Vienna bolstered by new sites

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VIENNA -- Waltzes and the Danube, coffeehouses and strudel, St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Ring Road.

Having sold scores of clients on Vienna's Hapsburg-era charms, travel agents may think they know the city, but if they haven't visited recently, they should think again.

Once reduced by Cold War geopolitics to an enchanting but provincial backwater, the city -- a stone's throw from Prague, Czech Republic, and Budapest, Hungary -- has been busy reclaiming its status as the nucleus around which central Europe revolves.

Several new cultural attractions -- as well as new twists on enduring ones -- tempt today's visitor with an ever-growing list of "musts" for any prospective Viennese itinerary:

• The Albertina: The wraps came off this restored Hapsburg palace museum this month after several years and millions of dollars in renovation from five teams of architects.

The Albertina's collections include graphic arts, with 60,000 drawings and 1 million prints; architecture, with 42,000 works; and a photography collection containing 65,000 items dating to the invention of the medium.

Hapsburg-era staterooms, open now for the first time, also can be visited daily.

Classic Vienna attractions such as St. Stephen's, above, now compete with MuseumsQuartier and Haus der Musik for visitor attention. Meanwhile, temporary exhibitions are held in three halls. Current and upcoming exhibits address Edvard Munch, through June 22; the history of photography, through June 8; masterpieces of the Albertina collection, from July 4 to Aug. 24; and Albrecht Durer, from Sept. 5 to Nov. 30.

For more information, visit www.albertina.at.

• MuseumsQuartier: The "big daddy" of Vienna's newest cultural draws, the Museums-Quartier complex groups several museums with performance spaces, artist studios, restaurants and shops.

The on-site Kunsthalle Wien hosts a large program of local and international performances and festivals, including the annual Wiener Festwochen, set this year for May 9 to June 16. For more information, visit www.festwochen.at.

The Leopold Museum next door offers five floors of Viennese modern art, including works by hometown boys Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele as well as temporary exhibitions.

Directly opposite the Leopold lies the gray, modernist Mumok, the largest museum of contemporary art in central Europe. For details, visit www.mqw.at.

• Haus der Musik: Music plays a huge part in life in Vienna, and the interactive, high-tech House of Music puts a new spin on an old love.

Each floor offers a different perspective on music: performance, science, history and the creative process.

The on-site Museum of the Vienna Philharmonic offers traditional displays of orchestra and conductor memorabilia as well as listening stations.

The second floor, with its sonosphere, instrumentarium, perception lab and polyphonium, is home to interactive displays of the science of sound and music.

One story up, historical exhibitions are devoted to six masters of classical composition, and the floor above is dedicated largely to the otherworldly "Brain Opera," where visitors create sounds to blend into an ever-growing opera.

The House of Music also offers dining in its Cantino restaurant; for details, visit www.houseofmusic-vienna.at.

• Karlskirche: The 18th century Church of St. Charles Borromeo isn't new, but during its renovation -- scheduled to last two more years -- it

offers a novel angle to the traditional cathedral visit.

Visitors can ride a new elevator to scaffolding at the top of its massive dome; from there, it's a short climb to inspect frescos under restoration.

Clients should be furnished with the Vienna Card visitor pass. Priced at about $18, the card offers 72 hours of mass transit and discounts at more than 170 attractions, restaurants and shops.

For more information, contact the Austrian Tourist Office in New York at (212) 575-7723 or visit www.austria.info/us.

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