The official colours of Vienna are red and white. The unofficial ones are black and gold, the colours most associated with Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, a truly iconic painting and perhaps the city’s greatest art treasure.
- Klimt’s most popular work, painted in 1907-1908
- On permanent display at the Upper Belvedere Palace
- Open daily but hugely popular, so go early
- See also: Dürer’s Young Hare
How can I see the Kiss?
The Kiss seems everywhere in Vienna. It’s slowly taking over the souvenir shops. And anything Klimt-related usually has the painting front and centre.
The actual painting hangs on permanent display in Vienna’s Belvedere Museum. The institution has several locations within the Belvedere complex, but you want Upper Belvedere Palace; The Kiss makes up part of the Vienna around 1900 exhibition there.
You won’t be the only ones trying to see The Kiss. It is far and away the most popular painting in the country – prepare to do battle by smartphone if you pick the wrong time to go in.
The crowd is nothing like those you get for the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, though. And The Kiss is quite large, too – about 1.8m by 1.8m – so easily admired from a little distance, if necessary.
Nevertheless, such is the interest in The Kiss and the Belvedere exhibition that the museum recently introduced time slots to manage the visitor numbers.
Here are your options:
- Pick the right season: slow periods for tourism are:
- Late January through to a couple of weeks before Easter
- A week or two after Easter through to early June
- September, October and early November
- …even so, Vienna is becoming ever more popular as a tourist destination all year round
- Pick the right time: go early. I’ve often gone to Belvedere when it opens and it’s been relatively quiet, even around The Kiss
- Buy a ticket in advance: this is so you can book a time slot that’s best for you. There’s (obviously) a risk if you buy at the door that your allocated slot may involve a wait, especially in busy seasons. Though I’d still go for an early time so you have fewer visitors competing for space
- Use a Vienna Pass sightseeing pass: this gets you one-time entry to Belvedere, but you don’t need to book a time slot (at the time of writing), so you have more flexibility as to when you go
Incidentally, don’t leave Upper Belvedere without taking a look around the wider exhibition.
Quite apart from a whole number of other works by Klimt (including the almost-but-not-quite-as-famous-as-the-Kiss Judith), the collection features art by the likes of Schiele, Rodin, Munch, Hundertwasser, Monet, and van Gogh, as well as remarkable portraits of Napoleon and Austria’s Empress Elisabeth.
I’m no art expert, so won’t wax lyrical on the meaning or composition of this oil painting. Suffice to say that The Kiss has caught the imagination of the world.
Painted in 1907/9108, experts consider the work to be the most iconic example of Austria’s Art Nouveau. But it’s fame and status extends into the wider world.
Klimt already has a couple of less-iconic works in the list of the World’s Top 20 most expensive painting sales, then you can only begin to imagine how much The Kiss is worth.
You might want to stick to just buying one of those souvenirs.