1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
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Vienna Unwrapped

by Suzanne Fluhr on July 27, 2012 · 7 comments

Imperial Palace in Vienna, Austria

A visit to Vienna is still on my Baby Boomer travel bucket list, so I am happy to be able to share this guest post by Barbara Grüll-Cação, a native of Vienna who runs a travel site (Vienna Unwrapped) dedicated to sharing the wonders of her home city. 

Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria

Viennese culture is rich, sophisticated and layered. The city is renowned for its baroque palaces, virtuosic orchestras, waltzing couples and sumptuous cakes. Like most former imperial capitals, Vienna developed and nurtures a distinct culture which has delighted visitors for centuries.

Mozart and classical Vienna concerts  have more than stood the test of time. The Vienna Opera House continues to sell out 98 percent of its seats at each performance. The Museum of Fine Arts (the Habsburg Emperors’ art treasure chest) ranks at the top in annual museum pass sales. The dance floors of traditional balls are more packed than the Japanese subway at rush-hour, and top local coffeehouses continue to entice visitors with their century old interiors and their tried and true cuisine.

While old Vienna enthralls, the secret is to stay long enough to catch Vienna’s old world charm where it intersects with the city’s modern day zeitgeist (spirit).   The robustness of new art forms is accentuated and enhanced by the pairing with traditional culture.  Each becomes more unique, yet more accessible.

Here are five Vienna experiences that embody the “old meets new” vibe:

New Life in Old Skin: Museumsquartier and Augarten

The Museumsquartier, one of Europe’s ten largest cultural complexes, houses contemporary art space with cafes and restaurants in the Habsburgs’ baroque former Imperial Stables. The visitor will find Art Nouveau coexisting with Pop Art, 50ies style cafes and ultramodern PVC designer loungers in a baroque setting.

Museumsquartier, Vienna, Austria

Museumsquartier, Vienna, Austria (Copyright Ali Schafler)

Even the 18th century baroque gardens of the Augarten provide an exuberant mélange of design and art through the ages. There one will find the second oldest porcelain manufactory in Europe (dating from 1718) and a museum dedicated to that craft. The Augarten Contemporary Museum opened in 2011. Through 2015, this museum will showcase the collections of the renowned art patron Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, wife of Karl von Habsburg (the grandson of the last Austrian Emperor).  In stark contrast to the old and new art, the Augarten has preserved two monolithic anti-aircraft combat towers from World War II, and Bunkerei, an original WW II bunker turned hip tavern and musical event location.   The Augarten also houses the schools run by the iconic Vienna Boys Choir and a performance venue for them is in the works.

Augarten, Vienna, Austria

Augarten, Vienna, Austria (copyright Vienna Unwrapped)

Classical Opera House that Rocks: Theater An Der Wien

The Theater an der Wien is simultaneously one of the oldest Vienna theatres and our youngest opera house. The theatre regularly excels with new productions of rare classical masterpieces. One of the highlights next year will be the performance of Georg Friedrich Haendel’s baroque opera Radamisto, a rousing success in London at its premiere in 1720. The senses will be treated to an opulent baroque composition in a modern stage setting with vibrant costumes by contemporary French designer, Christian Lacroix.

Theatre an der Wien, Vienna, Austria Haendel Baroque Opera Serse

Scene from the baroque opera, Serse, by G.F. Haendel, Theatre an der Wien, Vienna

Music with Charisma:  The Philharmonics

Blend the virtuosity of a Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with an extra dash of charisma and Viennese ‘Schmaeh’ (humour), and you get ‘The Philharmonics”. This renowned group of seven highly professional classical musicians, five of them with a philharmonic background, perform an eclectic blend of multi-ethnic folk music, classics and even improvisation.  On December 31st, this group is scheduled to perform a New Year’s Eve concert this year.  When you visit Vienna, check local listings to see if you are fortunate enough to be able to attend one of their concerts.

