The streets of Vienna are paved with culture, the streets of other cities with asphalt.Karl Kraus
Alright, as promised, my list of favorite cities around the world begins with the beautiful Austrian city of Vienna. I have to say that I should have included Salzburg on my list as well. Salzburg is such an amazing little town nestled in the hills with a river running through it. Ah. I miss traveling. But…on to my #1….
VIENNA…The first time I visited Vienna, I was in awe. I can say that about many places you visit for the first time but Vienna has something especially alluring to an artist. It’s where some of the most amazing art was born. Beethoven, Mozart, and KLIMT all loved Vienna and so do I. When I received a creative brief to create an illustrated map, I chose Vienna and included a few of its most iconic attractions and treats, including the croissant, which is actually called a Kipfel and is said to have been introduced to France when Marie Antoinette arrived. They say she missed her favorite pastry so the chefs of Versailles re-created it for her. The result is the magnificent butter croissant. Oye, back on track…Now this is a consolidated list, of course. There really is so much more to see and enjoy then what I’ve included and I know as soon as I hit POST I’m going to remember 5 more. So, here it is – Vienna, It’s my #1 top choice to revisit and here’s why…
*Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Let’s start with one of the most beautiful and magical art museums in the world!! So, It’s difficult to even approach the doors to enter this incredible space because you are so overtaken by the exterior. I do not say this lightly…I’ve been to museums all over the world, including the Louvre, and this one is truly stunning. Once you step inside, however, you are again overwhelmed with a magnificent space full of black marble columns topped with gold corinthian caps framing detailed arches – the walls of which are painted by Gustave Klimt with realistic depictions of beautiful women, children and angels, all detailed with gold halos and intricate patterns. He created these paintings before developing his signature style but are what made him famous during his time.
Probably one of the most well known artists in the world – he’s right up there with Mucha…Don’t get me started on Mucha & Prague. That’s another post :). But you can see so much of Klimt’s work in Vienna. The Secession building is where you can see Klimt’s unfinished Beethoven Frieze murals and it is where he helped bring modern art to the forefront. To really see Klimt’s most famous works you have to visit the Belvedere Palace Museum. Another spectacular building to marvel in which also happens to house ‘The Kiss’.
If you walk into a coffee shop in 1903 Vienna, you might find at the same table the artist Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud, Leon Trotsky and possibly Adolf Hitler, who lived in Vienna at the same time.eric Weiner
The Plague Column
Horrible name, I know. But this is one of the most spectacular sculptures post Gian Lorenzo Bernini. This High Baroque masterpiece stands in the center of Vienna and is a memorial to the thousands who died in the great plague of 1679. There were many versions created and several artist contributed as the Emperor at the time vowed to have a column erected if the plague would come to an end. The incredibly narrative sculpture was completed in 1694 and highly influenced the arts in Vienna with its theatrical composition. It’s impossible to capture it’s perfection in a photo. I think I took 30 pics and nothing compared or depicted it’s magnificence. You have to be able to step up close and circle around it to admire the little cherubs peeking out of the clouds, the fine gold details sprinkled throughout, and the wonderfully emotional figures that are so perfectly poignant, especially now, as we slowly emerge from our own version of a plague.
The Palaces – Hofburg, Schonbrunn, and Belvedere
Vienna is full of wonderfully opulent palaces and you could spend days in each and I could write about each for pages and pages. But I digress. I really, really love wandering through a these incredible spaces with their ornate details and textures in their architecture and furnishings, beautifully manicured variety of gardens, the murals, frescoes and mosaics, and of course, the art, treasuries, and chapels. Schonbrunn is a rococo palace (AMAZING) with incredible gardens and is called the Versailles of Austria. Worth the extra time is a visit to the Sissi (also known as Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria) museum in the Baroque Hofburg Palace. And of course, as mentioned above, Belvedere Palace has a collection of Klimt paintings…including ‘The Kiss.’
St Stephen’s Cathedral
It must of been about 12 years ago when my dad accompanied me to Europe. It was his first time and Vienna was one of our stops. I remember he and I walking through the center of Vienna admiring the architecture of St. Stephen’s with its blue, yellow, and green tiled roof, when I said we should go inside he declined. “No, no, we don’t have to”. No sure why he didn’t feel like going inside but I insisted and when we stepped inside he was gobsmacked!!! Really. The interior is undeniably stunning – with every corner dripping in gothic splendor.
City Mosaics & Murals
I’ve always said that the best way to visit a city is just to wander. Wander to explore and wander until you are lost in the labyrinth of it’s culture. I’ve discovered so many wonderful things when lost in an a new city. Now I use the term lost loosely…are you ever really lost with a map in hand? Part of the fun is working to find your way back :) One of the many wonderful things about Vienna is that it is so jam packed with art. It’s not just in the museums or historic and iconic buildings everyone flocks to. It’s on the everyday buildings that you pass that are lined with shop windows below, but when you look above, are framed with beguiling narrative mosaics that stop you dead in your tracks. Makes you wish you had a ladder handy, just to view it’s incredible detail and color up close.
Viennese Coffee and Sacher torte
I’ve saved the essentials for last ;) It’s no secret I love chocolate, sweets, anything wonderfully tasty. So I have to talk about one of my favorites…The Sacher Tort. Now, you have to sit down in the lovely Sacher Hotel cafe with a view of the opera house and have a viennese coffee with a slice of Sacher Tort. Sacher is the finest hotel in Vienna and is just lovely. But, it is also where the Sacher Tort was created for Prince Metternich by an apprentice chef named Franz Sacher when the head chef became ill. How cool is that. Franz was only 16 at the time and used a delicate apricot preserves between his layers of chocolate. It’s traditionally served with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream since the chocolate is so delightfully rich. It’s perfection!!!
I designed this fun little recipe illustration for fun this morning while sipping the decadent viennese coffee that Remmie made me.
I had a Sacher Tort shipped last year for Remmie for Fathers day and per tradition, it came in a lovely wooden box. Sacher often releases limited edition boxes with famous paintings printed on the tops. It was delicious, of course, but nothing compares to enjoying it within a Vienna cafe where you are soaking up extra doses of creatively rich culture. So in the famous words of Billy Joel…”Vienna waits for you”
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true. When will you realize… Vienna waits for you.billy joel