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Vienna city guide: what to do, plus the best cafes, restaurants and hotels

It’s home to great art and music, but the city of spies and Sigmund Freud also has an edgy vibe – and a new buzz, discovers Kevin Rushby

• Your shout: readers’ tips on Vienna

For a perfect winter break, you need more than just a schmaltzy Christmas market. With its atmospheric coffee shops, opulent museums and galleries, food markets and a revitalised underground music scene, Vienna is a city that comes into its own in the colder months.

Until 1918 it was capital of that oddball confection, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ruled over by the Habsburgs who spent centuries collecting palaces, horses and paintings. The modern visitor gets one of the world’s greatest concentrations of artefacts and art, spread across several museums, but there’s a lot more besides. Vienna was always a city on the edge – Metternich quipped: “The East begins at the Landstrasse,” the city’s south-east side. Perhaps that edgy vibe helped Freud develop his theories of human psychology, it was also where spies like Philby learned their trade in the 1930s. The cold war cemented the city’s reputation as a shadowy outpost, but local youth and an influx of people from overseas has added vitality to the old city.

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