Anna Ridley visits Vienna, the capital of Austria, to experience the city’s music scene that has transitioned over recent centuries.
Famously known as the “Capital of Classical Music” since the 18th Century, Vienna has always put art and music at the forefront of its cultural offerings, and over the centuries it has attracted composers, musicians, and singers from all over the globe.
Some of the greatest classical composers of all time were born in Austria, including Joseph Haydn, Johann Strauss and Wolfgang Mozart, all of whom made Vienna their home and stage.
Sadly, Word War I and II stole away the majestic grandeur of the city’s musical scene, but in the decades that followed, Vienna has managed to once again become a prominent cultural hub for art and musical performers. However, these days you’re just as likely to find a thriving house scene as you are a Strauss scene.
Around every corner, there is something to remind visitors that they are surrounded by music, whether it’s a plaque on a wall commemorating Mozart’s last apartment, or a gilded bronze statue of Strauss in the Stadtpark.
It’s hard to miss the magnificent Vienna State Opera House in the centre of the city with its renaissance-style arches that stand above the huge veranda and five bronze statues, and the two rooftop riders on winged horses. The opera house opened in 1869 and has the largest repertoire in the world, as well as an impressive stage spanning 1,500 square feet. The venue can host up to 2,200 seated and standing guests, and there’s a screen outside the theatre where city-goers can sit outside and watch some performances live for free.
For traditional classical performances, the beautiful St. Charles Church on Karlsplatz with its green-dome roof and two soaring columns at either side of the entrance, is the perfect venue. From Tuesday to Saturday every week between March and December, the Orchestra 1756 will perform concerts of Mozart Requiem, Vivaldi Four Seasons, and Ave Maria, along with top choirs and soloists in a venue that boasts stunning natural acoustics.
Some of Vienna’s leading classical music venues including Vienna Kursalon for Strauss and Mozart performances; Mozart House, the oldest concert hall in Vienna; Schoenbrunn Orangery at Schoenbrunn Palace; Sofiensäle Vienna, Strauss’ original concert venue; and the famous Imperial Palace (Hofburg), which was once the centre of the Habsburg empire.
Despite its historic grand architecture and imperial past, Vienna has successfully managed to move with the times, and it is home to an energetic scene of modern music that ranges from electronic to jazz.
Since the 90s, the electronic music scene in Vienna has been growing at fast pace, and now party-lovers can choose from a variety of bars, clubs and events to enjoy the synthesised basslines of house music, the fast breakbeats of Drum ‘n’ Bass, and the sophisticated modern sounds of techno.
Flex is one of Europe’s renowned clubs for electronic music, and it attracts huge crowds and superstar DJs from near and far. Located on the bands of the Danube Canal in a disused metro tunnel, the club’s dance floor is rarely empty thanks to the bass-pumping tunes from DJs, and when it gets too hot, party-goers spill outside to dance on the banks of the river under the stars.
The historic Stadtbahn Pavilions in central Karlsplatz were designed by Otto Wagner, an Austro-Hungarian architect who helped bring Art Nouveau to Vienna.
In the basement in one of the pavilions is Club U, a small late-night bar frequented by students and relaxed revellers who go there for the diverse music, and inexpensive drinks, and large selection of cocktails. DJs play anything from soul and hip hop, to techno and house music, and the venue hosts regular nights from “Rhinoplasty” and the soul masterminds “Tighten Up”.
For those who are serious about their techno music, Rhiz is the place to be with a series of concerts happening throughout the week. Located underneath the City rail Arches on Gürtel, this intimate venue is the home of sound experiments and eclectic playlist of music. Free admission and passionate DJs makes this place a little gem for people who want to dance the night away.
Porgy & Bess is one of the top jazz clubs in Europe and it was established in 1993 by Swiss musician Mathias Rüegg in the former cabaret club, “Fledermaus Bar”. It has since moved to the restored Riemergasse 11 bulding and hosts an eclectic programme of national and international jazz artists, as well as alternative music performances and workshops for kids.
Festivals and open air concerts
The city hosts hundreds of musical events and festivals throughout the year and there’s something to suit everyone’s music taste.
Here are just a few music festivals in Vienna that can be enjoyed during a trip with Jet2CityBreaks:
Vienna Jazz Festival
28th June to 11th July, 2016
This year’s line-up includes global stars such as Cyndi Lauper, Jamie Cullum and Beth Hart, who will perform at the Vienna State Opera.
