The Kunsthistorisches Museum main building is a giant chest of artistic treasures, all tied up in beautiful architectural gift wrap.
Inside are several world-class art collections. You probably assume we’re talking paintings here. But while the picture gallery is impressive, it’s just one part.
- Outstanding selection of art collected through Imperial history
- If you’re pressed for time, head to the paintings or the Kunstkammer
- A standard adult ticket* costs €16 (concessions available or use the Vienna Pass for free entry)
- Notable temporary exhibitions:
- Mark Rothko (until June 2019)
- See also: Museums in Vienna
As well as the galleries of paintings, there’s also the Kunstkammer, the Egyptian collection, the Greek and Roman Antiquities and the Coin collection. Not to mention regular special exhibitions, like the Vermeyen cartoons.
So probably more art than you can eat in one sitting, especially if you want time to digest what you’re seeing. And unless you’re interested in particular paintings, I’d recommend the Kunstkammer as the “must see” collection.
The building itself sits opposite its twin – the Natural History Museum – on the square named in honour of Empress Maria Theresia. The two museums are near identical in look, both completed in 1891 as part of Emperor Franz Joseph’s expansive plans for the Ring.
If you get the two museums mixed up, you may find yourself standing in front of a stuffed wildebeest debating how it expresses the true nature of human existence. But it’s actually just a stuffed wildebeest.
Tickets & visitor information
The museum is open daily except for Monday, whereby it also opens on Monday during peak season (summer and a few weeks either side of Christmas). Opening times are usually from 10 am to 6 pm, but Thursdays you can admire Bruegel’s brushwork a little longer – until 9 pm.
Opening times and prices may change, especially during a particularly special exhibition.
- When you enter the building it looks like one ticket office. But if you’re sitting in a queue for tickets, look behind you: there’s another ticket office on the other side of a glass door which may be less busy.
- Once through the ticket check, look up.
The museum itself is its own work of art. So actually you should look up, down, and around everywhere as you view the collections. The entrance hall and dome are quite breathtaking.
- After you get in, go left to put away coats and bags in the cloakroom, which also has lockers (you need a €1 or €2 coin to operate them). Go ahead for audio guides or right for the shop and guidebooks.
- The Kunstkammer has a lot of accessible information via tablets and there’s plenty of English in the picture galleries. Other areas have less or no English; you might want the English audio guide or a book.
- Alternatively, use the KHM Stories app for themed English-language tours of the collection (available for free from the iPhone and Android app stores)
- Up the stairs to your left is the Kunstkammer, while the stairs to the right lead to the Egyptian collection. Everything else is up the stairs in front of you.
- Take the “Plan and general information” leaflet – it has a floor plan plus shows you where to find the very top highlights of the museum’s collections.
- You’re going to need a lot of time to see the museum in its entirety. I took several hours in the Kunstkammer, which is just one section of the building. So either you set aside plenty of time or you use the leaflet to browse through the highlights.
- The cafe/restaurant is not cheap, but is a remarkably impressive place to drink a coffee.
Finally, the Kunsthistorisches Museum feels like a place for hushed voices – a cathedral of art that’s not unwelcoming, but has a touch of high-brow about it. It can be intimidating for those (like me) whose knowledge of art is limited largely to family-friendly Sunday evening TV documentaries.
Do not expect to find much in the way of dumbed-down infotainment or edutainment: I never saw any cartoon figures encouraging us to discover the joys of Italian Baroque paintings.
How to get to the museum
Subway: U2 or U3 to Volkstheater and a short walk
Tram: 1, D, 71, 46, 49 or 2 to Ring/Volkstheater or the 1, 2, 71 and D to Burgring
Bus: 48A to Ring/Volkstheater or the 57A to Burgring
Address: Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna | Website