At Augarten, Vienna displays a curious outdoor collection of history and lifestyle. The sizeable baroque garden has gone widely unnoticed by travellers. It is THE missing page of many mainstream travel guides.
The park itself is Vienna’s oldest baroque garden and has landmark status. In the 17th century it was conceived as a hunting ground amidst the Danube flood plains. Augarten not only houses the Vienna Boys Choir but Europe’s second oldest porcelain manufactory, an original World War II defence tower, a contemporary museum and a kindergarden.
You will find baroque layouts, allées, terraced green areas, trimmed hedges and the occasional ornamental flower beds. Nature largely owns the rear part of Augarten: Geometrical pathways criss-cross a savage lime grove. Further south, orchards and meadows link different park areas.
Augarten’s unique neighbourhood flair bursts through at almost every corner. Along the outside wall leading to the main entrance sun flowers, pumpkins, courgettes and runner beans burgeon during the warm months. The popular local café Augarten Bunkerei opens up a shady outdoor garden next to the former bunker which is used for coffee, snacks and regular music events (more cozy than you may think).
On weekend mornings, local joggers trot past the porcelain manufactory to circle the World War II Defence Tower on the other side. In the summer, Viennese from across town flock to watch vintage films at the Cinema Like Never Before (Kino Wie Noch Nie), and chill out at the pop up cafés nearby.
The almost 300 year old Augarten porcelain manufactory on the grounds still fires our traditional Augarten coffee, tea and dinner sets, decorated vases and delicate painted figurines. Making china is a niche of European culture. Most of the historic moulds date from the times of Empress Maria Theresia (18th century) and Empress Sisi (19th century).
Today, Augarten porcelain manufactory is a boutique enterprise, with only 30 people mixing, moulding, casting, firing, glazing and painting porcelain.
If you love fine European china the manufactory and museum are a good opportunity to get closer to the world of traditional porcelain making. I joined a guided tour to watch porcelain artists craft Lipizzaner figurines, glue minuscule porcelain moulds and paint porcelain using selfmade brushes.
We watched an enormous Spanish bull being fitted his hind legs. “The most difficult figurine to create is the ‘Fighting Stallions’, a figurine maker pointed out.
The Augarten Porcelain Museum boasts jaw dropping pieces, from precious aristocratic show pieces to sleek contemporary designs by young Austrian design talents. My favourite was the huge original brick built kiln which covered two floors. You could walk inside the furnace (see photo) that once fired trays of freshly made porcelain objects at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius.
You can join a small-group guided tour through the porcelain manufactory. It is part of a coffee tasting experience at lovely city centre Café Museum.
World War II Defence Towers
Two of Vienna’s six World War II defence towers are located at Augarten. They were erected in January 1945, a few months before the war ended. The 45 / 47 metre high landmarked towers boast 2.5 metre thick walls.
They are massive memorials against war and look utterly bizarre against the backdrop of Augarten’s baroque porcelain manufactory, the manicured gardens, and artist Hundertwasser’s bubbly designed waste incineration plant. Both towers are empty and cannot be visited from the inside.
Vienna Boys Choir School and Concert Hall
At Augarten Vienna the Vienna Boys Choir runs its boarding school at magnificent Augarten Palace. It was designed in the 18th century by the same architect who conceived Schönbrunn Palace: Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The Vienna Boys Choir uses the palace since the end of World War II. Other than at the Vienna Boys Choir’s annual Open Day, the palace is closed to the public.
While the place is closed to the public you can enter the building and hear concerts at its annual Open Day in November. If you aren’t that lucky go and listen to the Choir Boys at their own concert hall at Augarten.
TBA 21 Museum of Contemporary Art
Once you have crossed the lime grove or passed the orchards you will arrive at TBA 21 Museum of Contemporary Art. There, Francesca Habsburg, wife of Karl Habsburg and granddaughter in law of Empress Zita, promotes unconventional art projects that span architecture, sound, music and science.
Entrance to the exhibitions is free. Don’t be disappointed if the venue is closed on the day due to some specific projects. It has happened twice to me.
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