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Meet in Vienna

Published: 02/06/2012 - Filed under: Home » Archive » 2012 » June 2012 » Destinations » Home » Archive » 2012 » June 2012 »

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This year, Vienna is marking what would have been the 150th birthday of the father of Viennese modernism, Gustav Klimt, with a major cultural program of events. But the city has more reasons than that to celebrate. It remains the number one meetings destination in the International Congress and Convention Association rankings and, last year was voted the number one city in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, beating out Zurich and Auckland, which slipped into second and third positions respectively.

The latest figures from the Vienna Convention Bureau (VCB) show that business is holding up well in troubled economic times – the city hosted 3,151 conventions and corporate events last year, which generated nearly $1.1 billion and some 1,412,133 bed-nights. 

Some of the main reasons event planners choose Vienna are its accessibility, infrastructure and value for money, says Judith Settele, the VCB’s marketing and project coordinator for the UK and the US. “The Klimt focus this year may encourage event buyers to look again at the city,” she adds.

From its traditional coffee shops to the architectural legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire of 1867-1918, Vienna retains a strong sense of culture and history. As well as a wide range of venues, including capacity for large-scale events, the variety of attractions offers a range of interesting activities for attendees.

Most of the key venues and hotels are located in the city’s first district, the central area encircled by the Ring Boulevard and on the south bank of the Danube Canal.

Art and classical music fuel the cultural life of the city, with the Opera Ball in mid-February the cornerstone of the city’s carnival season. The Museums Quarter, just beyond Ring Boulevard, offers all-day dining and late-night gallery tours. As part of the Klimt anniversary, there are ten major exhibitions being staged across the city, such as “Klimt: Up Close and Personal,” until August 27 at the Leopold Museum, and “Klimt: The Wien Museum Collection,” until September 16. Meanwhile, two major new cultural infrastructure projects are under way. The new Kunstkammer (Chamber of Art and Wonders) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum is due to open in December, and the refurbished Liechtenstein Palais will reopen as the new home of Biedermeier art in 2013.

Other major projects close to completion include the Skylink extension at Vienna airport, located 10 miles from the city center. Opening in July, it will add a new terminal adjacent to the current one and increase the airport’s capacity to 24 million passengers. It also promises a 25-minute minimum connecting time. The new central rail station in the south of the city is due to be fully operational by 2015 and will become the hub for international rail arrivals, connecting the major trans-European network corridors of Paris to Bratislava, Gdansk to Bologna, and Athens to Dresden. The completed Bahnhofcity development, of which the new station is a part at Südtiroler Platz will cover 145 acres by 2019, with offices, retail, hotels and commercial space.

Vienna currently has 27,564 rooms in 409 hotels, including 13,210 in four-star properties, and 3,827 across 19 five-star hotels, according to November 2011 figures from the VCB. A slew of boutique and branded properties are set to boost those figures in the coming year.

The 32-room Hotel Lamée is scheduled to open in July, while its 33-room sister property, Hotel Topazz, was opened in mid-April, and the 202-room Ritz-Carlton Vienna will follow in August. Next spring, the 152-room Palais Hansen Kempinski will open in a restored neo-Renaissance building, while the 143-room Park Hyatt will open in 2013.

The city is also looking to new destinations and partners. “Vienna increasingly attracts business from the Far East,” says Renate Danler, chief executive of the Hofburg Vienna, the most prestigious of the city’s three convention centers. “We are seeing the highest participation rate coming from the central European countries and Russia, but the Hofburg Vienna hosted its first all-Asian event from Hong Kong in 2010. I think, like so many clients, they loved Vienna’s uniquely imperial touch.” 

That imperial touch may be viewed largely as the remnants of the opulent Hapsburg legacy of the 19th century. But Vienna has been a strategic and cultural center throughout most of its 2,500 year history, pre-dating the Roman Empire. 

As a result, there’s a rich heritage of art, architecture and music that infuses the entire city with influences from every century. The buildings range from sturdy Romanesque and elaborate Baroque to the starkly modern. Mozart and Beethoven, Freud and Klimt once walked these streets. 

There’s also a uniquely contemporary feel, as the city takes a central role on the world stage, hosting the Vienna International Centre, which the Viennese refer to as UNO City. This is the home to more than a half-dozen United Nations organizations. It’s also host to dozens of universities, with specialties in economics, science and medicine as well as a continuing tradition in fine arts and music.

spanish riding school

This 16th-century institution is the oldest riding academy in the world and home to the snow-white Lipizzaner stallions, which practice a form of classical horsemanship. Located in the first district, the historic main house has three meeting rooms, which between them can accommodate up to 100 for drinks and canapés. There’s also private access to the Baroque riding hall with room for 700 people for dinner using a temporary floor.

