Passion Points: Arts/Culture
From the Ask Advice Boards: “My husband and I are off to Vienna for the last 2 weeks in December with another couple. Our evenings are booked with operas, symphonies, concerts, and the Grand Ball, but I would love to get some advice on how to spend our days.” B.R.
With acclaimed theaters, opera houses, museums and musical venues, the Austrian capital has long been one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural destinations. Here’s what’s not to miss:
Currently, the big news in the city’s art scene is that the Albertina was recently given two major European private collections, including works by Monet, Picasso, Kandinsky and Klee; they will be on view through spring 2008. The museum, which was redone a few years ago, is known for its world-class collection of drawings and prints by such artists as Michelangelo and Rubens.
Housed in a sprawling complex that used to be the Imperial stables, the Museumsquartier Wien, known as MQ, is a fantastic grouping of top cultural institutions, including the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. You can see works by such artists as Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser and Egon Schiele. You can purchase tickets at the MQ Point at the main entrance (tip: get the MQ Duo Ticket, which is cheaper than buying each ticket separately). MQ Point also houses a small boutique showcasing the works of contemporary fashion and interior designers, so it’s a great spot to shop for unique gifts. Read tips on where to take a break at the MQ.
Another museum not to miss is Museum of Applied Arts, called MAK, in particular the rooms that showcase the Wiener Werkstätte, whose founders were the artists Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser (later they included Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka, among others).
Klimt’s well-known painting The Kiss is housed in the Belvedere, a beautiful baroque castle in the heart of Vienna (they have other amazing works by Klimt as well as pieces by Vincent van Gogh, Oskar Kokoschka, James Ensor and Egon Schiele). It’s a lot of fun to visit and a nice walk from the lower to the upper Belvedere, where the galleries of 19th- and 20th-century art are housed.
You might also enjoy watching regal white Lipizzaner horses from the Spanish Riding School, which was founded in 1572, perform classic dressage in the Hofburg. Ask your concierge to help secure tickets, as the performances tend to be booked well in advance.
There are also easy cultural day trips that can be organized from Vienna. The most famous—and worthwhile—palace is Schönbrunn, home to several generations of the Habsburg royal family.
Finally, if you’re visiting Vienna during the holiday season in December, don’t miss one of the many cozy Christmas markets. The biggest one is in front of the impressive Rathaus (city hall), which is decorated like a giant advent calendar. The ambience is festive, but this is also Vienna’s most touristy market. More quaint and lesser-known markets are found at the Spittelberg Quarter and at the Freyung, a square in the northwest. A favorite outside of the city is the market at Schönbrunn castle, which serves as a dramatic backdrop.
Read the destination report on Vienna
Read Gioia Zwack’s insider tips on Vienna
Read about the tour operator who can get you tickets to the Opera Ball
Read about the city’s best museums
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