Traditional Cuisine with a Modern Accent: The Österreicher im MAK

Restaurant Österreicher im MAK (Museum for Applied Arts and Contemporary Art) delights both the palate and the eyes. This stylish eatery blends elements of local Viennese taverns with minimalist urban design while serving traditional Viennese cuisine with a contemporary accent.

Austrian star chef Helmut Österreicher interprets traditional Viennese cuisine in a fresh way. The Vienna beef carpaccio with lettuce and pumpkin seed oil is light and aromatic, the goulash makes no resistance whatsoever to your knife, and the apricot dumplings are firm yet fluffy. Hence, it is no surprise that the Culinary Heritage department of the Austrian Food Marketing Agency is not alone in praising Helmut’s food.

Restaurant Oesterreicher im MAK, Vienna, Museum for Applied Arts and Contemporary Arts

Restaurant Oesterreicher im MAK, Vienna (copyright Vienna Unwrapped)

Old Vienna Café of the 21st Century: The Drechsler

Traditional coffeehouses require neither filthy upholstery with smoke-stained wallpaper nor Empress Sisi paintings to authenticate their charms. The prime example for this is Café Drechsler.  This coffeehouse institution is located next to the historic Naschmarkt. British architect, Sir Terence Conran, turned the Drechsler into the “traditional” café of the 21st century through a careful makeover in 2007. Since then, it has become a trendy spot for young local urbanists and late night party goers. It is open 23 hours per day!

Cafe Drechsler, Vienna, Austria

Cafe Drechsler, Vienna

About Barbara Grüll-Cação 

Barbara Grüll-Cação, a native of Vienna, runs the boutique travel site Vienna UnwrappedAt this site, she shares her “little black book” about the best of her Austrian home town. Barbara has lived in and around Vienna for 30 years. She now visits the city regularly from London where she resides with her husband and two children.   

Barbara recommends the following Tours of Vienna for independent travelers: Culture and Danube Bike Tour, City Segway Tour, Private Walking Tour to traditional small trade shops.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Roz Warren July 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Visiting Vienna isn’t on my bucket list, but if I ever end up planning to go there, I now know who to turn to for help. Thanks, Barbara!


Steven Albelda July 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Never really thought too much about going, but it really does look very nice. Should put it on the list!


Billie August 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

One of the best perks of working at my company is its incentive trips. In February 2003 our trip was to Vienna. (Okay, it wasn’t as exotic as the trip to Rio de Janeiro). My son, who was only 8, was knocked out by the roped off area the airport designated for smokers (yuck! a bunch of people puffing away en masse). Once we cleared that, it was smooth sailing for a cultural-filled several days. We saw the Belvedere and its Gustav Klimt paintings, the Opera House, the hot chocolate mit schlagg at historically famous Demel’s, on our way to the Hofburg….We loved the MAK (Museum of Design) which was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Wiener Werkstätte, and we loved the juxtaposition of cobblestone streets and new architecture mixed with old. It’s an under-rated city that’s almost as beautiful as Paris, and is ever-so-walkable. We even found that Vienna served some pretty good wines to accompany that schnitzel. Who woulda thunk?


Just One Boomer August 3, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for the value added comment, Billie. Beautiful walkable cities are the best. Now all I have to do is convince Boomeresque readers that Philadelphia belongs in that category.


Marilyn August 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I have wonderful memories of a stay in Vienna years ago – so much wonderful art and pastry!
PS – about Philadelphia – the news is already out! Walkscore ranks it the 5th most walkable city in the US, with Center City getting a score of 97 out of 100.


Just One Boomer August 4, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for sharing your memories about Vienna and for the news about Philly! It’s nice to find out Philadelphia ranks near the top of the list for something good for a change.


Gary Francis March 12, 2019 at 11:38 pm

We had Christmas in Vienna a couple of years ago. Coming from Australia, we’d never had a white Christmas, and – while it didn’t snow – there was a frosty cover everywhere and the nights had a magical misty quality. The markets were brilliant – especially at night – and we grew to love mulled wine. Finished the day ice skating. One of our favourite Christmases…


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