For its intoxicating blend of rich tradition and exciting modernity, Austria is well worth another visit. The new Austria honors Baroque palaces as well as contemporary architecture and celebrates the classical along with the ultra-hip. Menus offer traditional favorites and the taste-tingling interpretations of creative chefs.
Vienna, known for incomparable music, intimate coffee houses and imperial heritage, is a cultural trend-setter even as it cherishes the past. This city of tremendous sophistication and elegance still dazzles visitors with the beauty of the Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn Palace, and the magnificence of the Spanish Riding School and the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Gustav Klimt’s famous work, “The Kiss,” casts its spell at the Belvedere Palace and the Albertina houses an incredible collection of graphic arts. At the same time, the MuseumsQuartier is a major center for contemporary art, architecture, dance and fashion.
Vienna’s culinary scene is exhilarating. Many restaurants, including the Österreicher im MAK and the Steirereck im Stadtpark, are fulfilling diners’ desires by putting a contemporary spin on traditional Viennese cuisine. Locals and visitors enjoy delicious lunch offerings at the Naschmarkt, the colorful outdoor food market.
Upscale establishments on the Kärntner Strasse, Kohlmarkt and Graben, near St. Stephen’s Cathedral, are full of temptations. Long-time favorites, J&L Lobmeyr crystal and the sweet delicacies at Demel’s, are complemented by the trendy Mühlbauer hat shop and the new Swarovski Crystallized store.
A baroque beauty, Salzburg is just a short hop from Vienna. Well-known as the birthplace of Mozart and the location of “The Sound of Music,” the city is crowned by the massive Hohensalzburg Fortress. Take in the art (and the spectacular views) at the Museum of Modern Art Salzburg Mönchsberg, across from the fortress, then explore the pedestrian-friendly old town, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The architecturally avant-garde Hangar-7 houses the gourmet restaurant Ikarus as well as a collection of historic airplanes. And of course, the city still rewards the ears and the heart with the famous Salzburg Festival, celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.
Just south of Vienna, Austria’s second-largest city, Graz, is definitely worth a visit. Aside from the historic city center (enjoy the view from the top of the castle!), Graz has a decidedly Mediterranean feel and is a must-visit destination for food-lovers. The rich countryside provides Graz and its many fine restaurants with fresh produce. Stroll through the historic Renaissance center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, up to the imposing clock tower on the Schlossberg. The Zeughaus contains the world’s greatest collection of arms and armor, while the Kunsthaus, nicknamed “the friendly alien” for its unusual architecture, is the place to view contemporary art.
This is the time to rediscover Austria: as wonderful as always and better than ever!