There are many spots one can visit when they travel to Vienna. Vienna is one of the world’s most charming cities. Anyone who craves a good chocolate cake or pint of beer should visit it. But what is the city’s main appeal? There are many. Let’s review some of them.
The Albertina Museum- located in the city’s Innere Stadt (First District) – houses one of the largest and most important print rooms in the world1. The room includes approximately 65,000 drawings, one million old master prints, graphic works, photographs, and architectural sketches1.
The Belvedere Museum is an art museum built on the grounds of a building and garden complex that Eugene of Savoy once used as a summertime residence1. The Upper Belvedere’s permanent collection includes various notable works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Helene Funke, Claude Monet, Elena Luksch-Makowsky, Vincent van Gogh, and Auguste Rodin1. The Lower Belvedere and neighboring temporary exhibitions and its former stables display art from the Middle Ages1.
The Hofburg Palace was where Emperor Joseph II drew up a revolutionary program for reforms2. It was also where the Congress of Vienna met and danced, and Emperor Franz Joseph held audiences2. Nowadays, it houses the offices of the Federal President, secretaries of state, and ministers of the chancellor’s office2. The palace, which originally began as a medieval fortified castle (13th century), served as the residence of Austrian sovereigns for over 600 years2. It lasted until 1918 when the monarchy ended2.
The Hundertwasser House museum was once the home of Austrian-born visionary painter and spiritual ecologist Friedenrich Hundertwasser (born 1928)3. Hundertwasser, an independent and international artist who consistently worked with spectral colors, repetitive patterns, spiral motifs, and primal forms, traveled, lived, and worked throughout Europe, North Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the East3. He allegedly joined the Hitler Youth Corps in 1941, but during the war and Russian occupation, he lived in a Viennese cellar with his mother3. The regime had deported his maternal relatives to Nazi concentration camps and killed them3.
The Karlskirche (“St. Charles Church”) is a Baroque church located on the south side of Karlsplatz (just outside the Innere Stadt and approximately 200 meters outside the Ringstraße)5. The church derives its name from Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who, after the last great plague in 1713, pledged to build a center for worship for his namesake patron Saint, Charles Borromeo (whom people revered as a healer for plague sufferers)4.
Prater Park, which Emperor Maximilian II bought the land for in 1560 (using it as a hunting ground), is nowadays an amusement park. Emperor Rudolf II forbade entry to it, and Emperor Joseph II (April 7, 1766) opened it to the public for free enjoyment. At the time of Joseph II, various coffee houses and cafes dotted the place, and, in 1873, a World Exhibition was held there. On the grounds of modern-day Kaiserwiese, Gabor Steiner established an attraction called “Venice in Vienna” (1895). He set up an artificial lagoon that simulated the Venetian canals. Prater Park and its notable Ferris wheel are most famously depicted in Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949) with Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles.
The Schönbrunn Palace is undeniably the most sumptuous, extravagant, and colossal point-of-interest in Vienna6. Originally the “Katterburg” in the 14th century- an estate that boasted a cornmill together with an arable farm and vineyards- the Schönbrunn served as the summertime palace for the Habsburg family for several centuries6. The estate came into Maximilian II’s possession in 15696. He passed it on to Rudolph II in 1576, and they passed it on to their successors, Emperor Ferdinand II and his wife Eleanora von Gonzaga6.
Schöner Brunnen literally translates to “Fair [Beautiful] Spring,” and, in 1686, Emperor Leopold I hired Rome-trained architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to transform the hunting grounds into a beautiful and splendid new residence for his son and heir, Joseph I6.
The palace entered a brilliant epoch of history under rulers Franz Stephan and Maria Theresa6. Maria’s father was Emperor Charles VI, who acquired the estate for shooting pheasants but gifted it to his daughter6. The Schönbrunn is notable for its Parade Court, Blue Staircase, Yellow Room (which Napoleon occupied), Chapel Staircase, Great Parterre Garden, and Neptune Fountain. Its own “Hall of Mirrors,” which parallels the one at Versailles (France), served as the spot where U.S. President John F. Kennedy met with Nikita Khrushchev in 1961.
From about 1562, Archduke Maximilian (later, Emperor Maximilian II), who systematically acquired and bred Spanish horses, founded the first Imperial Stud in 1564 in Kladrub (Bohemia)7. His brother, Archduke Karl II, was also very interested in breeding Spanish horses, and he founded the Imperial Karst Stud near Lipizza in 15807. While historians are not sure exactly when the first “Spanish Riding School” was built, various documents indicate it may have been in 15727.
More than a century or so later, though (1729-1735), Emperor Karl VI commissioned von Erlach (the same architect behind the Schönbrunn) to design the “Winter Riding School.”7 The venue was a magnificent hall that people not only used for training white stallions, but, after Karl VI’s death in 1740, jousting contests, carousels, and masked balls7.
During the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), various influential politicians attended the Spanish Riding School7. During the Revolution of 1848, Viennese citizens met with the Reichstag there7.
Vienna is also home to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and seat of the Archbishop of Vienna, which people consider the most important religious building in the city8. It bore witness to many important events throughout Habsburg and Austrian history, and its multi-colored tile roof is one of the city’s most recognizable symbols8.
