catch the Nordkettenbahnen cable car up to Seegrube, with panoramic views of the peaks in the Inn valley and Zillertal Alps from the gondolas.
Madame Tussauds is a worldwide favorite with children for its realistic waxwork models of famous rock stars, royalty, movie stars, athletes and historical figures. The Vienna outpost opened in 2011 and is found close to the rides, sideshows and landmark Ferris wheel of Prater, the world’s oldest amusement park.
Although displays change frequently as the world of stardom waxes and wanes, Madame Tussauds Vienna is currently divided into eight themed sections packed with family fun. Film fanatics can shoot a movie with producer Quentin Tarantino or join Audrey Hepburn for tea, while history buffs learn about European history from Empress Maria Theresa or the German World War II hero Oskar Schindler. President Obama and the Dali Lama feature in the Politicians and Visionaries exhibition while a smattering of world-famous stars—Angelina and Brad, Robbie Williams—all attend Vienna’s most exclusive A-list party.
Salzburg is immensely proud of its most famous son, and Mozartplatz is just one of the city’s many tributes. The square, with its elegant statue of a youthful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, dates back to 1842 and was partly funded by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was a big fan. One of Salzburg’s most famous squares, it is a popular spot for a photo stop and a stroll.
Located opposite the entrance to the Imperial Hofburg Palace, Michaelerkirche was consecrated in 1217. Although fragments of the present incarnation date back to the mid-14th century, most of it was rebuilt in 1792 in fine Baroque style, but it is still topped with its spindly Gothic spire.
Thanks to its position at the very heart of Imperial Vienna, Michaelerkirche became the parish church of the Imperial Family and by default the place of worship favored by Vienna’s aristocracy. It was in this church where Hayden played, and where Mozart’s unfinished Last Requiem was performed on the magnificent Sieber Organ after his death in 1791.
Toady Michaelerkirche is known for both its Baroque ornamentation and its music recitals but is chiefly notorious for the grisly secrets in its crypt. In the early 17th century, the graveyard surrounding the church filled up with tombs and was closed down.
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.
Built into Vienna’s old city fortifications, the Beethoven Pasqualatihaus was named after its 18th-century owner, Josef Benedikt, the Baron Pasqualati. The musical prodigy Ludwig von Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 but made his residence in Vienna for 35 years; for eight years from 1804 onwards, the fourth-floor apartment of this whitewashed townhouse was his home. The Romantic composer wrote several symphonies, his opera Fidelio and the famous piece ‘Fur Elise’ while living here. His light, airy suite of rooms have now been transformed into a museum of his life; highlights of the displays include copies of his instruments, various imposing marble busts, manuscripts from the Fifth and Seventh symphonies, personal papers and family paintings as well as the renowned portrait by German artist and musician Willibrord Joseph Mähler in 1804.
The Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) is one of the largest museums of modern and post-modern art in Central Europe. Founded in 1962, the museum features 10,000 pieces by 1,600 different artists, including some of the biggest names in 20th- and 21st-century art, like Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Gergard Richter and Yoko Ono. Classical modernism, nouveau realism, Vienna Actionism, photorealism and pop art are all represented.
The museum’s Wednesday evening film program screens thematic film series and films related to the works of art on display. Visitors inspired by the art on display have the chance to participate in hands-on workshops to experiment with various artistic techniques. Once per month, Art on Thursdays invites guests to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine before taking a gallery tour.
The lovely green, gold and white-marble pavilion on Vienna’s Karlsplatz has finally found a new purpose in life; designed by Otto Wagner in 1897 as part of the city’s new train station, it has now become the permanent home to an exhibition on the life of this extraordinary, forward-thinking Art Nouveau architect. The revamped interior of the pavilion presents a detailed look at Wagner’s architectural legacy to Vienna, including churches and private houses as well as the Russian Embassy, which he completed in 1886. The museum also acts as a springboard to other Wagner-related sites around the city, such as his monumental Post Office Savings Bank on the palatial Ringstrasse.
Part of the complex of Kunsthistorischen museums at the Schloss Schönbrunn, the Imperial Carriage Museum opened four years after the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was conceived as a home for part of the redundant fleet of 600 vehicles no longer required by the Imperial Family and opened in 1922 in the former Imperial Riding School, presenting the very finest carriages used by the Viennese court, from sedan chairs to ceremonial state coaches. Among the 170 vehicles displayed, highlights include the elaborate black-and-gold embossed coronation landau from 1825 and an ornate, late 19th-century hearse, subtly decorated with painted and carved black flowers. However, the stars of the show, indicative by their sheer opulence of the wealth and power of the Habsburg dynasty, are the two gold carriages: the golden carousel made in 1742 for Empress Maria Theresia, and the Imperial Carriage, built for Emperor Joseph II in 1764.
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.
Things to do near Austria
- Things to do in Vienna
- Things to do in Salzburg
- Things to do in Innsbruck
- Things to do in Schwechat
- Things to do in Linz
- Things to do in Graz
- Things to do in Hallstatt
- Things to do in Klagenfurt
- Things to do in Slovenia
- Things to do in Czech Republic
- Things to do in Austrian Alps
- Things to do in Upper Austria
- Things to do in Lower Austria
- Things to do in Passau
- Things to do in Friuli-Venezia Giulia