Bill Strubbe discovers Vienna's sweet spots, from jewel-like artwork, to the city’s most famous dessert.

   State Hall of the Austrian National Library
If antiquarian books fill you with awe, then don’t miss the stunning State Hall of the Austrian National Library, designed in the early 1700s by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. This jewel of secular Baroque architecture features trompe-l’œil ceiling frescoes by Daniel Gran, depicting themes of war and peace, secret reading nooks once favored for trysts, and towering shelves filled with over 200,000 tomes, including one of the largest collections of Martin Luther’s writings. There’s also an extensive map collection and the world’s only terrestrial and celestial globe museum. (Josefsplatz 1;     

   Giant Ferris Wheel and 'Third Man' Museum
Movie buffs will recognize this Viennese landmark immortalized in the 1949 classic noir film, “The Third Man,” featuring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. (Near the city center, there is a Third Man Museum devoted to the stars, shot locations, and post-war Vienna. Tours of the sewer, featured in the film, can also be booked.)

Similar to other popular panorama wheels of the era—built in Paris, Chicago, and London in the late 1800s by the British engineer Walter Basset—the Riesenrad was the site of a fantastic film stunt, where Madame Solange d’Atalide completed one rotation atop a cabin, on horseback. Sans the horse, from about 200 feet above Prater Amusement Park, enjoy a view of the city and the Danube River.

(Riesenrad; Third Man Museum, Pressgasse 25;

   The Original Sachertorte
In addition to music, never was a city so in thrall to flaky, fruity, creamy treats; it’s a wonder that the Viennese aren’t all fat. In 1832, Prince Metternich requested a dessert from his court kitchen for a reception. The head chef was ill, and 16-year-old apprentice Franz Sacher concocted something hitherto unknown and utterly delicious: chocolate cake coated in apricot jam, then iced in chocolate. While you can sample Vienna’s most famous dessert, the Sachertorte, at the Hotel Sacher, another excellent option is at the rival Café Demel, where you can watch the confectioners in action through the workshop window. Best served up with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and melange, Viennese coffee.

(Café Demel, Kohlmarkt 14; Café Sacher, Hotel Sacher, Philharmonikerstraße 4;

   Upper Belvedere — Art of Gustav Klimt
Though you may not recognize the term “Vienna Secessionists,” you are undoubtedly familiar with the golden and jewel-like works of that artistic movement’s Gustav Klimt, his masterpieces being “The Kiss” and “Judith,” both on display. Prince Eugene of Savoy, a military general and art connoisseur, built Belvedere as his summer residence outside the gates of the city, consisting of two palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere), which today house Austrian art spanning from the Middle Ages to the present, as well as works by French Impressionists.

(Belvedere, Prinz-Eugen-Straße 27;

   Spanish Riding School
To some, this pinnacle of animal performance, with graceful pirouettes and caprioles, a demonstration of perfected movement (haute école), could be heaven; to others, watching horses unnaturally prancing about on tiptoe, divorced from all natural movements, could be like viewing an equine hell.

The magnificent baroque riding hall, replete with chandeliers, hosted royal ball revelries during its 300-year existence and was originally built to provide aristocratic youths with riding instruction. Many years of training merge rider and the pure white Lipizzaner horses (as the animals mature, they morph from black to white) into a seemingly inseparable unit. You may not have time to see a performance, but tours are available.

(Spanish Riding School, Michaelerplatz 1;

In the 16th century, a milk market existed along Vienna’s second river, the Wienfluss, which was covered over in the 1880s with stalls. Here, from dawn until dusk, the outdoor bazaar throngs with tourists and locals alike, shopping for fresh produce, international delicacies, cheese and confections, or relaxing over beer at a café. In recent years, trendy restaurants have moved in: Tewa serves organic cuisine, Do-An features great Vietnamese, Neni offers Israeli-Middle Eastern dishes from shakshuka to tabouleh, and Orient & Occident plies Turkish home cooking. On weekends, the Saturday flea market and evening DJ draw in a young and hip crowd.

(Naschmarkt, Wienzeile 6, between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse;

   The Anchor Clock (Ankeruhr)
Designed by artist Franz von Matsch in elaborate Art Nouveau style, the clock spans two buildings of the Anker Insurance Company above Hoher Markt. A tribute to Austrian history, at their appointed hour, historical figures, among them Joseph Haydn, Emperor Maximilian I, Empress Maria Theresa and Prince Eugene of Savoy, traipse across the bridge, accompanied by music supplied by the hidden 1,000-pipe organ. At high noon is the full 12-minute processional extravaganza. (Hoher Markt 10-11.)


Vienna, Vienna sightseeing, Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel, Third Man Museum , The Anchor Clock, Ankeruhr , Naschmarkt, State Hall of the Austrian National Library , Spanish Riding School , Upper Belvedere, Art of Gustav Klimt , The Original Sachertorte
Posted On: 01 March 2011    Print    Email
Author: Bill Strubbe

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