Travelers can visit Kunst Historisches Museum Wien, The Natural History Museum of Vienna, the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, and numerous other spots. But if there’s any place in Vienna that truly captures the essence of the city, it’s the Vienna Opera House. Vienna was where Sigmund Freud may have brought psychiatry and psychology to the forefront, but Vienna was also the main hub for classical and concert music.
The Vienna Opera House is one of the world’s leading opera houses9. It was especially renowned for its performances of works by Richard Wagner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Richard Strauss9. Its original theater, built in 1869, was located on the Ringstrausse9. Hans Richter (artistic director from 1880 to 1896) was a particularly famed conductor9. One of his major productions was Wagner’s cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen9. The opera reached a high point in its history under the conductorship of Gustav Mahler (1897-1907)9. It also reached a high point under other famous directors, including Clemens Krauss and Felix Weingartner (both of whom served from 1908 until Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938)9.
The Nazis destroyed the building through wartime bombing in 19459. The people reconstructed the opera house and completed it in 1955 (using taxes, contributions, and aid from the U.S. Marshall Plan)9. During its reconstruction, State Opera performances were held at the Vienna Volksoper (Folk Opera) and Theater an der Wien9. One of the most outstanding musical directors following World War II was Herbert von Karajan9. Today, Austria finances performances in part by state subsidies9.
Food, people, and landmarks are the usual draws of many major cities, but, for others, it’s art and music. And, in the case of Vienna, music is certainly the capital city’s main draw. Outside of the Vienna Opera House, music organizations like Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde have promoted musical development since 1812. The Vienna Boys Choir (which dates to 1498) and the Vienna Philharmonic are popular, and major venues such as the State Opera House, People’s Opera House, Burgtheater, and Theater an der Wien all host symphonic performances. “Schrammelmusik,” a type of modern folk music, involves instrumentalists playing accordions and double-necked guitars. Schrammelmusik arose from a mixture of rural Austrian, Hungarian, Slovenian, Moravian, and Bavarian immigrants who created a particular style of music while living in the slums of Vienna.
It’s classical scene during the 19th century, though, exploded with many of the most famous composers of the time—Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert. Some of Haydn’s greatest works include Symphony No. 94, Trumpet Concerto, The Seasons, Piano Sonata Hob. XVI/20, Symphony No. 45, Cello Concerto No. 1, Symphony No. 104, Nelson Mass, and The German national anthem. Beethoven’s most famous pieces include Ode to Joy (The Ninth Symphony), The Sonata Pathetique, the Moonlight Sonata, and Für Elise.
Franz Schubert’s most notable works include Ave Maria, Symphony No 8, Winterreise, Fantasia in F Minor, Impromptus, Die Forelle, and Trout Quinet. And, finally, the one-and-only Mozart, whose timeless compositions include Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Requiem, Piano Sonata No. 11, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, Symphony No. 40, The Magic Flute, The Turkish March, Clarinet Concerto, Piano Sonata in A, K331: III, and Sonata for Two Pianos.
Out of all the Viennese composers, Beethoven and Mozart are undoubtedly the two most memorable (at least from a pop cultural perspective). When one thinks of either, they probably think of a few possible things. They may think of Mozart’s prodigious talent (identifying chords at age three and writing symphonies at age five), Beethoven’s struggle with deafness, Chuck Berry’s famous “Roll Over, Beethoven”, or parents who play Mozart’s music to their babies (in the hopes of sharpening their intelligence). Milos Forman’s Oscar-sweeping film, Amadeus (1984), brilliantly captured Mozart’s life and music (as well as his supposed rivalry with Antonio Salieri). The Allied forces during World War II used “da-da-da-dum” from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as the symbol for victory. One aesthetic analysis asserts that Beethoven’s legendary four notes represent “fate knocking at one’s door.”
What must it be like to compose a symphony? I play instruments myself but have never written music at that scale. It must be extremely difficult, but also extremely engaging and meaningful. Music is one of the most precise forms of art. Notes that comprise both chords and melodies are written out across very specific measures. Measures include time signatures that indicate how “long” the note is (whole, half, quarter, eighth, and so on), and how many times that note-length should appear.
For instance, 4/4 means that a quarter note gets one beat, and there are 4 quarter notes in a single measure. Notes can be “natural,” “sharp,” or “flat.” Measures can repeat, symbols depict how loudly or softly instrumentalists should play their notes, and how they should or should not join them. Some markings indicate that the notes should sound “choppy” and discrete, while others indicate that players should slur their notes. A single western scale contains 12 half-notes and 8 whole-notes (an octave). The combinations are seemingly infinite!!
Music is a latticework of mathematical precision through which immense, ineffable wonder suffuses. It can tame the wildest beast (at least according to the old expression). Really great music brings about a quality of experience that people know but can’t explicitly identify, and that is the beauty of it. If music appeals to you and you want to go to a city where music takes center stage, Vienna, Austria is one major spot to go to.
 Brook 2012, pp. 146–147.
 “St. Charles Church” . VIENNA – Now. Forever. Retrieved August 13, 2019.