Art in Vienna

Book unique experiences offered by locals in Vienna.

About Art in Vienna

Vienna is the world’s capital of music — The Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna Boys’ Choir set the international tone, while the State Opera House and the Golden Hall at the Musikverein are among the world’s leading venues.
From September to June there is an overwhelming number of concerts and music events in some of the finest concert halls the world has to offer, like Musikverein (Golden Hall), State Opera, and Konzerthaus, to name just a few.

What about the living landmarks like the “White Stallions” and the “Boys Choir”? Easy to find but hard to attend — tickets are a challenge to come by for their infrequent performances.
Opera, classical music, and theater life come to a standstill from mid-June to mid-September. Don’t fret, though: All year round, you can listen to a mix of Viennese tunes (Mozart & Strauss) in plenty of historic settings. Try to catch a concert in one of the more unique concert halls.


Celts and Romans left their traces here reaching back more than 2000 years. After the migration of peoples modest city live sprang her spurred by Bavarian and Frankish settlers from southern Germany. During the Middle Ages Vienna grew to become one of the three major cities in the German territories. In 1440, it became the resident city of the Habsburg dynasty and eventually grew to become the de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire (1483/1806) and a cultural centre for arts and science, music and fine cuisine.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Ottoman armies were stopped twice outside Vienna (1529 and 1683). In 1804, during the Napoleonic wars, Vienna became the capital of the Austrian Empire and continued to play a major role in European and world politics, including hosting the 1814 Congress of Vienna. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Vienna remained the capital of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city was a centre of classical music, for which the title of the First Viennese School is sometimes applied.
During the latter half of the 19th century, the city developed what had previously been the bastions and glacis into the Ringstrasse, a new boulevard surrounding the historical town and a major prestige project. Former suburbs were incorporated, and the city of Vienna grew dramatically, reaching a population of 2 mill. (compare to 1,8 mill today).
In 1918, after World War I, Vienna became capital of the Republic of Austria. Within Austria, it was seen as a centre of socialist politics, for which it was sometimes referred to as "Red Vienna". The city was a stage to the Austrian Civil War of 1934, when the right wing Chancellor Dollfuss sent the Austrian Army to shell civilian housing occupied by the socialist militia.
In 1938, after a triumphant entry into Austria, Austrian-born Adolf Hitler spoke to the Viennese from the balcony at the Heldenplatz. In April 1945 Vienna was liberated by the Red Army after British and American air raids and artillery duels between the SS and Wehrmacht and the Red Army had crippled infrastructure and destroyed or damaged thousands of public and private buildings.
Austria was separated from Germany, and Vienna was restored as the republic's capital. Vienna was now surrounded by the Soviet-occupied zone. As in Berlin, Vienna was divided into sectors by the four powers: the USA, UK, France and Soviet Russia and supervised by an Allied Commission. During the 10 years of the four-power occupation, Vienna became a hot-bed for international espionage between the Western and Eastern blocks. In the wake of the Berlin Blockade, the Cold War in Vienna took on a different dynamic. While accepting that Germany and Berlin would be divided, here the Soviets decided differently.
By 1955, the Russians agreed to relinquish their occupation zones in Eastern Austria, and Vienna. In exchange they required a permanent neutrality clause to be enshrined into the new Austrian State Treaty - thus ensuring that Austria would not be a member of NATO and that NATO forces would therefore not have direct communications between Italy and West Germany. In 1955, all Allied troops pulled out of Austria and Vienna was free of foreign military control.
The atmosphere of four-power Vienna is captured very well in the Graham Greene screenplay for the film The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed. Occupied Vienna is also colorfully depicted in the Philip Kerr novel, "A German Requiem." This title is misleading and reflects a common misunderstanding that the Viennese are "German" which to a Viennese is offensive.
Austria therefore never became part of any of the two cold war blocks NATO or the Warsaw Pact and by now Vienna has regained all of its former international stature by hosting international organizations, such as the United Nations (United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United European Gastroenterology Federation.

