City Guide Vienna

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Tradition and Modernity

Issue 03/2010

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Text Ilona Marx  Photos Andi Zimmermann  Illustration Roman Klonek

For centuries Vienna was one of Europe’s most important cultural hubs; with the decline of the Habsburg monarchy after the First World War, however, hard times fell upon the city. Whereas art and architectural history was once being written in the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, thanks to Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner and the Secessionist movement, during the following decades the old Kaiser city stagnated in European mediocrity. Compared with what was going on in Paris or London, things were pretty tame in Vienna.

In the past ten years however, Vienna has changed its course dramatically, and has once again been presenting itself from its best side since the turn of the 21st century. Quality of life is of a high standard: according to a study by Mercer Consulting, Vienna occupied first place in 2010 leaving 220 other metropolises in its wake. Some Viennese may mock the results but, as we know, whinging is part of the Austrian repertoire and the facts speak for themselves: the local public transport system is perfect, criminality is low. There are parks and public spaces as far as the eye can see and rent and living costs are moderate.

And it’s not just the hard facts that tick all the boxes: when it comes to inspiration things are also looking up. Young Vienna is booming – in addition to the established art world an independent scene is opening up, giving the traditional galleries and museums a run for their money and the bar and club scene has never been livelier. In the districts inside the belt, especially in Wieden, Mariahilf, Neubau and Josefstadt, rows and rows of bars and clubs, alternative restaurants and small design shops can be found. But even in the chic 1st district there are some hidden gems. Particularly attractive is the combination of new indie projects and older traditional bars, which are loved for their originality and quaintness, not only by the older regulars and the tourists but also increasingly by the hip Viennese. Coffee houses and bars, whose interiors – and sometimes their bar staff – have remained unchanged for 50 years or more, are highly favoured by the young clubbing crowd.

And traditional Viennese fare is also back in vogue. After Asian food quite literally being on the tip of everyone’s tongue, the trend is now returning to local fare. Young restaurant owners are especially conscious of where their produce comes from. Often it is sourced locally and is of the highest quality. So you can really enjoy life on the banks of the beautiful Danube: where and how you can do that best in Vienna in 2010 is revealed on the following pages in words and pictures by J’N’C editor-in-chief Ilona Marx and photographer Andi Zimmermann.

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