The Art Trail: Vienna

Vienna Art Guide Kunsthistoriches Museum

Art Trail Vienna

Vienna has one of the world’s greatest collections of museums, in no small part due to the ruling Habsburgs who collected art voraciously from an empire spanning much of continental Europe.

Few cities display imperial power in such stunning fashion as Vienna, with the storied Hofburg and Schönbrunn palaces once the domain of Emperors and their Court, today home to priceless collections of art and furniture. Emperor Franz Joseph himself commissioned the magnificent Kunsthistoriches Museum, a stunning collection of masterworks from the Middle Ages through the 19th Century.

Vienna Art Guide MuseumsQuartier & Leopold Museum

But Austria’s contribution to modern art cannot be underestimated with the rich collections of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt at the Belvedere Palace, Albertina and Leopold Museum. The MuseumsQuartier, carved out of the former royal stables, brings together theaters, the Leopold and contemporary art showcase MUMOK, while providing the Viennese with a quirky outdoor space for events or just lounging on a warm day.

Vienna Art Guide Kunsthistoriches Museum Stairs

Kunsthistoriches Museum
Maria Theresien-Platz, Website

The crown jewel of the Habsburg rule, the Kunsthistoriches Museum came late to the European art scene, only opening in 1891. Designed in the fashion of an imperial palace, the imposing edifice and wide marble main stairwell of the museum project the intimidating power of the ruling family.

The building is smartly divided in two parts, the north wing showcasing paintings from the northern part of the empire, mainly Holland and Flanders, while the south overflows with paintings from Italy and Spain. Plan on spending half a day to an entire day in the museum, which provides numerous plush couches for reflection on the artwork and features a stylish Viennese café underneath a soaring cupola.

Vienna Art Guide Kunsthistoriches Museum galleryThe collection’s masterpieces make this a must-visit museum, with the northern section alone featuring works by Pieter Bruegel the elder, Johannes Vermeer, Albrecht Durer, Rembrandt and two full rooms devoted to Peter Paul Rubens. The southern section has an amazing collection of Venetian holdings, from a large collection of works by Titian to three paintings from Giorgione, an artist who is only survived by around 10 paintings in the entire world. Four distinctive portraits by Arcimboldo are highlights as are major works by Velazquez and Caravaggio.

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm (Thursday until 9pm); Daily June – August

Admission: Adults €14 (€13 with Vienna Card), Kids under 19 Free; Masterticket KHM – combined with Leopold Museum (same day) €19, €14 reduced

Vienna Art Guide Hofburg PalaceHofburg Palace & Sisi Museum
Enter at Michaelerkuppel, Website

A tour to the Hofburg Palace, the private residence of the royal family, begins with a journey through the life of the doomed Empress Elisabeth, affectionately known as Sisi to Austrians. Sisi married Emperor Franz Joseph at an early age only to chafe against the constrictions of royal life and the backbiting of the Imperial Court. The original modern royal, she was an adept horse rider who exercised daily and studied foreign languages, including Hungarian due to her sympathy for the Hungarian minority. After the tragic death of her son, Vienna Art Guide Hofburg Grand Salonshe receded further from royal life and frequently traveled, even as her husband remained devoted to her. Sisi met her fate at the hands of an anarchist in Geneva in 1898 and the museum traces both her life and the aftermath of her shocking death.

After making your way though the Sisi Museum, you arrive in the Imperial Apartments. These opulent apartments, surprisingly diminutive in some cases, were the actual residence of generations of royalty. Unusual rooms include Sisi’s exercise room, the first toilet installed in the palace and the incredible dining hall, still set for an Imperial banquet. A ticket to the Hofburg also includes a visit to the Imperial Silver Collection, which is located on the ground floor.

Hours: 9am – 5:30 daily (until 6pm July and August), last admission 1 hour before, allow 90 minutes – 2 hours for a visit

Admission: Combined ticket: Adults €11.50, Students 19 – 25 & Vienna Card €12, Kids 6 – 18 €10.50; The Sisi Ticket is an excellent value if you wish to also visit Schönbrunn Palace – Adults €25, Students 19 – 25 & Vienna Card €21.50, Kids 6 – 18, €14 – valid for 1 year and includes Hofburg, Schönbrunn Palace (Grand Tour only) and Imperial Furniture Collection; admission includes audio guide.

