March 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)International Focus Austria

Some highlights of Graz (clockwise from top): The Island in the Mur; Mariahilfer Platz; house on the Herrengasse; Kunsthaus museum; Graz Opera House
Some highlights of Graz (clockwise from top): The Island in the Mur; Mariahilfer Platz; house on the Herrengasse; Kunsthaus museum; Graz Opera House

Famous for waltzes, formal balls, imperial palaces and a talented local musician named Mozart, Austria also is becoming better known as a meetings destination.

Austria’s second largest city, this capital of the province of Styria has been designated the official Cultural Capital of Europe for 2003, and special events will run throughout the year.

A boldly designed new events center, The Island in the Mur, opened Jan. 11. Shaped like two oyster shells (imagine one face down, the other face up), the facility is in the middle of the River Mur and reached by pedestrian bridge. Designed by New York City-based Vito Acconci, the Mur contains a café and an outdoor amphitheater seating approximately 100.

Opening in September, the Kunsthaus art museum also is raising eyebrows.

Sitting on the edge of the River Mur, the facility, which has been nicknamed the “Friendly Alien” due to its unusual roof, will have no permanent exhibits, but for groups it will offer a 2,500-square-foot lobby and a 1,750-square-foot multipurpose events space.

Stadthalle Graz, the city’s convention center, opened last October. The facility has 140,000 square feet of exhibition space, including eight meeting rooms and a 65,000-square-foot, pillarless area; the city’s fairgrounds sit directly behind.

In September 2002, the Innsbruck Bergisel Ski Jump opened the Bergisel Café, an indoor 120-seat restaurant with modernist touches. Perched at the top of the 150-foot-high ski tower, the eatery enjoys a 360-degree view and can host up to 180 for receptions.

Covered in grass, shaped like a giant with huge, blue-crystal eyes and sitting next to the world-famous Swarovski crystal factory, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds museum in Wattens, nine miles east of Innsbruck, will double in size by year-end to 40,000 square feet.

Following its first renovations in 100 years, the Albertina Museum, which owns works by such masters as Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Rubens, reopens this month. Once an official residence of the Hapsburgs, the facility has space for groups, including two new galleries and several magnificent staterooms that have been redone in gold leaf.

The 753,000-square-foot Reed Messe Wien Congress Center is due to finish a renovation project in August. The center also plans to add its first hotel, with 220 rooms, in late 2004. By 2007, a new subway stop will result in shorter trips between the facility and the heart of the city.

A new Méridien will open in October on the Ringstrasse, directly opposite the opera house. It will have 301 rooms, 12,000 square feet of meeting space and a distinctly modernist look.

The 572-room Hilton Vienna closed in February for a $60 million renovation that will add 10 meeting rooms, 8,640 square feet of function space, a spa and a restaurant. The hotel is due to reopen in May 2004.

• By Lisa Grimaldi IMAGE
Lisbon’s 194-room Pestana Carlton Palace Hotel, formerly the Palácio Valle Flor, opened last year. The main building, a national monument, was restored to its grand 19th-century ambience, and two wings were added to house the guest rooms. The property has 15 meeting rooms, a fitness center, formal gardens and an outdoor pool. (011) 351-291-209100; Back to Newsline
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