It’s the Antiques Roadshow on speed, where the desks come with mahogany and pearl inlays, not a screwdriver and assembly instructions.
- View the beds, chairs, cabinets and other items that graced the imperial residences, especially from 1800 onwards
- Most displays focus on particular Habsburg personalities, like Empress Elisabeth (Sisi)
- Tickets are €9.50 (concessions available) or free with the Vienna Pass*
- Not really suitable for your average kid (though they might giggle at the historical toilets)
I’ve listed my personal highlights in a separate post, but here’s a quick overview.
The first floor at the entrance is where most of the upholstered action is, beginning with an introduction to imperial furniture management.
You know how moving house is stressful? Now imagine that when your house has over 1400 rooms.
The first main room is like a well-appointed antique shop whose owner hasn’t got round to labeling everything: a potpourri of items in storage, with everything from giant candleholders to a collection of spittoons.
The rest of the rooms on this floor are more like a traditional museum, with most displays associated with some of the iconic Habsburg personalities and their wives and children: Emperors Francis I/II and Franz Joseph, Empress Maria Theresa, and more. Here (and elsewhere) you’ll also find original furniture featured in the Sissi movies of Empress Elisabeth’s life, complete with illustrative film clips.
As you move from display to display you get a good feel for the changing culture, from the rich decoration of Marie Antoinette’s 18th century secretaire (a drop-front writing desk) to the more functional sleekness of the 19th century era.
You also gain some insight into the personalities of the owners, as reflected in their choice of styles and designs. So you can see Crown Prince Rudolf’s Turkish room or the rustic furniture from Empress Elisabeth’s personal dairy farm.
The next floor houses the temporary special exhibitions, but also features a typical early 19th century music room and salon.
This display of period rooms continues on the third floor, with a row of exhibits from the Biedermeier period (early 19th century). Discover the 1831 dressing room of Archduchess Maria Anna, or “go inside” a Viennese coffee shop or dining room.
The rest of the floor hints at the development of the modern kitchen and bathroom, complete with 19th century bidets and commodes. A walk-in depot of sundry imperial items leads you back to the stairs via a collection of chairs.
On the top floor, you can follow the historical development of local furniture and chair design more closely. The displays feature such famous names as Thonet, Hoffman, Wagner and Loos (who, I feel, should have devoted more effort to toilet design).
- The museum opens daily from 10am to 6pm most of the year, but is closed on Mondays during winter
- An adult ticket costs €9.50, but there are various concessions. If you don’t have a Vienna Pass, consider the “Sisi” combination ticket that also gets you cheaper entry into a tour of Schönbrunn and the Hofburg winter palace. Be sure to check the website for up-to-date information on prices and opening times
- There are lockers to the right of the ticket desk – you need a 1€ coin to use them
Each room has an introductory poster in German and English, and most of the item labels are in both languages, too. There’s a handy brochure available for those who prefer Spanish, Italian or French.
- If you’re pushed for time, the first floor has the main Imperial-related stuff. Start off in the room to your right once you pass the ticket barrier. We got round the whole museum in just over two hours
- Upstairs is more for those with a Biedermeier bent or a close interest in furniture history
- Look out for the red labels on item descriptions marking “highlights”
- There are a few books and items for sale around the ticket desk, but no café. However, the roads around Andreasgasse are packed with restaurants and coffee houses should you need refreshment
- We went in winter and the ticket desk warned that the rooms are not overly warm (for conservation reasons, I imagine). They were right, but I was fine in a woolly jumper
How to get to the imperial furniture collection
The museum sits on a side road leading off Vienna’s main shopping street (Mariahilfer Straße). The U3 subway line runs underneath Mariahilfer Straße and the museum is in the middle between the Neubaugasse and Zieglergasse stations (3-5 minutes walk from either).
The 13A bus line is not too far, either. Get out at Neubaugasse if coming from the north, or at Esterhazygasse if coming from the south.