The Imperial Box in the riding hall hosts 30 people, so groups could combine a private performance of the choreographed dance show (the horses perform a routine to music, normally staged for the public each morning at 11:00 AM) with a tour of the stables. The stables yard has an open roof for a summer ball of up to 500 guests. Note that group riding lessons are not possible. Michaelerplatz 1; tel +43 1533 9031; srs.at

HOFBURG

Located in the first district, bordering Heldenplatz and close to the ministries for state banquets and trade shows, the former winter residence of the Habsburg family is a labyrinthine venue for large-scale events, with 35 spaces overall. The largest is the white-marble Festsaal, which holds 660 people for dinners or 1,260 theatre-style. The second wing was rebuilt in 1992 in a more contemporary style following a fire. The Large Redoutensaal features huge red-orange canvases by Austrian artist Josef Mikl and accommodates 450 people for a gala dinner. In the loft, the Dome, which looks like a giant golf ball, seats 20 people, while the Dachfoyer is a funky place for an evening drinks reception for 250. Heldenplatz; tel +43 1587 3666; hofburg.com

THE BELVEDERE

Klimt’s best-known work, The Kiss, can be found at this former Baroque palace, now split into two museums, the Upper and Lower Belvedere, connected by gardens. The Upper Belvedere has two event spaces available, allowing you to combine a meeting with a private view of the permanent collection in the evening. The Marble Hall has a real sense of history and can host a gala dinner for 240 people, while the Octagon is the only space available to rent by day. It’s located next to the Klimt room and accommodates 20 people boardroom-style. Prinz Eugen-Strasse 27; tel +43 1795 570; belvedere.at

HOTEL SAVOYEN

The Austrian Trend group has 20hotels in the city, and this four-star property has 309 rooms in a modern, minimalist style. It is located in the third district, next to the Botanical Gardens of Vienna. The Savoyen’s Olympia Mancini ballroom is the largest hotel venue in the city, hosting up to 1,000 people theatre-style. It’s split into five sections, with a separate lounge for breakouts during events. There are also three rooms upstairs, for 16 people boardroom-style in each. The group’s four-star Hotel Doppio is scheduled to open this month. Located in Vienna’s thriving business center known as Neu Marx, the property is just a short tram ride from the Belvedere and the city center of Vienna. When it opens, the Doppio will offer 155 rooms and two flexible meeting spaces that can be combined to create an 1,130-square-foot venue. This can accommodate up to 50 in a theatre-style setting. Rennweg 16; tel +43 1206 330; austria-trend.at/sav

HOTEL SACHER

The landmark hotel, located opposite the opera house, is best known for the invention in 1832 of the chocolate-rich Sacher Torte, as well as its extensive private art collection. It completed a $72 million refurbishment in May last year, which included its 149 rooms and suites. Event space includes the arty Gustav Mahler room, which features a gold-leaf motif and space for 40 attendees theatre-style; the formal Marble Hall, which can seat up to 80 people for dinner; and the business-like Salon Metternich, which can host up to 20 people in a boardroom-style setting. The fifth-floor spa offers high-end treatments. Philharmonikerstrasse 4; tel +43 1514 560; sacher.com

ALBERTINA

This centrally located museum celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2013 with a special program, including a Damien Hirst retrospective. The 21 neoclassical Habsburg State Rooms form the mainstay of its event space – of these, the Hall of Muses is the largest, accommodating 250 people for evening cocktails. The 2,000-square-foot Harriet Hartmann Court has a seating capacity of 160, while the outdoor Bastion Terrace has views overlooking the Vienna State Opera, Burggarten Park and the Hofburg Palace. Your guests could cap off their Albertina event with a private tour of the museum’s permanent collection, which spans masters from Monet to Picasso. Albertinaplatz 1; tel +43 1534 8315; albertina.at

INCENTIVE IDEAS

Vienna lends itself to everything from walking tours to waltzing. Some of the best options include:

The carnival ball season

Learn the Viennese waltz at one of the city’s dancing schools or ball venues, such as the Hofburg Vienna. 

Art workshops 

The Belvedere is home to the world’s largest Klimt collection, comprising more than 20 of his works. But the gallery most closely associated with the artist also runs a gold-leaf workshop to imitate the style of his gold period. Evening workshops are staged in the Octagon room, and can be followed by a private viewing. 

Cooking school

Viennese pastry is world class and Café Residenz at the Schönbrunn Palace (cafe-residenz.at), just outside the city, offers groups instruction in the art of making apple strudel. The centrally located Café Demel (demel.at) runs Sacher Torte decoration classes.

Water sports 

The banks of the New Danube host dragon boat racing, while the Danube Canal district, on the fringe of the city’s first and second districts, has wake-boarding classes for groups.

— David Atkinson


 


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