A bookshelf made from hardcover books. A necklace partly strung with living flowers. A bracelet crafted from brown-mottled horn—and designed to double as a digital watch. These products combine practical purposes with fresh visual and tactile appeal, and they were all invented in Vienna.
In recent years, Vienna has won renown as a global hotspot for design innovation. A centuries-old legacy of craft and an influx of creative types from eastern Europe have caused design to flourish in the Austrian capital.
This October, Vienna Design Week reveals the best new design discoveries at more than 80 events in about 50 locations. All of the exhibitions are free and most are understandable to English-speakers. Ten artists will be paired with local manufacturers in workshops to create, in a week's time, clever interpretations of common items like chairs, lampshades, and soup pots.
In a new twist this year, the city's tourist offices are offering do-it-yourself walking tours, grouped by theme. October 1–10, viennadesignweek.at.
Happily, Vienna is one of the Top Ten Budget Travel Destinations in 2010, with hotel rates and airfares cheaper now than at any time since 2002—and much cheaper than the European capitals it's starting to rival.
If you're visiting the city at another time than during Design Week, here are a few shops where you'll find the smartest designs.
PARK A futuristic fashion store, done entirely in white, stocks trendy clothing along with illustrated books. Mondscheingasse 20, park.co.at.
MQ Point Unusual gifts and ecclectic accessories by international designers, many exclusively for sale here. MuseumsQuartier, mqw.at.
MAK Design Shop Limited editions by Austrian designers and products for sale at the gift shop for Austria's museum for the applied arts. (There's an outpost in L.A., too.) Stubenring 5, mak.at.
Also on Vienna's arts agenda, the Albertina will present a Pablo Picasso exhibit "Peace and Freedom" from late September and it will exhibit a collection of Michelangelo's drawings survey from October 8.