Now, I totally understand that Vienna is a centre for art and creativity excellence, with a new ancient gallery on every street corner. Vienna is one of Europe’s smallest capital cities, but its rich cultural history can be seen in every building, with a large number of the museum buildings being of historical significance in themselves.
However, my own and Scott’s interest in artwork is minimal, and unfortunately neither of us have a great appreciation for these masterpieces. But being in the city, we were not going to miss out and have a few techniques to help us enjoy ourselves. Our main strategy is one that we developed in the art museums of Berlin and involves competing to spot the most animals in pictures; one point for a dog, five for a cat and then it gets a bit out of hand as we lose count and start making up new rules.
The Upper and Lower Belvedere
Built in the early 18th century, these palaces were the sporadic home to the royal family. Following the end of WWII, was turned into the Austrian Gallery and overtime became two museums featuring both Upper and Lower sections of the palace. We really enjoyed our time in both museums, as not only are the palaces spectacular in themselves, but so are the extensive grounds. Inside the golden walls are a number of works of art even I in my ignorance has heard of, including van Gogh and Klimt, among others. The whole museum is incredibly tasteful, with the addition of artwork in no way taking away from the fabulous buildings making them a great explore.
The building that houses this museum is definitely a masterpiece, being one of a matching set, the other being the Natural History Museum. However, this is where our animal spotting game came into play. While we both loved the Egyptian collection on the ground floor, the higher levels were made up of beautiful artwork that unfortunately Scott and I just aren’t cultured enough to truly appreciate, so on we went with our dog spotting. We actually did so much dog spotting that I set the proximity alarms off in one room because I got too close and then had to apologise to the staff.
Beautiful building, Scott liked the ceilings, great Egyptian stuff.
Natural History Museum
We love a Natural History Museum, not just because we love some dodgy taxidermy, but also because we’re science nuts. There’s a great dinosaur exhibit, a figuring of Venus believed to be created in 30,000 BC and a large meteorite collection. I know this isn’t an art museum, but I’ve added it to the list because this building is the sister of another just across the way and is a work of art itself.
The Albertina is another outstanding building in the centre of Vienna. Once a former royal residence, part of the tour takes you through the old state rooms with their wonderful chandeliers, furniture and beautiful wall coverings. Dotted throughout these halls are some of the most famous works of art in the world, including my favourite the ‘Young Hare’, a 1502 watercolour by Albrecht Durer. After taking in the staterooms we headed upstairs to the main art rooms, where you can find masterpieces from Picasso, Monet and Klimt.
Austrian Museum of Applied and Contemporary Art (MAK)
Where many of the other museums primary focus is on older works of art, the MAK is all about contemporary and experimental art. Again, while I’m sure some people will love this museum, it went right over our heads, although the building like so many others, is beyond impressive.
This was one museum we really couldn’t get our heads around. The main exhibit is a metal box which I’m sure has some profound and meaningful story behind it that will mean something to someone, but apart from a few other bits and bobs that’s all there is here.
All of the museums above we accessed using our Vienna Passes, but individual tickets can be brought for each.
History Belvedere (2020). Available at: https://www.belvedere.at/en/museum/history-belvedere.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (2020) Floor Plan. Available at: https://www.khm.at/nocache/en/objectdb/saalplan/.