Though home to a litany of famous actors and theatrical personalities, the Burgtheater is also closely associated with an artist: Gustav Klimt. The in-house tour takes you on a journey through theatrical past and present (and up close to Klimt’s works).
- Discover the glorious ceiling paintings by Matsch and the Klimts
- Guided talk covers the building’s history, art, and personalities, with plenty of entertaining anecdotes
- English tours also available
- Buy tickets from the box office
- See also: The Burgtheater | Cinemas and theatres
Klimt and more
(The Burgtheater viewed from the Volksgarten park)
One particularly magnificent building stands out as a mighty bastion against the overwhelming influence of music in Vienna: the Burgtheater national theatre is dedicated to the spoken word only.
Go through the entrance and it all looks a little less impressive (a consequence of WWII bombing). But that’s misleading, for the Burgtheater is home to two rather glorious staircases and globally-important works of art that survived the bombers.
This is the centre of German-language theatre in Austria, so you probably won’t be buying a ticket to a performance. But that doesn’t mean you cannot look around inside. The in-house tours take you to both staircases, the auditorium, the stage and various bits in between.
(Part of the exterior facade
It’s all about the two entrance hallways with their giant staircases, all marble, stone and richly-decorated lamps. Not to mention the busts and statues honouring actors and playwrights, such as Nestroy, Molière, and David Garrick.
And then there are the ceilings.
Original oil paintings from the late 1880s cover each hallway ceiling with representations of theatrical history and themes, whether a medieval mystery play or a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre.
Of course, what’s special about these ceiling paintings is the name of the artists behind them: Frank Matsch, Ernst Klimt, and…Gustav Klimt.
The more famous Klimt contributed, for example, The Altar of Dionysos, The Cart of Thespis, and The Theatre at Taormina paintings, where you can already begin to see subtle echoes of the style that would later appear in such iconic works as The Kiss.
Gustav Klimt also created the aforementioned painting of the Globe, which incorporates the performance, but also various onlookers. Three young men in the audience deserve special mention since they are portraits of Matsch and the two Klimt brothers. Indeed, this is the only painted self-portrait of Gustav Klimt known to be in existence.
And the rest…
The route between staircase hallways took us through foyers and interval rooms, where the rich tradition of the Burgtheater comes alive in various artifacts and mementos.
So you see, for example:
- The death mask of Oskar Werner, former member of the Burgtheater ensemble and winner of a Golden Globe for his performance in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
- Portraits of such theatrical luminaries as Katharina Schratt, leading actress and long-time companion of Emperor Franz Joseph, or Joseph Lange, actor and Mozart’s brother-in-law
The route also provides an opportunity to look out the windows for wonderful views across to the Rathaus and other parts of Vienna’s historical centre.
The auditorium and stage were closed on my tour for rehearsals, but the guide took time to show photos and explain, for example, the finer points of the stage’s technology.
(NB: The box office kindly warned us about the shortened tour before we bought our tickets.)
Tickets & visitor information
Tours of the Burgtheater normally take place daily at 3pm, with English-language versions available throughout July and August, and on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays during the rest of the year. (On other days, the German tours include an English summary.)
Tour tickets go on sale from the ticket office on the day, beginning 15 minutes before a tour starts.
My guide gave an authoritative and entertaining account of the theatre’s history, the ensemble, and the characteristics of each location, including details of each painting we passed. A true fount of knowledge full of anecdotes and insight.
How to get to the Burgtheater
See the main article on the Burgtheater for travel info.
Address: Dr. Karl-Lueger-Ring 2, 1010 Vienna