Politics & Economy

Until 1918, Viennese politics were shaped by the Christian Social Party, in particular long-term mayor Karl Lueger. During the period of the First Republic (1918–1934), the Vienna Social Democrats undertook many overdue social reforms. At that time, Vienna's municipal policy was admired by Socialists throughout Europe, who therefore referred to the city as "Red Vienna" (Rotes Wien). In February 1934 troops of the Conservative Austrian federal government and paramilitary socialist organizations were engaged in the Austrian civil war, which led to the ban of the Social Democrat party.
For most of the time since the First World War, the city has been governed by the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) with absolute majorities in the city parliament. Only between 1934 and 1945, when the Social Democratic Party was illegal, mayors were appointed by the austro-fascist and later by the Nazi authorities.
The city has enacted many social democratic policies. The Gemeindebauten are social housing assets that are well integrated into the city architecture. The low rents enable comfortable accommodation and good access to the city amenities.
Ever since Vienna obtained federal state status of its own in 1921, the mayor has also had the role of the state governor. - In course of the 2010 city council elections the SPÖ lost their overall majority and consequently forged a coalition with the Green Party – the first SPÖ/Green coalition in Austria.
Vienna is the fifth-wealthiest region in the EU behind London, Luxemburg, Brussels and Hamburg. - A 2005 study of 127 world cities, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the city first (in a tie with Vancouver) for the world's most livable cities (in the 2012 survey of 140 cities Vienna was ranked number two, behind Melbourne). - For four consecutive years (2009–2012), the human-resource-consulting firm Mercer ranked Vienna first in its annual "Quality of Living" survey of hundreds of cities around the world.
The city was ranked 1st globally for its culture of innovation in 2007 and 2008, and 5th globally (out of 256 cities) in the 2011 Innovation Cities Index, which analyzed indicators in covering 3 areas: culture, infrastructure and markets.
Vienna regularly hosts urban planning conferences and is often used as a case study by urban planners. - Each year since 2005, Vienna has been the world's number one destination for international congresses and conventions. Vienna attracts about five million tourists a year.
Regarded as a safe and reliable springboard to Eastern Europe, Vienna houses the regional headquarters for a number of global companies. Nevertheless the recent economic turmoil also shows in Vienna’s unemployment rate of 8 %.

Famous People

Music is one of Vienna's legacies. Many notable musicians were born in Vienna, including: Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss father & son, Fritz Kreisler, Alban Berg, Louie Austen, Falco and Joe Zawinul.

Famous musicians who came here to work from other parts of Austria and Germany were Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz von Suppé, Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and Rainhard Fendrich.
Many concert venues offer concerts aimed at tourists, featuring popular highlights of Viennese music (particularly the works of Mozart and the Strauss family.

The city's cultural contributions in the first half of the 20th century included, among many, the Vienna Secession. This movement included painters, sculptors, and architects. The first president of the Secession was Gustav Klimt. The three main architects of this movement were Josef Hoffmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, and Otto Wagner. They hoped to create a new style that owed nothing to historical influence. In this way they were very much in keeping with the iconoclastic spirit of turn-of-the-century Vienna (the time and place that also saw the publication of Sigmund Freud's first writings).

New ways where sought after by the architecture of Adolf Loos and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle as well as by the musicians of the Second Viennese School around Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern.


The 21st Life Ball takes place 25 May 2013 and is the biggest charity event in Europe supporting people with HIV or AIDS. The main priority of the Ball is, however, not only the exuberant celebration of the party people or spectacular live acts, but especially the fight against AIDS “Saving lives with imagination” is the link between Life Ball 2013 and its entertaining yet sensual source of inspiration: “1001 Nights”.

In Vienna, the Ball Season reaches its peak in January and February. Each year more than 450 balls take place in Vienna. The city of waltzes exuberantly celebrates Carnival in January and February. The three-quarter rhythm is supplemented by more contemporary sounds, offering enjoyable dancing for every taste.

The Opera Ball (Feb.) at the Vienna State Opera is legendary. On this one day, visitors have the unique opportunity to see the famous opera house on Ringstrasse not only from the spectators' seats but actually experience it "backstage" surrounded by many music celebrities.

