On a winter visit to Vienna, we find the town in fine fettle; lively, prosperous, and full of new Italian restaurants-not all of them good.
The city is looking well these days. Prosperous, in fact. Expensively-dressed Viennese and out-of-towners fill its shops, restaurants, and cafés. Opera houses and concert venues are sold out night after night. Virtually every building within the Ring has a dignified, recently-scrubbed look.
They're lifting the roof of the fabled Hotel Sacher in order to insert an entire new floor without disturbing the architectural character. When finished, the hotel will look much as it has for the past 125 or so years, but cast a slightly larger shadow.
The massive steel and glass Haashaus, whose construction a few years ago caused a commotion, now seems the right counterpoint to the gray stone eminence of its Kärntnerstrasse neighbor, towering Stephansdom. The two buildings are separated by a few meters and almost 1,000 years.
Kohlmarkt, which leads from the Graben to the Hofberg, is now pedestrian-only.
In a town that arguably has as much high-brow culture as any, the huge new MuseumsQuartier is a case of the rich getter richer. Surrounded by the same Baroque walls that once enclosed the Imperial Stables, the $130-million attraction is said to be one of the world's 10 largest cultural complexes, home to major museums, including the Leopold, that features Austrian artists Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, and Oskar Kokoschka, and the new MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien). But these are just the tip of the Quartier iceberg. Spread around its courtyards are other museums, including one for children, performing arts venues, the Architektur Zentrum Wien, trendy shops, and of course a variety of eating places. Perhaps a fondness for Schiele and Klimt influenced our opinion, but we prefer the Leopold to MUMOK.
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