Freud introduced the idea of the psychiatrist’s couch, and if you visit house No.19 on Berggasse (see map below) you can stand in the very room that this “first couch” was used.
Unfortunately, the couch itself – a gift from a patient – is elsewhere having joined Freud when he fled Nazi-run Vienna for London. But there’s plenty else to interest the visitor to the Sigmund Freud Museum.
It’s located in the same apartment that Freud lived in with his wife Martha, kids and sister-in-law between 1891 and 1938.
It’s also where he received his patients. Surgery hours were 5 to 7 and 8 to 9, which left plenty of time for
buying groceries, smoking cigars and writing, two tasks Freud regarded as inseparable.
Given the volume of writing he produced, he must have single-handedly kept the Viennese cigar industry in business.
The entrance is up the stairs on the first floor of the house through a very normal Viennese apartment door. You even have to ring the bell – marked “Prof. Dr. Freud” – to gain access. It’s hard not to feel a tiny thrill when you do that.
Buy your ticket inside and pick up an audio guide – available in various languages – before going through to the small shop.
The shop is mostly books but you can buy postcards, posters and little souvenirs, too.
I bought an eraser marked “repression” (nice). There’s even a Sigmund Freud action figure in case the little ones want to play cops and psychoanalysts (and who hasn’t done that in their youth?).
In the little anteroom beyond make sure you pick up a guidebook – also available in multiple languages – you will need it and then move right into the entrance hall to Freud’s surgery. Opposite is a small room where you can watch video documentaries.
The hall is more or less in its original state. By the entrance door you’ll find an Art Nouveau ashtray, a reminder of Freud’s ultimate demise through smoking-induced cancer. Some personal belongings are also on display.
Next is the waiting room with its original furniture.
Whatever your interest (or not) in Freud or his work, he is an icon of the modern world. So it’s quite thrilling to see the actual sofa that people sat on before going through for treatment.
Each photo, painting or honorary degree on the walls has a number so you can read up about it in your guidebook. Many descriptions include relevant quotes offering insights into Freud’s thoughts, hopes and irritations.
Be sure to check photo 2 – Freud with the almost-as-famous Swiss psychiatrist Jung – and photo 28 of Einstein (a friend).
The consulting room and subsequent study are pretty bare of furniture but the walls trace the story of his life, work and prodigious output with a myriad of documents and photos.
See, for example, a school report with good grades across the board (swot), family portraits, scientific papers (including one on cocaine), books and letters.
The remaining rooms are dedicated to special exhibitions. When I was there it was on the topic of women in psychoanalysis, recognising the role played by women as patients and analysts in developing this field (some were both). Anna Freud – his daughter – was herself a renowned name in child analysis.
Worth a visit?
It’s obviously a must for those with an interest in psychology and psychiatry. But you also get a feel for the intellectual life of late 19th and early 20th century Vienna, spanning a world war and the end of the Hapsburg monarchy.
You can slip through in no time at all and it is kind of “cool” (not a word Freud would appreciate, I’m sure) to imagine being in the exact same place as this historical figure and his patients so many years ago.
At the time of writing, the museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm, costing €9 for adults with the usual concessions. But please check the museum’s website for up-to-date details.
Since the entire museum is obviously the size of a single apartment, albeit a large one, there’s not a lot of space. So it’s probably best to avoid the weekend crowds – the museum can even be closed temporarily if it gets too full.
U2: Station Schottentor (short walk required)
D to Schlickgasse, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42 to Schwarzspanierstraße (short walk required)
40A to Berggasse
Address: Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna
P.S. The photo of Freud is by Max Halberstadt and in the public domain (found via Wikimedia Commons)