Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you
Thirty-five years ago, piano man Billy Joel sang those lyrics in the song “Vienna,” on his breakthrough 1977 album The Stranger, celebrating a city where cultures co-mingle.
The City of Waltzes retains the elegance of centuries past. It’s a monumental city filled with churches, museums, concert halls and government buildings of such massive scale you can’t help but recall this city was once the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now the capital of the rather small country of Austria, it seems a bit oversized but has regained some of its former importance by hosting a number of international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC.
Prince Eugene of Savoy, famous for pushing the Ottomans away from the gates of Vienna and back to the Balkans over the course of several wars, was widely known in his lifetime to prefer same-sex intimacies. His mark remains at his summer residence, the two Belvedere palaces. Situated amidst extensive gardens, the palace complex is considered one of the world’s finest baroque landmarks.
This year Vienna’s über-chic arts and culture scene is celebrating the 150th birthday of Gustav Klimt. A pioneer of the Modernist painting style, Klimt spent most of his life in Vienna and is best known for The Kiss, which is currently on display at the Belvedere. Almost 200 of Klimt’s drawings are on exhibit at the Albertina museum.
Near the Belvedere, the Museums-quartier (known as the MQ), the eighth-largest cultural area in the world, is a playground for art lovers. The vibrant district is home to the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Kunsthalle Wien exhibit centre, artists’ residences and studios — as well as a great selection of restaurants, cafés and bars. Cool lounge-like chairs are spread throughout the MQ.
Although not as famous as those of Berlin and Paris, Vienna’s gay scene sizzles and goes late into the night. Many of the clubs, bars and restaurants are clustered just southwest of the ring road surrounding the historic city centre, around Pilgramgasse, Neubaugasse, Museumsquartier and Karlsplatz U-bahn stations.
There are dozens of major events every year, including film festivals, circuit parties, bear gatherings and, of course, the Rainbow Parade in June. One of Vienna’s greatest events, the Life Ball, will celebrate its 20th anniversary on May 19, 2012 at Vienna’s historic city hall, the Rathaus. Life Ball reinvents the great Viennese Ball tradition with glamorous, outlandish performances and inspirational speeches that celebrate the beauty of life and cultural diversity. Organized by AIDS Life, Life Ball raises money to support people in areas of the world most affected by HIV/AIDS.
Holiday Inn Vienna City is a charming family-owned and -operated hotel with stylishly appointed rooms and a great terrace on which to enjoy breakfast. It is located near the Naschmarkt, a well-known meeting point with more than 120 market stands offering delightful culinary choices, from Viennese to Indian to Italian. The Saturday flea market is not to be missed; relax with a local beer for some great people-watching. The Naschmarkt area is within walking distance of many gay bars and Vienna’s most famous street, Mariahilferstrasse, the city’s main shopping avenue.
Fleming’s Deluxe Vienna City Hotel, also situated in the heart of the city, opened for business in early 2011. This luxury hotel offers all the amenities you would expect from a deluxe property: multiple room categories, a brasserie and wine bar, fine dining, and fitness and wellness facilities. It’s within comfortable walking distance of the underground and many sightseeing attractions. Fleming’s is a class-act company that recently supported the CANFAR event in Toronto, Bloor Street Entertains.
Austrian Airlines operates non-stop service from Toronto to Vienna. For more information, visit austrian.com.
For map locations and website links to more than 100 area places of interest see our gay Vienna listings pages.