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Cool City by Christina Libuda | 3rd June, 2022 | Playground

Hello, Vienna! The Austrian metropolis with its romantic old town and unique culture scene is one of the world’s most livable cities. An experience between conservatism and avant-garde.

T he Austrian capital draws millions of visitors each year. Built on the wealth of the nearly 600-year-old Habsburg monarchy, Vienna still looks like a city from a fairy tale, with horse-drawn carriages that clatter across the cobblestones, opulent palaces hung with glittering golden chandeliers and bright throngs of people going about their business in the narrow, winding streets. Extensive parks beckon on the banks of the Danube and the infrastructure is excellent. Small wonder, then, that the city has topped Mercer’s Quality of Living survey for ten years in a row. And that London-based news magazine The Economist has repeatedly named Vienna the world’s most livable city – ahead of Melbourne and Osaka.

Vienna’s historic center is encircled by the Ringstraße, a grand boulevard lined with magnificent buildings, museums and concert halls. Towering over everything is the Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), a Gothic masterpiece complete with ornate towers and a colorful tiled roof. Walk up the 343 steps of the south tower and you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Hofburg, a 13th century palace complex that contains the Spanish Riding School with its magnificent Lipizzan stallions, and the Hofburg Chapel, where the bright voices of the Vienna Boys’ Choir ring out at Sunday Mass. Baroque Belvedere Palace has a permanent collection of select works by Gustav Klimt, including “The Kiss.” In the white and gold Hall of Mirrors at Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played for Empress Maria Theresa in 1762 when he was only 6. Immortal composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler still feature regularly on Vienna’s concert calendar, which boasts 15,000 musical events each year. Before the coronavirus pandemic, 10,000 people of classical music every evening – something unheard of anywhere else. The Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), Wiener Konzerthaus and Burgtheater are among the top venues.

But time hasn’t stood still either. The monolithic architecture and colorful Enzo lounge furniture that distinguish the MuseumsQuartier (MQ), an ensemble located in the former imperial stables, set a contemporary tone. The Mumok Museum is dedicated to 20th century works – from Pop Art to Viennese Actionism, while the Albertina exhibits works by Anselm Kiefer, Egon Schiele and Albrecht Dürer. The city’s food scene is also very diverse. In Nook Vienna, guests are greeted by the smell of cinnamon, sugar and freshly baked bread. Habibi & Hawara, which serves Middle Eastern fare, is part of an independent immigrant integration program. Otto Bauer offers regional specialties with a twist, the Zum Schwarzen Kameel restaurant is a Viennese institution and Café Central and Café Korb are absolutely legendary.