Belvedere Palace
Prinz Eugen-Strasse 27, Website

Vienna Art Guide Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy as a summer palace, though its construction so infuriated the Habsburgs that upon his death, they purchased it and turned it into a museum. The Oberes Belvedere (Upper Belvedere) houses a stellar collection of 19th and 20th Century art, featuring the world’s largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt. Schiele, Kokoschka  and Moser are all well represented on the Austrian side as are international artists such as Edvard Munch and Claude Monet. The palace’s most famous work is undoubtedly Klimt’s “The Kiss” housed on the 2nd Floor but don’t miss Max Oppenheimer’s vibrant, expansive opus “Gustav Mahler Conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,” which was created over twenty six years, on the ground floor.

The Unteres Belvedere (Lower Belvedere) is used for special exhibits of Contemporary Art.

Hours: Upper Belvedere – Daily 10am – 6pm; Lower Belvedere – Daily 10am – 6pm (Weds until 9pm); Palace Stables – Daily 10am – Noon.

Admission: Combination Oberes & Unteres + Orangerie Adults €22.50 (€19 with Vienna Card), Students 19 – 27 & Seniors 60 and over €18.50, Kids under 19 Free; Combination with 21er Haus Adult €19, Seniors, Students & Vienna Card €15, Kids Free

Vienna Art Guide Schonbrunn Palace maze

Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace was the summer palace of the Imperial family and also the site of the historic Vienna Summit between President John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. The sprawling palace features an astounding 1,441 rooms including the apartments of Empress Maria-Theresia, who greatly increased the importance of the palace in court life. One is named for her daughter, Marie Antoinette. A highlight of the tour is the magnificent Great Gallery, setting for the Vienna summit, which features splendid Rococo designs and ceiling frescos by Italian artist Gregorio Guglielmi.

Vienna Art Guide Schonbrunn Great GalleryThe palace’s extensive gardens are perfect for exploring, from the reconstructed maze to the Great Parterre lined with 32 sculptures. Climb the Schönbrunn Hill to the Gloriette for a beautiful view over the palace. On the way back down, pass the Roman ruin, which was actually built in 1778. The complex draws hordes of tourists, so arrive early or purchase a Sisi Ticket for quick access to the “Grand Tour.”

Hours: Palace: Daily 8:30am – 5:30pm (April 1 – June 30, September 1 – October 31), 8:30am – 6:30pm (July 1 – August 31), closes at 5pm November 1 – March 31; Park opens at 6am in summer and 6:30am in winter, closing at sunset; Gardens, Maze & Labyrinth 9am – 4pm (as late as 7pm in summer)

Admission: The palace itself has two levels of tickets – Imperial Tour or Grand Tour (for access to additional rooms) – Adults €11.50 or €14.50; Students 19 – 25 €10.50 or €13.20; Kids 6 -18 €8.50 or €9.50; Vienna Card gives €1.30 discount on Grand Tour only; The Classic and Classic Plus tickets include the Palace, Crown Prince Garden, Maze and Gloriette Viewing Station and run €18.50 or €21.50 for Adults, €16 or €19.90 for Students;

The Sisi Ticket is an excellent value if you wish to also visit Hofburg Palace – Adults €23.50, Students 19 – 25 & Vienna Card €21.50, Kids 6 – 18, €14 – valid for 1 year and includes Hofburg, Schönbrunn Palace (Grand Tour only) and Imperial Furniture Collection; all admissions levels includes audio guide to the palace.

Vienna Art Guide Egon Schiele self portraitLeopold Museum
MueumsQuartier, Website

Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold were among the foremost collectors of Austrian artists and their spectacular collection containing more than 5,000 works is on display in their eponymous museum, one of the anchors of the MuseumsQuartier.

The collected works span Austria’s most dynamic artistic periods, from the Secession (LINK to below) to the Modernist Movement to Austrian Expressionism. The highlight is undoubtedly the world’s largest collection of works by Egon Schiele, a Gustav Klimt disciple known for his portraits and twisted body shapes who tragically died at the age of 28. The sheer volume of works left behind by the young artist is simply mind-boggling and alone worth the price of admission. An extensive collection of works by Klimt is also on display.

