By Rahul Vaishnavi, Vienna, April 2 IANS | 4 months ago

Sitting in one of the many street cafes, sipping hot espresso in between bites of a sacher torte (Viennese chocolate cake) while listening to a violin being played in the background is perhaps the perfect way to spend an evening in surreal Vienna, which takes pride in its laid-back culture.


The historically-rich capital of Austria is one of the country's nine federal states and is home to around 1.8 million people and boasts of palaces, monuments, cathedrals, parks and vineyards. It's a city where Gothic, Neo-Gothic and Baroque-styled churches and houses stand tall besides contemporary glass-tinted shops and buildings.

Every corner provides a photo opportunity.

Vienna also boasts of world-renowned museums and art collections, one of them being the Kunsthistorisches Museum that houses the world's largest collection of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes.

The other renowned museums are the Belvedere and the Leopold in the MuseumsQuartier.

A stroll around the city is akin to journey back in time to the city's imperial past.

The highlight, of course, is the Ringtrasse, a circular boulevard of over five kilometres that was constructed in place of the old city walls that were razed for expansion by emperor Franz Joseph in 1857.

The ring has grand buildings and manicured gardens on either side. A leisure walk is a must once you've treated yourself to one of the cafes or built an appetite.

Also known as the 'City of Music' Vienna has 50 theatres, including four opera houses, and once hosted renowned composers such as Wolfgang Amadeue Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, to name just two.

The influence of such legendary musicians is evident from the fact that the city has a vibrant culture of street musicians. It's common to see them playing instruments like the violin and guitar in the market squares every evening.

The posh first district in the old city is the most sought after address and is thronged by tourists and locals alike. It is a shopper's paradise with boutiques of all major international brands while the winding cobble stoned streets add to the romance of a long-lost empire.

But there's no mad rush of shoppers or club hoppers at night and instead, a sense of calm prevails in the popular market places, where the shops usually down shutters by 7 p.m.

Among the popular markets of the city are Naschmarkt, the city's largest and which offers a mix of Viennese and international specialties.

A flea market blossoms every Saturday, while for groceries, spices and cheeses from across the globe, the Rochusmarkt is the place to head to.

From glitzy fashion brands to second-hand goods at a flea market, the choices are spoilt for shoppers.

The many cafes and restaurants that remain open till late keep the atmosphere alive and a major contribution comes from the street musicians.

Many cafes have the traditional exquisite window displays like a prancing horse or a replica of a monument - all made of sugar.

The hot apple strudel served with either whipped cream or vanilla sauce and the sacher torte are a delight for those with a sweet tooth.

The amalgamation of history, music and good food that Vienna offers is, indeed, a feast for the senses.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at rahul.v@ians.in)

(Posted on 02-04-2014)