With a variety of performances taking place across the city, visitors can enjoy open-air concerts against the backdrop of Wien Energie Fernwärme; funk and dance concerts in the courtyard of Vienna City Hall; concerts on the Summer Stage, on the banks of the Danube Canal; and intimate shows in Vienna’s jazz clubs like Porgy & Bess, the Jazzland and the Miles Smiles.
28th to 31st July, 2016
This free four-day event takes over the Karslplatz with open-air and inside venues, showcasing the best in Austrian pop music. This year’s 60 performers include Schmieds Puls, Leyya, Dawa, Ogris Debris and Johann Sebastian Bass, with music running all day and night. The grand finale take place in St. Charles Church with a performance by Johann Sebastian Bass, accompanied by opera singers and an orchestra.
27th August, 2016
Now in its 19th year, Gürtel Nightwalk closes off the mile-long Gürtel road to traffic, and it comes alive with alternative music in bars, cafes and open-air concerts that are tucked under the City Rail arches.
With free admission, and a wide selection of national and international music acts, this vibrant event celebrates music in exhibition form as well as performance.
Vienna Summer Break Festival
2nd-4th September, 2016
This three-day event takes place in various locations across the city and has a street parade on the Ring and City Hall Square. The Ringstrasse turn into a huge open-air dance floor from 2pm on the Saturday with DJs playing reggae, hip hop, soul, techno and house music. International DJs take to the stage at City Hall Square in the evening, and the night will continue into the early hours with after-parties at bars and clubs. On the Sunday, revellers can enjoy a Techno Brunch on City Hall Square, followed by a pool party.
The Nightride ticket gives partygoers free access into around 50 bars and clubs, as well a unlimited travel on public transport all weekend.
29th September to 1st October, 2016
More than 100 acts take to stages in various venues throughout Vienna’s 9th district such as WUK (main venue), the Schubert Theatre, and the Disco Palme club.
Musicians from all backgrounds and genres will perform, and this year’s line-up includes Finlay Quaye, Black Honey, We Are Scientists, Golf, and Gold Panda.
As well as performances from established artists, this event is a fantastic place to see new up-and-coming musicians from Austria and beyond.
Leading leisure airline Jet2.com offers friendly low fares, great flight times, and a generous 22kg baggage allowance to Vienna from Edinburgh Airport with flights operating twice weekly from April to January and Fares with starting at £41 one way including taxes.
Alternatively, you can book a package with Jet2CityBreaks to the Hotel Donauwalzer, Vienna, with prices starting from £195 per person for three nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation, departing from Edinburgh. Price includes a 22kg baggage allowance and return transfers.
Where to Stay
Hotel Donauwalzer is a unique hotel in an Art Deco-style building that places you just 15 minutes by foot to the city centre or seven minutes by tram line (no.44).
As you approach the hotel, you’ll hear classical music playing from outdoor speakers at the entrance. The 100-year-old hotel is named after Strauss’ famous composition Donauwalzer – Blue Danube Waltz, and you’ll hear this renowned tune a lot as you wander around Vienna.
Each of the 70 en-suite guest rooms have been decorated individually, and 12 rooms have been themed to showcase independent companies in Vienna that are over 100 years old. One room is named after the 175-year-old Ottakringer brewery, and has a working beer keg and tap in the room that you can help yourself to for a small fee. There are nice touches including beer pump handles for coat hooks and wooden barrels for tables. Many of the rooms are music-themed, with one featiring walls decorated like a big music sheet, and another with a shower where you can pose as Johann Strauss. The gold Strauss rubber ducks in the bathrooms are a nice touch too.
Music features are dotted throughout the hotel, from cellos in the hallways, to live music in the bar at the weekends or classical waltz music while you enjoy breakfast.
There’s complimentary Wi-Fi, a 24-hour bar and reception, an old Art Nouveau lift (and a modern one), a private courtyard with plants and seating, a small private spa, and you can even take private waltz dancing classes with professionals. Dogs are very welcome too.
Main airport: Vienna International Airport (18km from the city centre)
Transport: Tram or bus. Buy a 48-hour or 72-hour Vienna Card and enjoy free public transport, as well as discounts on 210 attractions, museums, cafes, bars, shops, restaurants and more.
Do: Sit in one of the many cafes and savour delicious Apple Strudel.
See: The city from a traditional horse-drawn carriage. Tours last around 20 minutes and cost about €50.
Travel with: Jet2CityBreaks from Edinburgh Airport. Jet2’s dedicated city breaks product was launched in May 2015, and provides Jet2.com flights and handpicked hotels in more than 20 of Europe’s most popular cities, all secured with a low £60 per person deposit. All Jet2CityBreaks are ATOL protected. For further information, visit www.jet2citybreaks.com