With visits to the chief sights as well as lesser ones and little-visited treasures, with privileged access to places not normally accessible and two musical evenings, this tour provides an exceptionally rich and rounded cultural experience. Whether or not you have been to the city before, it will present Vienna in a truly memorable way.
Grandiloquent palaces and labyrinthine mediaeval streets; broad boulevards and quiet courtyards; at times embattled on the frontier of Christendom, yet a treasury containing some of the greatest of European works of art; an imperial city without an empire: Vienna is a fascinating mix, a quintessentially Central European paradox.
The seat of the Habsburgs, pre-eminent city of the Holy Roman Empire and capital of a vast multinational agglomeration of territories, Vienna is magnificently equipped with buildings which were created by imperial and aristocratic patronage. But the history of Vienna is shot through with diversity, difference and dissent, and some of the choicest items we see were created in defiance of mainstream orthodoxy.
A feature of this tour is the number of specially arranged visits to private palaces or institutions which are not generally open to the public or are off the beaten track. Because of the privileged nature of these visits we can only name a few of them here, but they include Baroque palaces, nineteenth-century halls, pioneers of modernism, churches and a synagogue.
And then there is the music. As home for Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler and countless other composers, Vienna is pre-eminent in the history of music. We have chosen to include a concert at the Musikverein and a performance at the Staatsoper.
This is only a summary of the visits; there are many more which are not mentioned here.
Fly at c.10.00am from London Heathrow to Vienna (British Airways). An afternoon walk in and around the Hofburg, the Habsburg winter palace, a vast agglomeration from six centuries of building activity. See the incomparable collection of precious regalia and objets d’art in the Treasury, and the glorious library hall by Fischer von Erlach.
Walk through the Roman and mediaeval core to see a cross-section of architecture including Gothic and Baroque churches and some of Vienna’s most enchanting streetscapes. Guided tour of the Synagogue (Josef Kornhäusel, 1824), followed by a visit to a private chapel. Another special arrangement to see a grand 18th-century hall. The Jesuit church was spectacularly refurbished c. 1700 by the master of illusionist painting, Andrea Pozzo. Evening concert at the Musikverein with the Collegium Vocale Gent and Phillippe Herreweghe (conductor): Bach, Mass in B minor (BWV 232).
Drive to the outskirts to see buildings by Otto Wagner; the richly decorated apartment blocks in the Linke Wienzeile, the emperor’s personal railway station at Schönbrunn and the hospital church ‘Am Steinhof’, the finest manifestation of Viennese Secessionism. The Liechtenstein collection in the family’s great Baroque palace (Gartenpalais) is perhaps the finest in private hands in Europe, currently not open to the public. An evening at the Staatsoper: Aida (Verdi) with Marco Armiliato (conductor), Elena Guseva (Aida), Ekaterina Gubanova (Amneris), Gregory Kunde (Radames).
Drive around the Ringstrasse, the boulevard which encircles the old centre and is the locus classicus of historicist architecture. The magnificent Liechtenstein Palace (Stadtpalais) was built at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries by the richest family in the Habsburg Empire and has magnificent Rococo interiors and original furnishings. Visit to and dinner at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the world’s greatest art collections, particularly rich in Italian, Flemish and Dutch pictures.
Visit the palace and garden of Schloss Belvedere, built on sloping ground overlooking Vienna for Prince Eugene of Savoy, which constitutes one of the finest residential complexes of the 18th century. It now houses the Museum of Austrian Art with paintings by Klimt and Schiele.
A tour of the Parliament building, a splendid example of enriched Neo-Classicism, and visit a late-19th-century town house on the Ringstrasse. Afternoon at the Museumsquartier, an art centre in the imperial stables.
The Secession building, built in 1898 as an exhibition hall for avant-garde artists, contains Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze. Visit the great hall of the Academy of Art and the Church of St Charles, the Baroque masterpiece of Fischer von Erlach. The flight arrives at Heathrow at c. 5.00pm.
Please note: because the itinerary is dependent on a number of appointments with private owners, the order and even the content of the tour may vary.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,960 or £2,820 without flights. Single occupancy: £3,380 or £3,240 without flights
Air travel (economy class) on scheduled British Airways flights (Airbus A320); private coach for airport transfers and excursions; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 2 lunches and 4 dinners with wine; admission charges for all included visits; all tips for waiters, drivers and guides; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Hotel Bristol: 5-star hotel in a superb location on the Ringstrasse near the opera house, traditionally furnished and decorated. Single rooms are doubles for sole use.
Tickets (first category) to 2 performances are included, costing c. £350. Tickets are confirmed in the Autumn.
This tour involves a lot of walking in the town centre, and should not be attempted by anyone who has difficulty with everyday walking and stair-climbing. Public transport (metro or tram), is used on some occasions. Average distance covered by coach per day: 6 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'Very well thought out. Good mix of interiors/exteriors of some very interesting buildings.'
'We appreciated the way the lecturer took time to get to know everyone and deal with questions and particular interests.'
'Every concert was a joy.'
'The combination of architecture, art and music, combined with with visits to places not open to the public made the itinerary excellent.'
'Very elegant hotel, very erudite tours of museums, art galleries, churches and private palaces, very entertaining lecturer and helpful tour manager, and, not least, interesting fellow travellers.'