Over centuries, the Habsburgs channelled immense wealth into the fine arts and music, collecting palaces the way others do stamps. You’ll still feel their cultural reverberations in Austria today – be it watching Lipizzaner stallions prance at the Spanish Riding School, or crossing the Hofburg to eyeball Rubens masterpieces in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, or Klimt and Schiele at the MuseumsQuartier.
The work of classical pop stars such as Mozart, Strauss, Mahler, Haydn and Schubert echo as loudly as ever at lavishly gilded concert halls, and music festivals like Salzburg Festival and Bregenzer Festspiele are staged against uplifting lakeside or mountain backdrops.Austria might conjure visions of wedding-cake-like baroque churches, palatial Habsburg headquarters like Schloss Schönnbrunn, and Gothic crowning glories like the Stephansdom. But the country is more than the sum of its pomp and palaces.
A fresh breath of architectural air is sweeping through the cities, bringing with it a happy marriage of the contemporary and historic. Some of the most eye-catching icons are actually the modern ones: Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier in revamped imperial stables, the colour-shifting giant Rubik’s Cube that is Ars Electronica in Linz and the sci-fi ready Kunsthaus Graz. Prepare to see Austria in a whole new light.