Culturally Speaking - A Look At Vienna's Vibrant LGBT
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is well known for its grandiose architecture, cultural events and creative masterminds. It also boasts one of the most vibrant LGBT scenes in all of Europe, despite the fact it doesn’t define one particular area as the “gay village”. Here’s a brief overview of some of the cultural highlights:
It’s not uncommon to spend hours just wandering around admiring the Baroque, Biedermeier and Art Nouveau influences seen throughout the city. As with many European destinations, visitors arrive to delve into the past, while discovering the new. This year Vienna celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Klimt, a pioneer of the Modernist painting style. He was one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement, and his major works include paintings, murals, sketches and other art objects. Klimt’s primary subject was the female body and his works are marked by a frank eroticism, with his infamous The Kiss recognized worldwide. As part of this anniversary presentation, the world’s largest collection of paintings by Klimt is on display in their Baroque-palace home, with almost 200 of his drawings on exhibit at the Albertina Museum.
Vienna’s LGBT history spans many centuries, with such notable figures as Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was known for his flamboyant style, affection for younger males, and his public display of gender-bending styles. The Baroque-styled Schloss Belvedere Palace was built as a summer residence for Eugene, and is now home to the Austrian Gallery with paintings by Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka. Vienna's famous Staatsoper (State Opera House) was built by architects Eduard van der Nüll and August Sicard von Sicardsburg, who were partners in life as well as in business.
Today, the city remains a hot bed of all things pink. A must see is the Ringstrasse, a circular road surrounding the city’s Old Town that was constructed along the route of the former city walls built in the 13th century. Much of the current gay scene of clubs, bars and restaurants is clustered just southwest of the Ringstrasse, around Pilgramgasse, Neubaugasse, Museumsquartier and Karlsplatz. The cultural scene is comprised of magnificent churches, museums, performance venues, and parliamentary buildings that showcase this city and its history as the centre of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
While embracing their past, the Viennese take pride in their alluring modern architecture, thriving design scene and modern innovations that create a harmonious atmosphere of classic and nouveau. Often referred to as the “City of Waltzes”, it is with this historical past and modern sensibility that the city has gained a reputation of acceptance and tolerance. Life Ball has become one of the most elaborate and profitable AIDS charity events in the world. This glamorous and star-studded annual affair has been happening since 1993, and has achieved international recognition as the biggest charity event in Europe supporting people with HIV and AIDS. Each year nearly 4,000 attendees get the opportunity to walk down the red carpet, which leads from Ringstrasse Boulevard across City Hall Square to the main stage in front of Vienna’s City Hall. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Life Ball, which happens annually in the month of May.
Other events of note include the annual Vienna Pride and Rainbow Parade (Regenbodenparade) at the beginning of June, which winds its way along the historic Ringstrasse. As well, Vienna is Queer (Wien ist Andersrum) is an arts festival that incorporates a collection of off-beat cultural performances and exhibitions during the first part of June. The Rainbow Ball (Regenbodenballis) happens every February and is modeled after the traditional formal attire Viennese balls of the past, while the Rose Ball (Rosenball) is a more flamboyant alternative to the traditional Opera Ball happening the same month.
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The Glamorous and star-studded annual Life Ball is just one of many gay events in Vienna. Others include Vienna Pride and Rainbow Parade, Vienna is Queer, the Rainbow Ball and the Rose Ball.
Art and culture have long traditions in Vienna, including theatre, opera, classical music and fine arts. Today much of this can be explored within the numerous museums and galleries found within the city. The Museumsquartier (or MQ) is a cultural hub, home to the Leopold Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and Kunsthalle Wien, which often showcases major gay-themed exhibits and queer artists. Kunst Historisches Museum is the stately fine arts museum with its unmatched collection of pieces by Breughel, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens and others.
Theatre buffs should check out what’s happening at the Burgtheater, one of the most important German language theatres in the world and the second oldest in Europe. The Volkstheater Wien is the place to go for more contemporary avant-garde productions, and the Theater in der Josefstadt with its rotating repertoire of classic and original productions. Classic Vienna opera houses include the Theater an der Wien, the Staatsoper, and the Volksoper, all with featured traditional Viennese operettas.
From the late 18th to the mid-20th century, Vienna’s musical culture flourished and became known worldwide with such famous composers as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms taking up residence here, and Johann Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert being native Viennese. The Wiener Musikverein is home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Wiener Konzerthaus presents concerts of classical music. The works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Strauss can be heard at various venues around town including the Liechtenstein Museum.
From the historic Hofburg Imperial Palace where you can learn about the controversial Emperor Ludwig Viktor, to the famous State Opera House that was designed and built by gay lovers, this is just a sampling of what this historic city has to offer for LGBT travellers. The best way to enjoy Vienna is to walk around, see the sights and enjoy the renowned Viennese café culture.
5 More Culture Hot Spots
• Paris: Visit famous galleries such as The Louvre, mingle with local artists in Parisian cafes, marvel at the L’Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, and admire the quirkiness of the Centre Pompidou Museum. Don’t miss the magnificent churches and wonderful cemeteries.
• Italy: There’s so much to discover in Rome with the Sistine Chapel and Vatican, or the beautiful canal city of Venice, the amazing architecture of Florence, or the high fashion of Milan. Be sure to take time for multiple Espressos with the locals.
• Prague: Discover a city built in many art styles, including gothic, baroque, neo-classic, and renaissance. Walk the cobblestone streets that Kafka once did, drink local Czech beer and Jägermeister, and don’t miss the famous Charles Bridge.
• Mexico City: Frida Kahlo de Rivera has had significant influence in gay culture with her native Neomexicanismo artistic style, as well as such openly gay luminaries as singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel, artist Juan Soriano, and essayist Carlos Monsivais.
• Buenos Aires: Take in queer tango lessons, gay milongas (or dance halls), or the gay tango festival held annually in November. Ponder the movements of Eva Peron (Evita) and visit the Recoletta neighbourhood for great history and architecture.