A thirst for knowledge can quickly turn into a parched throat and empty stomach as long galleries and mountains of art take their toll on your energy levels.
In the Kunsthistorisches Museum, help is at hand in the form of the museum’s cafe/restaurant at the top of the stairs on the first floor.
It’s of the traditional Viennese coffee house variety, which means staff have a cultivated, formal politeness and you can spend many a happy hour trying to decide if that makes them friendly or not.
The menu includes a wide range of coffees, teas, soft drinks, beers, wines etc., cakes, and proper cold and hot meals featuring typical Viennese restaurant dishes.
If you’re on a budget, this might not be your first choice, though. Obviously you’re paying a premium for the location. For example, a Cappuccino cost me over €5. I didn’t eat anything as I still have mortgage repayments.
Talking of location – what a truly wonderful setting to sup your coffee.
You sit below the main dome on an upholstered chair or sofa while eight arches with black and gold columns lift your eyes up past playful statues and angels to reliefs honouring the likes of Archduke Ferdinand II and, of course, the ubiquitous Emperor Franz Joseph.
It’s the “if there’s a space then fill it” approach to architecture.
Sitting below such an assault on the senses can be inspiring, intriguing and intimidating in equal measure.
There’s something perhaps a little sad about it all, too. So much creativity, emotion, time and expense invested by those who designed, built or commissioned the works. So much opulence and Hapsburg self-belief (or arrogance if you prefer).
Did Emperor Franz Joseph sit here, too? Was he pleased? Did he imagine 900 years of self-glorification was soon to end in the trenches of WWI France?
Don’t sit here alone – you can start thinking too much. (But then there’s always chocolate cake to revive the spirits.)
Tip: You can see the upper areas of the dome better if you go up to the second floor (the same floor as the coin collection) and look out from one of the balconies.
The main shop is on your right as you enter the museum and has everything you’d expect.
The focus, inevitably, is on books, DVDs, postcards and posters, but there’s also, for example, jewellery and miniatures. I liked the Saliera-style salt and pepper pots – not cheap, but cheaper than the original.
Each of the individual museum collections has its own guidebook to their masterpieces. But since they cost around €20 each, these may only make sense if you just plan to view, for example, the paintings. If you want to quickly browse everything, then a general guidebook makes more financial sense.
Most of the items in the shop are helpfully split by collection. So if you’re looking for a postcard of that Titian you liked, there’s a painting section. And you know you’re in Vienna when you can buy chocolate with a Bruegel-themed wrapping.
Tip: At the time of writing, the museum’s annual ticket (which pays for itself in three visits) gets you 10% off at the shop.