"Vienna Pride" and the "Rainbow Parade" are the highlights of the gay and lesbian year in Vienna. The "Pride Village" (from 11-16 June 2013 on Heldenplatz) is a tent city that offers a mix of culture, shows, dining, information and parties. The Rainbow Parade (on 15 June 2013) also makes its way along the Vienna Ringstrasse this year and is symbol of tolerance and equality. After the big closing rally, the partying continues in Vienna's clubs into the early hours of the morning.

The Spanish Riding School is transform into an impressive ballroom for a night at the end of June. All rooms of the Spanish Riding School become a stage for the Fête Impériale: the arena, where the Lipizzaners normally perform their artistic ballet, becomes a dance floor, while the galleries of the Winter Riding School are available for strolling and watching. In the Summer Riding School, enjoy the festive summer ball in the open air.

Changing of the Guard in the Inner Courtyard of the Imperial Palace - After many decades the tradition of these band concerts with the original "Hoch- und Deutschmeister" was resumed on season Saturdays. Starting May 4th at 11 am, the military band will form at Kohlmarkt/Graben and perform a piece of music or two. Then they will continue making music while marching across the Kohlmarkt and through the Michaelertor into the Inner Courtyard.

Last week in September Vienna starts its own “Oktoberfest”, the Wiener Wiesn Festival on the Kaiserwiese in the Prater against the backdrop of Vienna's Giant Ferris Wheel. Austrian beer, local food, all sorts of music and traditional outfits ensure a great atmosphere. Each day at 3.00 pm, the Wiesn-Gaudi gets under way.

Best Museums

The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) was built in 1891 near the Imperial Palace to house the extensive collections of the imperial family. With its vast array of eminent works and the largest Bruegel collection in the world, it is considered one of the most eminent museums in the world.

More than 2,100 valuable objects, which were collected by the emperors and archdukes of the Habsburg family over centuries, are on display in the Kunstkammer Vienna, one of the most important chambers of art and wonders in the world. At the heart of the collection is Benvenuto Cellini's precious salt cellar, the Saliera, which dates to the middle of the 16th century.

At the Upper Belvedere see Gustav Klimt's legendary painting "The Kiss" as well as major works by Schiele and Kokoschka for yourself. You’ll be delighted by the magnificent baroque palace complex and its extensive gardens.

The Leopold Museum is a unique treasure-trove of Viennese art nouveau, the Vienna Workshop and of the Expressionist period. As the most-visited museum in the most fashionable cultural place in the city, the MuseumsQuartier, it houses the most important and largest Egon Schiele collection in the world as well as masterpieces by the founder of the Vienna Secession movement, Gustav Klimt.

The Museum of Military History, built from 1849 to 1856 in the center of the Arsenal (Armory) is an astonishing piece of architecture itself. Its collections give a thorough and detailed overview of the development of Austrian military life since the beginning of the 17th century. Outstanding exhibits include the automobile in which Archduke Francis Ferdinand rode and the uniform he wore when he was assassinated at Sarajevo in June of 1914 (the event touched off World War I).

Holidays & Festivals

From April to mid-May the Vienna Spring Festival presents stars of classical music at the Musikverein: violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, soprano Patricia Petibon, mezzo-sopranos Elisabeth Kulman and Angelika Kirchschlager, tenor Michael Schade and many more ... The program is packed with 57 concerts, is as extensive as it is diverse, and thus has the right thing to offer every taste.

Under the responsibility of artistic director Luc Bondy the annual Vienna Festival from mid-May to mid-June 2013 presents an extensive program of 41 music and theatre productions from 36 countries.

From July to early September, City Hall Square becomes a pulsating meeting point for music fans and night owls – with lots to please the palate as well as free film shows. Against the backdrop of the illuminated City Hall, the annual Music Film Festival features a first-rate program on a giant screen. The selection of classical super-hits ranges from opera and operetta to dance and concert performances.

Jewish world music is at the center of the KlezMORE Festival, being held for the tenth time in Vienna in Nov. 2013. It spans a broad musical arch from traditional to contemporary Klezmer interpretations. Readings, films, guided tours and presentations frame the concerts and round off this snapshot of current Klezmer culture.

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