Real estate expert Avner Motaev has lived in the Austrian capital of Vienna for many years. Here’s his unique insight into everything you need to know about Vienna.
“One of the best things about the work I do in Vienna is the opportunity it offers me to explore this great city,” Avner says. “A day doesn’t go by without discovering something new – it is what I love most about life in Vienna.”
Where history informs the present – rich history
To really understand modern Vienna, you should know a little bit about its past. The city today is the product of a rich history. It has been at the centre of many different empires. It was an important place for the Romans, Charlemagne and of course the Hapsburg royal family. Although it was the Celts who first settled here, as Avner explains.
“To a real estate expert, the position of Vienna makes perfect sense! It’s obvious why people wanted to settle here,” says Avner. “It was on many of the major trade routes (including for salt – hence ‘Salzburg’) and rich in resources. Being close to the river, and the mountains, made it a strategically important place for many people to settle.”
Like many cities, Vienna started out as village. The Celts called it Wenia and it grew to be an important trading post. Then Romans came, and built a military camp known as Vindebona. They grew the town further until invasions from the eastern tribes of Huns, Goths, Slavs and Hungarians caused them to abandon.
The next significant phase of Vienna’s development was under Charlemagne, who made it the capital of the powerful Holy Roman Empire. The Hapsburgs royal family also made it the capital of the hugely powerful Austro-Hungarian empire, which only broke up after the First World War.
Today, Vienna has been called ‘a head without a body’ – the beautiful, grand capital of many lost empires.
Living and working in Vienna – a European centre of culture
Of course, this rich history informs so much of the culture of the city today. It has always been at the heart of Europe, and this is reflected in its wonderfully rich cultural life.
One reason for this is the fact that it’s a true melting pot. Most people here have a background from a range of different countries, many of which once formed a part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire.
“It means that modern Viennese culture is equally complex and diverse,” says Avner. “So, for all of the wonderful Viennese coffee houses like Café Schwarzenberg, there are also plenty of places to enjoy Turkish street food – the 16th century food market Naschmarkt is a great place to go.”
And then of course there is the art and the music which the city is so famous for. There is a rich tradition of classical music here, and while Vienna sometimes has a reputation as a conservative city, it often finds itself on the cutting edge.
“So, while you can still head to the Wiener Philharmoniker for an evening of Mahler, you can also enjoy music at an event like the massive annual Danube Island Festival,” says Avner. “Every year, over three million people descend on the city to hear some of the best music from around the world – free of charge. It’s a great event and is typical of the way this city embraces new music and fresh cultural influences.”
And then there are the city’s many art galleries and museums (Vienna has over 100). Unsurprisingly for a city at the centre of so many powerful empires, it has amassed a remarkable collection over the centuries. The world famous Kunsthistorisches Museum is an obvious starting point, but where else does Avner suggest visiting?
“There are the other established museums and galleries like the magnificent museum of modern art, MUMOK. This also has a great Wednesday night film programme by the way – there is always something new to see,” says Avner. “But there are also around 300 other less formal exhibition spaces around the city. A real favourite of mine is a photo gallery called ‘OstLicht’.”
OstLicht is the perfect place to explore if you want to be challenged by the images you see. There is an ever-changing series of exhibitions of some of the best in contemporary photography.
One of the best global cities
Finally, what is it really like to live and work every day in Vienna?
“Vienna is a city that regularly tops the charts of best global cities to live in,” says Avner. “And it’s no surprise: you can start the day with coffee and some of the best cake in the world, and end it by enjoying world class music and art. It is also one of the greenest cities in the world – I love to spend time relaxing in parks like the Lainzer Tiergarten – they even have wild boar there!
“Finally, from a real estate point of view, the properties are beautiful, and still relatively affordable when compared with London or Berlin. It is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.”