Last Updated on December 23, 2022

In 2023, life in Vienna will be inspired by “Visions & New Beginnings – 150 Years of the World’s Fair.” And with good reason, as the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair underpinned the Austrian capital’s transformation into a truly global city. In addition to numerous exhibitions at well-known Viennese museums, a visit in Vienna during 2023 can also include a number of spectacular new openings and long-awaited reopenings. Inspired by a reimagination of the urban space, “Vision & New Beginnings” will be celebrating the city’s past, present and future.

The 1873 World’s Fair was the event that kick-started Vienna’s rise as a truly global city in the 19th century. Vienna was growing rapidly, spreading beyond its historic confines thanks to the construction of the Ringstrasse. At the same time, foundations were laid that are still proving decisive for the high quality of life the city offers to this day: the inauguration of the First Vienna Mountain Spring Pipeline that brought crystal-clear spring water to the capital being just one of many examples. This technical masterpiece supplied Vienna with fresh drinking water from the Alps.

Furthermore, the construction of no fewer than six new stations and railway lines heralded a new dawn for the city as the hub of Central European rail travel. Public transportation and city tourism also took off. New hotels such as the Imperial and today’s Palais Hansen Kempinski – as well as restaurants and cafés such as Landtmann – went up on the Ringstrasse boulevard. A visit in Vienna became desirable for any European Grand Tour.

This Gründerzeit (literally “founders’ era”) period also saw the emergence of many museums and collections. Traditional handicrafts also flourished: still going strong to this day, manufacturers such as J. & L. Lobmeyr (crystal glass) and Jarosinski & Vaugoin (silversmiths) showcased their work at the World’s Fair. The famous Strauss dynasty provided the perfect soundtrack for the masses.

Vienna had reimagined itself,  with a new identity and spirit driven by forward-looking urban planning. Today, the city continues to reap the rewards of the achievements of that time… as do tourist when Vienna visiting.

Vienna Visiting: History Repeating

Modern Vienna finds itself in a similar environment. Since the turn of the millennium, the city has been growing at a rapid pace, with new – and internationally acclaimed – urban development projects such as Seestadt Aspern. All of Vienna’s major train stations have also been rebuilt or fully renovated since the 2000s. Today, Vienna is the most important night train hub in the EU.

Now, as in 1873, the city is experiencing an unprecedented hotel boom making Vienna visiting more comfortable than ever.

All of this will be celebrated in 2023 under the banner of “Visions & New Beginnings. 150 Years of the Vienna World’s Fair.” Countless activities and highlights centering on the milestone anniversary will take center stage in 1873.

Weltmuseum: Austro-Japanese Friendship

Many of the capital’s museums will be dedicating temporary exhibitions to the World’s Fair anniversary in 2023. First and foremost the Weltmuseum Vienna, which will set the ball rolling in January 2023: two of its exhibition halls will be given over to the World’s Fair, which was all about Japan and the Near, Middle and Far East opening up to Europe. After all, the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair was the first to feature Japan – and the first with notable contributions from Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, the Ottoman Empire and Persia.

To coincide with the new exhibition, the Weltmuseum will be introducing a special wayfinding system that guides visitors through the building in the spirit of the world exhibition. Guided tours inspired by the Vienna World’s Fair and a special booklet on the anniversary year complete the picture.

Vienna Museum of Technology: Women at Work

On May 2, 2023, a temporary exhibition entitled “Women at Work. 150 Years of the Women’s Pavilion at the Vienna World’s Fair” will open at the Vienna Museum of Technology. The new show explores a special feature of the Vienna World’s Fair: the Women’s Pavilion, which gave female working environments their own space at a World’s Fair for the first time. The pavilion showcased some of the female-led occupations that had emerged in the course of the great wave of industrialization in the 19th century. A pioneering achievement in terms of raising awareness of female working environments, the format was adopted by subsequent world’s fairs.

Wien, Opernball, 2016, www.peterrigaud.com
Wien, Opernball, 2016, www.peterrigaud.com

MAK: Orientalism and Dazzling Luxury

Starting on June 7, 2023, sparkle and glitter will be setting the aesthetic tone at the MAK – Museum of Applied Arts. J. & L. Lobmeyr – traditional Viennese fine crystal glassmaker and specialist chandelier manufacturer – was part of the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair. By coincidence, it too will be honoring a special anniversary in 2023: its bicentennial. As part of 200 years of J. & L. Lobmeyr celebrations, it will be showcasing its take on dazzling luxury through its unsurpassed Viennese handcraftsmanship.

On June 21, 2023, another special exhibition devoted to the 1873 World’s Fair will launch at the MAK. The focus of new show, Orientalism and the 1873 World’s Fair, is the wider interest in all things Orient triggered by the landmark expo. Exotic worlds and the then-undiscovered design language that would go on to inspire the Western world will provide the focus.

Culinary Delights and Crystal Clear Water

2023 is also a milestone year for some of the capital’s most venerated cafés and restaurants, chief among them Café Landtmann which opened in 1873. No visit in Vienna is complete without sampling the city’s legendary café culture.

One of the most famous coffeehouses in the city, it has lost nothing of its appeal to this day. 1873 was also a big year for former purveyor to the imperial court Gerstner: the company was selected to provide the catering at the Imperial Pavilion at the Vienna World’s Fair and was awarded the coveted royal K. u. K. Hoflieferant warrant, elevating it to the elite rank of official supplier to the court.

Something else which is inextricably linked with Viennese hospitality is the Mountain Spring Pipeline, which has been bringing delicious, crisp drinking water to the capital from the Alps since 1873. In 2023, this marvel of modern engineering will be the focus of various celebrations: for example at the Vienna Water Festival on June 6 at the historic Favoritner Wasserturm watertower in the tenth district. On October 24, 2023 – the day on which the Mountain Spring Pipeline was inaugurated – when a new Jubilee Fountain will be opened. Designed by internationally renowned Austrian artist group Gelatin, the impressive water feature has been allocated a special location: the Jubilee Fountain will take pride of place in the heart of the Sonnwendviertel, which is one of Vienna’s most important and spectacular urban development projects of the new millennium.

Luxury shopping, 1873-style

J. & L. Lobmeyr. WienTourismus/Paul Bauer.
J. & L. Lobmeyr. WienTourismus/Paul Bauer.

Vienna visiting in 2023 also features a series of exclusive shopping experiences placing all eyes on Vienna’s world-famous arts and crafts. Besides J. & L. Lobmeyr’s glassware boutique on Kärntner Strasse, other venerable manufacturers with direct ties to the World’s Fair include fellow exhibitor A. E. Köchert. Among the stars of the Vienna World’s Fair, in 1873 the acclaimed jeweler relocated to its current location on Neuer Markt, where it continues to take luxury to a new level. Just like custom footwear manufacturer Scheer, silversmiths Jarosinski & Vaugoin and piano maker Bösendorfer, all of which exhibited at the World’s Fair and still offer their one-of-a-kind products in Vienna today.

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