Vienna: Summer and Winter
Vienna, once the capital of an empire of which it was said that the sun never set over it, is now equally as important as the capital of a newly-invigorated Central Europe that bridges East with West.
Spending summer and winter in Vienna, one notices an entirely different, but equally vibrant, energy. I’ve been spending time each year in Vienna since my youth. In 2008, I was in Vienna for a week in June during the Euro 2008 football championship. At the beginning of last year I returned to attend the annual New Year’s Concert by the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic), broadcast to 1.2 billion people each New Year’s Day.
In late summer, I returned to the city to visit its vineyards (Vienna is the only capital city with a significant wine-growing region (ca. 700 hectares) within its borders).
Regardless of when you decide to go to Vienna, there is much to do and see.
What to do in either season
There is so much to see and do in Vienna that the business traveler might want to consider a cultural guide for a few hours. Even though I know the city inside out, I don’t know the ins and outs of many of the museums, so I used the services of Diane Naar (+43 664 3431588 or email@example.com) and saw more of the Kunsthistorisches Museum (filled with one of the world’s largest and most important collections of Old Masters, as assembled by the Habsburg rulers, including Rubens, Brueghel, Titian) in two hours than I could have covered on my own in two days.
Here are a few basic things to do:
1.) Take the Vienna Ring Tram that runs around the entire Ringstraße (as of April 2009) to get a feel for the city. Buy a Vienna Card at your hotel to get 72 hours of unlimited public transportation within the city plus discounts at many museums.
2.) Go to the Naschmarkt to nosh or dine. The possibilities are endless but Umar Fisch is one of my favorites. On Saturdays, you’ll find a flea market starting at the Kettenbrückengasse, but go early (as you would to any flea market) for the best finds and to avoid crowds.
3.) Do as the Viennese do, sit at a café. The varieties of Viennese coffee are endless and your waiter will bring your coffee with a glass of superb Viennese water. (He’ll refill the glass of water without complaining while you sit and read newspapers for an hour or two). My Stammcafé (regular café) is Café Prückel on the Stubenring. I’ve a regular there since I was very young and it doesn’t get any more authentic. It is also, like many Vienna cafés, the perfect place for meetings.
4.) Haus der Musik may sound a bit boring but it’s one of the most modern, engaging, and high-tech museums I have visited. One highlight is an exhibit where visitors can conduct a virtual Wiener Philharmoniker (or should I say, “try” to conduct). In my case, boisterous members of the virtual ensemble told me that they would have been better off if they played without a conductor after I had a go with the baton).
The author conducts a virtual Wiener Philharmoniker at the Haus der Musik
5.) MuseumsQuartier, something very old and very very new. In 2001, the Imperial stables and riding school were reinvented as a village of museums. In addition to the Leopold Museum, with unmatched collections of Klimt and Schiele, works assembled by Austrian dentist Dr. Rudolf Leopold, you’ll find the Kunsthalle, the Museum Moderner Kunst and the Zoom Kinder Museum.