Vienna: the musical capital of the world

Vienna still lives up to its reputation as the musical capital of the world, with concert halls and opera houses resounding with glorious music throughout the year

Wednesday 27 January 2010 16:41

For many centuries, Vienna was the glittering capital of a great empire. The sponsorship of the Habsburg dynasty and many of the aristocrats at the imperial court created an excellent (and often lucrative) environment for musicians and artists. It is thus not surprising that many great composers were attracted to the city – they came, stayed and wrote immortal music: Gluck, Beethoven and Brahms were born in other countries; Mozart, Haydn, Bruckner and Mahler hailed from within Austria. And the greatest truly Viennese opera ever composed, Der Rosenkavalier, was written by a Bavarian, Richard Strauss, who had never even lived in Vienna.

Viennese musical tradition has continued for centuries, from one great composer to the next, from Haydn to Mozart, from Mozart to Beethoven, from Beethoven to Schubert and onward far into the twentieth century. They may have stayed true to that tradition - yet each of them was completely unique.

This global capital of arts and music awaits with its characteristic charm, exciting events, and a fascinating blend of modernity and tradition, particularly during the winter months. At this time of year, bon vivants warm up in one of the cozy Viennese coffee houses. When it comes to intellectual exchange, taking a break from work and relaxation, these traditional Viennese institutions really cannot be replicated. A cup of Viennese coffee speaks volumes. Vienna is also famed for its sense of enjoyment that is present everywhere in any number of unique Viennese experiences.

Winter Dreams

Vienna has also established itself as a popular city break destination for Brits. In The Independent’s recent Winter Dreams competition in association with the Austrian National Tourist Office, readers were asked to tell us what their ideal winter dream in Austria would be. Many of the entries were of visiting Vienna. It was therefore no surprise that the winning entry was in the marvellous city.

On 22nd January, our winners Verity and Philip flew to Vienna and enjoyed the most romantic of city breaks. Neither of them had ever been to Vienna, but they had the time of their life. They stayed at the Hilton Hotel Stadtpark, enjoying dinner at the Vestibül and a visit to the Wiener Eistraum (Viennese Ice Dream). On Saturday they received dance lessons at the Dance School Svabek, then embarked on a street railway city tour. In the evening they donned evening attire and were taken by horse-drawn carriage to the Hofburg Ball where they danced the night away. On Sunday they enjoyed a guided city tour with coffee and cakes, returning home on Monday.


Please help! My heart knows I can waltz - but my feet haven't learned how yet! Living in the Scottish Highlands we can do a wild Strip-the-Willow, but when it comes to THE most romantic dance of all, Philip and I just shuffle round, treading on each others' toes, blushing and humiliated. I long for a magical transformation. Oh, to be taught by an Austrian waltz maestro. To be whirled around a candlelit ballroom floor by Philip, to the strains of a Strauss waltz, as the snow falls outside...

Verity Walker and Philip Eley from the Black Isle, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, couldn't believe their luck. They have both always longed to be able to dance properly and winning their winter dream of a trip to Vienna and dance lessons was beyond their wildest dreams. They had suggested Mr Svabek, their dance teacher, should be warned just how bad they are - but he turned out a patient man!

Philip manages the local medical surgery in Fortrose and will retire this year, while Verity runs the heritage consultancy Interpretaction which works in the UK and Europe. They have three children between them, William and Matilda (both 14) and Adelaide (7) who will stay with friends during the holiday. They are also both very active community volunteers, helping to run community events such as the Black Isle Gathering and the Black Isle Messiah musical event.

Whether you long for a romantic experience like Phillip & Vee or whether you fancy something a bit more upbeat and contemporary... Vienna has it all. Traditional Viennese shops and designer stores are located side-by-side with the emporiums which used to supply the imperial court. Cozy coffee houses and popular bars are the ideal place to while away the hours and relax after a shopping trip.

The Austrian capital is also out in front when it comes to nightlife with trendy bars and restaurants, discos, small clubs and beautiful open air locations during the summer months. The bars in the first district turn night into day with cool music and exotic cocktails. The thriving club scene has also been known to transform theaters and museums into pulsating late-night dance venues.

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