Photographs and Text by Vincent Sung
*This feature was published in 5000s magazine, a bilingual Thai-English magazine by the Buddha Foundation
It’s no wonder that Vienna was officially voted the world’s most livable city for nine times in a row. The city summarizes the perfect connection between its imperial past and today’s modern lifestyle. Vienna has gone under profound changes over the past century and transformed itself from an ostentatious imperial capital to a modern center for the contemporary European lifestyle. Once the epicenter of a vast empire, sitting at the crossroads of Europe, Vienna has always been a cosmopolitan hub. Vienna’s universal appeal lays in its balanced combination of keeping its precious heritage and charming traditions while encompassing the latest trends in arts, food, and architecture. Vienna also boasts world-renowned museums, art collections, and works of art. The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Fine Arts) houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Bruegel, as well as the Kunstkammer, a unique collection of artifacts and oddities. Numerous works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele are exhibited at the Belvedere and the Leopold Museum in the MuseumsQuartier. The MuseumsQuartier is a world-class cultural complex of over 60,000 square meters of usable floor space on eight different levels. Once the former Imperial Stables, the complex’s courtyard features three large buildings: MUMOK (Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna) distinguishable by its dark basalt walls and spherically cambered roof, the Leopold Museum clad in white limestone and the brick building of the Kunsthalle Wien hidden behind the E+G Hall, the location of the Tanzquartier Wien (Dance Quarter Vienna). Architecture dating from imperial times has left an indelible mark on the city. Magnificent edifices, predominantly in baroque, historicism and art nouveau styles, and the city’s overall grand scale makes you forget that this is the capital of the ‘small’ Republic of Austria with around 8.8 million inhabitants.
Worth visiting, are the Albertina houses one of the world’s largest and most important collections of graphic art, spanning 50,000 drawings and watercolors, and around 900,000 prints. The Belvedere Palaces and formal gardens make up one of Europe’s most attractive Baroque ensembles. The Upper Belvedere is home to one of the nation’s most valuable art collections, which features key works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oscar Kokoschka. Among the absolute highlights is the world’s largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt including his best-known composition, The Kiss. By contrast, the Lower Belvedere and the Orangery host a constantly changing line-up of seasonal exhibitions. A short distance from the Upper Belvedere is Belvedere 21, the former Austrian pavilion from the 1958 World Exhibition, which was given a new lease on life as a modern art museum from 1962 to 2001 under the name of the “20er Haus”.
Grandiose Imperial Past
Schönbrunn Palace is one of Europe’s most beautiful Baroque complexes and has been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569. The wife of Emperor Ferdinand II, Eleonore von Gonzaga, had a pleasure palace built on the site in 1642 and called the property “Schönbrunn” for the first time. The palace and garden complex created from 1696 onwards following the siege of Vienna was completely redesigned under Maria Theresa after 1743. Today, due to its historical significance, its unique layout, and magnificent furnishings, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Travel Tip: Schönbrunn Palace is the most visited tourist attraction in Austria. Visitors should buy tickets online in advance from the comfort of your home to avoid long lines at the ticket counter: www.imperial-austria.at
(Schloss Schönbrunn) Schönbrunner Schlossstraße, 1130 Wien
1) Travel tips
Get a Vienna City Card for €17
City card for 24, 48 or 72 hours
Unlimited travel on the underground, bus and tram network
One child aged 14 or under travels free per cardholder €17/€25/€29
Available from hotels, the tourist information offices on Albertinaplatz (9am–7pm daily), the Main Station (9am–7pm), Vienna International Airport (7am–10pm), Wiener Linien info and ticket counters (e.g. Stephansplatz, Karlsplatz, Westbahnhof, Landstrasse/Wien Mitte), the Vienna City Card App and the online shop.
2) How to get there? Tips
Thai Airways offers daily flights to Vienna