Exploring the music and art of Vienna

An inside look at the city of Klimt and Mozart

There's no denying that Vienna is a cultural and architectural gem; just walking down Ringstrasse, the main street, lined with marble statues and horse-drawn carriages, feels like stepping into an ostentatious, glittering dream. Its beauty has inspired artists for decades, no matter their medium, from legendary composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven to symbolist master Gustav Klimt and the visual artists involved in the Vienna Secession.

The tourists who typically come visit are drawn to the capital city of Austria's rich cultural heritage, and for very good reason. The city's art museums––from the sprawling Belvedere to the jaw-dropping collections of the Albertina—boast large and imposing collections of rare works; the aforementioned Albertina holds several of the scarce remaining sketches drawn by Leonardo Da Vinci, and has hosted exhibitions featuring legendary contemporaries such as Marc Chagall.

Of course, the Viennese art scene has a special place in its heart for Klimt, his protégé Egon Schiele, and other great symbolists of the Vienna Secession. From the golden-domed Secession Building, which displays several of their works to the several knock-off portraits (and mugs and posters and tapestries) of The Kiss you'll find all around the city. Remember that as pretty as the image itself is, there's no replacement for the real thing; save your money and actually visit the famous painting, which is on display at the Belvedere; all that glitters is not gold leaf.

All that said, Vienna is known worldwide as The City of Music; as appealing as the visual is here, forgetting the sonic would be sacrilege of the highest order. Vienna is deeply steeped in classical music, which comes as no surprise looking at the musicians who helped shape it. Fans of Beethoven will flock to the Wien Museum Pasqualatihaus, a small apartment where he used to live that has been turned into a museum that holds several of his old manuscripts, as well as the Haus Der Musik, which houses original pieces by Mozart, set designs for his operas, and interactive, modern exhibits, including a particularly fun room where music is created in tune to your movements. Of course, opera is huge in the city, and a visit to the Vienna State Opera is a must before you go, if you're serious about musical lineage. There's just something about watching an opera in the same theater where Mozart premiered his works that brings chills to your elegantly-clothed spine (only formal-wear is accepted to attend the opera here).

In a city so shaped by its artists and thinkers—Sigmund Freud's influence has given Vienna a secondary nickname: The City of Dreams—it is absolutely necessary to dive head-first into the culture they left behind. Vienna has been ranked #1 in quality of life poll for Mercer eight years running; in a city with such easy access to brilliant acts of expression, this is as unsurprising as it is well-deserved.

For more information on Vienna's arts and culture, visit the city's official website.

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