Hours: Wednesday, Friday – Monday 10am – 6pm, Thursday 10am – 9pm; Closed Tuesdays, except June, July and August

Admission: Adults €12, Seniors over 60 €9, Students under 28 €8, Kids €7; Masterticket KHM – combined with Kunsthistoriches Museum (same day) €19, €14 reduced

Vienna Art Guide Rockenschaub Plattform at Gustav Klimts Beethoven Frieze Vienna SecessionSecession
Friedrichstrasse 12, Website

Housed in an Art Nouveau (Jugendstil in German) building topped by a golden spherical dome across from the Naschmarkt, the movement known as the Secession marked the breaking point of classical and modern art in Vienna. Founded in April 1897, the Secession was undertaken by a group of painters, sculptors and architects who launched a new artistic movement after resigning from the constrictions of the Association of Austrian Artists.

The Secession’s first president was Gustav Klimt, who created the famous “Beethoven Frieze” that today adorns the walls of the basement exhibition space. Painted in 1902 and originally intended to be a temporary installation, the work endures to this day even in the face of war and less than ideal conservation methods. Shuffled around over the years for its protection, the frieze was restored in the 1970s and 1980s then returned to display in the Secession, where you can climb a new platform by Gerwald Rockenschaub to view the work up close. The work itself is based on Wagner’s interpretation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and depicts humanity’s search for happiness.

The other galleries in the building are devoted to temporary contemporary art exhibits. Check the website for a schedule.

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 6pm

Admission: Beethoven Frieze & Contemporary Art Exhibits – Adults €8.50, Reduced rate (students & seniors) €5, Kids under 10 free; Contemporary Art Exhibits only – Adults €5, Reduced rate (students & seniors €4, Kids under 10 free

Vienna Art Guide MAK exterior

Stubenring 5, Website

MAK focuses on applied arts, design and architecture with a special emphasis on the short-lived Wiener Werkstätte, a movement by a group of artisans and architects to bring art to functional, everyday items such as clothing, utensils and furniture. Just as interesting is the gallery of chairs, where you can literally walk among two centuries of chairs displayed as shadows on screens, and the highly ornamented Porcelain Chamber circa 1740 from the Dubsky Palace in Brno (Czech Republic).

Hours: Tuesday 10am – 10pm (free 6pm – 10pm), Weds – Sun 10am – 6pm; Closed Mondays

Admission: Adults €7.90, Vienna Card €6.30, Reduced (students, seniors 60 and over) €5.50

Albertinaplatz 1, Website

This Neoclassical palace was originally known for its restored Habsburg staterooms and a stellar collection of drawings and Old Master prints. In 2007, the museum acquired on permanent loan an Impressionist-rich collection of the Rita and Herbert Batliner Foundation in Liechtenstein. Works on display include Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Modigliani, Matisse, Klee, Kandinsky, Chagall, and other French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. An additional permanent loan from the Forberg Collection supplements the holdings with a strong collection of German Expressionists and works by Picasso, Leger and Kandinsky.

Hours: Daily 10am – 6pm (until 9pm on Wednesdays)

Admission: Adults €11, Vienna Card €9.10, Seniors 60 and over €9, Students €8, Under 19 Free

MuseumsQuartier, Website

This museum features modern and contemporary art, with a special focus on Austrian art since 1960.

Hours: Monday 2pm – 7pm; Tuesday – Wednesday 10am – 7pm, Thursday 10am – 9pm, Saturday – Sunday 10am – 7pm

Admission: Adults €10, Reduced (Seniors, Vienna Card) €8; Students 19 – 27 €6.50; Kids Free

Vienna Art Guide Gloriette at Schonbrunn PalaceMoney Saving Tips

Vienna’s museums are expensive but here are a few tips on how to spend wisely.

  • Unlike many cities, The Vienna Card (€19.90) does not provide free admission to museums but functions as a discount card for attractions, shops, restaurants and more (discounts from 10 – 25%). If you will be using public transportation extensively, it’s still a good deal, providing unlimited use of the Metro, buses and trams for 72 hours. Just punch the card for the first time – on a tram in the machine or before entering a train platform. The card can be purchased at Tourist Info Kiosks, hotels and all major attractions. For more info, visit Wien.info.
  • Save by buying a combined ticket to the Sisi Museum/Hofburg Palace, Imperial Furniture Collection and Schönbrunn Palace. The Sisi Ticket is valid for one year. The Sisi ticket also allows you to bypass long lines and time controlled admission at Schönbrunn Palace, though it does not include admission to the Maze or Gloriette Viewing space.
  • MAK is free of charge on Tuesday evenings from 6pm – 10pm.

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