A landlocked country in Central Europe, Austria boasts eight neighbors and a mountainous landscape in which only about a third of the country is below 500m. Here, you can access snow-capped alpine views as easily as lavish imperial palaces; secluded villages as easily as crowd-filled urban spaces. You can walk in the footsteps of the royal Hapsburgs, famed artists such as Klimt and Schiele, or musical greats such as Mozart, Strauss and Schubert.
BASICS /// Flag: 🇦🇹 // Capital: Vienna // Currency: euro // Languages: German (and regional languages)
SEEHundertwasserhaus: A colorful fever-dream of a building, worth seeing for its splendid contrast with the subdued Viennese residences surrounding it. Stephansdom: Famed cathedral with tiled roof; check out its reflection in the modern Haas House built opposite the church. Secession - Beautiful, leaf-domed building built to house Viennese Secession artists and currently housing a mix of modern and contemporary exhibitions. Don't miss the Beethoven frieze in the basement. Museumsquartier: This sprawling complex (built in the old Hapsburg stables - look above the tunnel entrances for a glimpse of horse heads marking the buildings' original purpose) houses a series of museums and shops and restaurants. Especially worth seeing are the Leopold Museum, for its unparalleled collection of Egon Schiele paintings, and MUMOK, for its interesting modern art exhibitions. Leopold and MUMOK are also worth looking at from the outside, as they both hail from the crashed-meteorite school of aesthetics.
DONaschmarkt: Extensive market with fresh and prepared foods from all over the world, and plenty of space within which to linger for a bit to eat them. Burg Kino: Old cinema notable for its regular showings of "The Third Man," a 1949 English-language thriller set in Vienna. Art Nouveau walking tour: Take a self-guided walk past many highlights of Austria's art nouveau architecture, including Otto Wagner's Imperial-Royal Post Office Savings Bank and Majolikahaus and Musenhaus on the Wienzeile; and Joseph Maria Olbrich's Secession Building. Cafe culture: A stop to while away an afternoon in one of Vienna's storied coffeeshops is a must. The atmosphere is key here, moreso than the food and drink. Try Cafe Sperl or Cafe Dreschler.
EATMochi: Delicious assortment of Japanese delights - sushi, ramen, rolls. Great for takeaway on a nice day. Leones: Gelato & ice cream perfection. Feinste Burger: One of the best burgers I've had. Take a wander through the lovely Karmelitermarkt (outdoor market) while you're there. Bitzinger sausage stand: A taste of Viennese street food and a satisfying mix of high and low when eaten while gazing at majestic old buildings. Ulrich: Cozy cafe with fresh and local food - try one of their delicious salads. Phil: Eclectic coffeeshop/bookshop/cafe.
SHOPBurggasse 24: Buzzy little vintage shop with adjoining cafe.
STAYGrätzl Hotel: An intriguing hotel concept: old storefronts renovated into spacious, well-decorated apartment-style rooms, and a welcome that makes you feel like a local. Our spot in Karmelitermarkt was the perfect base from which to explore Vienna.
Chess Story (also known as The Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig
This story — the last novella of Zweig’s prolific career before the author’s death by suicide in 1942 — muses on Hitler’s rise to power and the psychological underpinnings of Nazism through the lens of a chess game played by passengers on a ship traveling from New York to Buenos Aires.
Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler
Schnitzler may be most known for having penned the novella (Rhapsody: A Dream Novel) on which Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut was based, but this recently discovered work is a lively takedown of turn-of-the century decadence in Viennese society and literary pretensions.
Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
A sprawling family epic, this 1932 novel tells the story of three generations of a family during the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
A noted satirist and aphorist, Kraus was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times. (For more, see Reading In / Karl Kraus in Vienna).
The Counterfeiters (film)
Winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, this film tells a fictionalized account of Operation Bernhard, a secret plan by Nazi Germany to flood the U.K.’s market with forged pound notes. The film is based on a memoir by Adolf Burger, who was forced to assist with the operation while imprisoned at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
Michael Haneke (Director)
Known for films such as The White Ribbon, Amour and The Piano Teacher, Haneke has built his directorial career on often-controversial works highlighting the suffering, violence and estrangement underpinning modern society.
This 2008 film tells the story of a Viennese ex-con who commits a bank robbery in an attempt to improve life for himself and his Ukrainian girlfriend.
A symbolist painter and founding member of the Secession movement, Klimt worked in both the fine and decorative arts. His distinctive style featured frank eroticism (highly controversial at the time) and depictions of the female body, often, in his Golden Phase, framed by gold leaf.
One of Klimt’s protégés, Schiele’s brief career featured a variety of self-portraits noted for their raw intensity.
Also a poet and playwright, as an artist, Kokoschka is known for his expressionistic portraits and landscapes.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (composer)
Born in Salzburg, Mozart began composing at the age of five and by the time of his early death at the age of 35, had composed more than 600 influential classical works.
Franz Joseph Haydn (composer)
Haydn, a friend of Mozart and teacher of Beethoven, is often called the father of the symphony and helped pioneer the development of what became classical music and styles.
Gustav Mahler (composer)
Mahler was a composer and leading conductor of his generation, who helped form a bridge between 19th and 20th century styles.
Franz Schubert (composer)
Another extremely prolific composer before his early death (over 600 works before the age of 32), Schubert’s work was largely appreciated only after his death. He is now one of the most frequently performed composers of the early 19th century.
Falco, “Rock Me Amadeus” (Song)
Though Falco enjoyed popularity throughout Germany and Austria during their career, this 1985 song about Mozart was the musician’s only number one hit in the U.S. and the U.K.
Breadcrumbed and fried veal.
Boiled lean beef served with root vegetables such as carrots, leeks or turnips which flavor the broth it is boiled in.
Roast pork, a traditional Sunday lunch in eastern Austria. Often comes with sauerkraut, dumplings (knödel) and gravy.
Chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam, though the original recipe is kept a closely-guarded secret by Hotel Sacher Vienna.
Apple strudel with very thin, baklava-esque dough.