VIENNA -- Paris may boast the Louvre complex, and Berlin its Museum
Island, but now the Austrian capital, sporting its spanking-new
MuseumsQuartier, can give larger European art capitals a run for
Stymied by development difficulties for more than a decade, the
MuseumsQuartier -- a collection of 20 cultural institutions housed
in and around former stables at Vienna's Imperial Palace -- finally
debuted last summer and attracted some 700,000 visitors within five
months of opening.
"Vienna already had a reputation as a cultural center, but the
emphasis has been on its role as a birthplace of classical music
and art," said Sigrid Pichler, spokeswoman for the Austrian
National Tourist Office (ANTO) in New York. "Now, the
MuseumsQuartier offers a stronghold for contemporary arts, and it's
definitely the biggest cultural attraction in Austria."
Indeed, the MuseumsQuartier's constituent attractions occupy
some 2.4 million square feet of exhibition space, making the
city-center complex one of the 10 largest cultural districts in
Europe -- if not the world.
In addition, some three-quarters of Vienna's other cultural
must-sees are grouped around the refurbished palace and new
adjacent structures, according to the ANTO -- not to mention a bevy
of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, galleries, hotels and shopping
outlets, as well.
Among the attractions with the most widespread appeal are the
Leopold Museum, with 5,000 pieces of modern Austrian art, including
the world's largest Egon Schiele collection; the Museum of Modern
Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna (or MUMOK), one of Europe's largest
contemporary art collections; Tanzquartier Wien, a dance and
performance space with ongoing events; and the interactive Zoom
Kindermuseum and Children's Theater, with workshops and programs
for children ages 4 to 12.
As the MuseumsQuartier was designed as a mecca for creative
types -- rather than just an old-fashioned "treasure-house," as
official guides put it -- more esoteric venues include the
Architektur Zentrum Wien, an architectural exhibition and "platform
for reflection," and the T0 Public Netbase Media-Space, described
as "a competence center for [Internet] culture."
And the new Kunsthalle Wien exhibition space is now home to the
annual Vienna Festival, which this year takes place from May 10
through June 16, with 38 productions from 14 countries. Some 75,000
tickets will be available for 156 music, dance and theater
See www.festwochen.or.at on line for more information.
Perhaps the most unusual displays in the Museums-Quartier are to
be found in the Art Cult Center Tabakmuseum, which features -- in
addition to performance space -- a collection outlining the history
of tobacco since its arrival in Europe in the 15th century.
For those not completely worn out by the Museums-Quartier
itself, the nearby Music Mile Vienna walking route offers a stroll
through classical music history, from the Theater an der Wien on
Linke Wienzeile down the Karntner Strasse to St. Stephen's
Along the way, memorial stars set in the pavement commemorate 70
classical composers who had some connection to Vienna. Audio guides
in English are available. For more information, visit www.musikmeile.at on
A helping hand
Such a wide range of offerings might leave some visitors
bewildered, but one-hour English-language tours of the
MuseumsQuartier leave from the Infopool Visitor Center (at the main
entrance) every Saturday at noon, rain or shine. Tours in English
at other times can be arranged by e-mailing [email protected] or faxing
(011) 43-1 523-5886.
Tour tickets, available at the MQ Ticket Center near the main
entrance, cost three euros (about $2.70) per person. The ticket
center also sells combination museum admission tickets, priced at
22.50 euros (about $20) and valid for two consecutive days. They
include entrance to the Leopold Museum, the MUMOK, the Kunsthalle
Wien, the Architektur Zentrum and the Tabakmuseum and entitle
bearers to discounts at the Zoom Kindermuseum and the
Single, reduced-rate and family tickets also are available at
each institution. Although opening hours vary among museums, the
passages and walkways of the MuseumsQuartier are accessible 24
hours a day.
At press time, the ANTO had not worked with U.S. tour operators
to package visits to the MuseumsQuartier, said Pichler, due to
difficulty in coordinating entrance to each venue.
Eating, sleeping in
With each museum or attraction offering at least a cafe on
premises, visitors needn't wander far for refreshment; in fact, the
Cafe Halle at the Kunsthalle -- set in the Emperor's Lodge of the
former Winter Riding School -- is considered "a really trendy
restaurant" by native Viennese, said Pichler.
"The MuseumsQuartier gives a boost to the entire area, so the
neighborhood behind it is becoming more and more stylish," added
Eva Draxler, of the Vienna Convention Bureau.
While the MUMOK, Leopold and Architektur Zentrum also have
restaurants, scores of dining options are to be found just outside
the complex, including the Naschmarkt outdoor food market on
Wienzeile and the restaurant Bar Italia and Cafe Aida on
Lodging, too, is to be found "pretty much within walking
distance," according to Pichler. Nearby hotel properties include
the three-star Admiral, on Karl-Schweighofer-Gasse; and the Savoy,
on Linden Gasse; and the four-star K+K Maria Theresia, on Kirchberg
Gasse; Tyrol, at Mariahilfer 15; and Viennart, on Breite Gasse.
For more on the Museums-Quartier, visit www.mqw.at on the Web.
Agents also can contact the ANTO at (212) 575-7723 or on line at www.austria-tourism.at/us.
Guide points guests to best hotel bets
NEW YORK -- When it comes to hotel quality, two and two -- as in
stars -- don't always equal four, as Americans checking into
European properties often discover.
Recognizing the disparity between U.S. and continental
perceptions of service standards, the Austrian National Tourist
Office publishes a biannual Austrian Hotels for North Americans
The current issue lists 72 hotels across the Alpine nation that
meet 11 service criteria that guests from North America might
consider essential, such as English-speaking staff, no-smoking
rooms, 24-hour reception and ice water with meals.
Listed properties include the Westin Bristol and Best Western
Kaiserhof in Vienna, the Europe Tyrol Innsbruck and the Sheraton
The 2003-2004 edition should be available later this year or
early next, according to the ANTO. For a copy of this year's guide,
call (212) 575-7723. -- K.K.