Farther Afield: Vienna

Take a cultural tour through Vienna, Austria.

With Hapsburg-era architecture, charming coffee houses and a reputation as “The City of Music,” Vienna has long been one of Europe’s richest cultural jewels.

But 2013 is particularly notable for this capital of charm, with exciting new attractions, dazzling hotels, renovated museums and a reinvigorated gasthaus culture. Visit these pubs late in the night for schnitzel, beer and scintillating conversation, and you’ll experience why artists have found inspiration here for centuries.

Classical music is everywhere in Vienna, from the Wiener Konzerthaus to the Musikverein. Of course, Vienna’s don’t-miss experience is a performance at the Vienna State Opera, in which more than 50 operas and ballets perform 300 days per year. The opera traditionally takes a break during July and August, but plan in advance for the fall and winter seasons, which include classics such as Bizet’s Carmen, Rossini’s Barber of Seville and the Kenneth MacMillan-choreographed production of Jules Massenet’s ballet, Manon. This year is Wagner’s 200th birthday, so celebrate in fine style by taking in a performance of his Tristan and Isolde.

If you visit in September, don’t miss one of the 150 opera and ballet performances screened live right in front of the opera building. Truly culture for the masses! Pack a picnic and make a night of it.

Mozart had several apartments in Vienna during his tenure there, but Domgasse 5—now Mozarthaus Vienna—is the only one that still exists. Visit and you’ll see presentations of his life and works on four exhibition levels.

This is a banner year for art in Vienna, since the Kunstkammer, in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts), reopened after a decade of rehabilitation and expansion. The “cabinet of curiosities” includes more than 2,200 intricate objects, such as a gold salt cellar by Benvenuto Cellini.

Arguably Vienna’s most ethereal offering, the Vienna Boys’ Choir began singing in its new state-of-the-art concert hall in the Baroque Augarten Park this year, complete with a music and theater center for children and teenagers.

Eating in a traditional Viennese café is a must. Try Café Central, which epitomizes the Viennese café with its chandeliers and airy vaulted ceilings. The toniest in town is Landtmann, whose famous guests have included Gustav Mahler, Sigmund Freud and Marlene Dietrich.

Go for a Kalbbutterschnitzel (veal butter schnitzel) or traditional apple or plum pancakes at Schilling, a 1950s throwback gasthaus—cozy and retro.

New offerings abound in Vienna. The first Austrian Ritz-Carlton opened one year ago in the city center—four historic palaces combined.

The luxury Sans Souci Wien opened in December. Tip: It’s the best location for avowed shoppers, since it’s just a stroll from the trendy seventh district and Mariahliferstrabe, Vienna’s largest shopping street.

The magnificent Hotel Imperial began its days in 1863 as the Vienna residence of the prince of Württemberg. In recent years, guest rooms have been added and expanded and the façade underwent a lovely facelift—all fitting moves for one of the world’s grandest hotels.