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 collection of art collected through Imperial history
- If you’re pressed for time, head to the paintings or the Kunstkammer
- An adult ticket costs €15 (concessions available or use the Vienna Pass* for free entry)
- Tiqets.com skip-the-line tickets* also available
- Notable temporary exhibitions:
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 the Emperor’s expansive plans for the Ring.
If you get them mixed up, you may find yourself standing in front of a stuffed wildebeest debating how it expresses the true nature of being. But it’s just a stuffed wildebeest.
Entry is €15 for an adult with kids free and reductions available.
The museum is open daily during the summer, but shuts Mondays other times of year. Opening times are usually from 10am to 6pm, but Thursdays you can admire Bruegel’s brushwork a little longer – until 9pm.
Do check the official website for current prices and opening times though before you visit. There might be different opening times and prices because of special exhibitions, for example.
General visitor tips
- If you’re planning to immerse yourself in each collection you may need a lot of time. Buy an annual ticket if you’re planning more than two separate visits.
- 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.
- After you get in, go left to put away coats and bags in the free cloakroom, 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 gallery, but for other areas you really need an English audio guide or book. (Note there is also an app available with built-in topical tours in English, too.)
- 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. Pause for a moment and look up to enjoy the “wow” view.
- 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 breathtaking.
- Take the “Welcome” 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 just rush through the highlights.
- The cafe/restaurant is not cheap, but is a remarkably impressive place to sit.
Finally, the Kunsthistorisches Museum feels like a place for hushed voices – a cathedral of art that’s not unwelcoming, but not overly welcoming either. 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 there
Subway: U2 or U3: Station Volkstheater
Tram: D, 71, 46, 49 or 2 to Ring/Volkstheater
Bus: 48A to Ring/Volkstheater
Address: Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna | Website