When you successfully tweak the noses of the Emperor’s enemies, you can expect a little more than a thank you note and a bottle of wine.
Which is why Prince Eugene of Savoy – military commander and all-round national hero – managed to accumulate enough lands, positions and wealth to construct some of Vienna’s most impressive buildings. Including the Baroque palaces (one at each end of the gardens) at Belvedere completed in the early 1700s.
Today’s “Belvedere” is a collection of historical and modern buildings that double up as art museums, covering various sites (see map at the end):
Main Belvedere palace and garden complex:
- Upper Belvedere: the ceremonial palace and home to the permanent art collection
- Lower Belvedere: the more functional palace and home to temporary art exhibitions
- Belvedere Gardens: to make the walk between the upper and lower palaces more pleasant
- The Winterpalais: Eugene’s residence in town, also host to temporary art exhibitions
- 21er Haus: the Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Alpine Gardens and Botanical Garden: not officially part of Belvedere, but both border the palace grounds
The main gardens are free, otherwise individual site tickets cost between €7 and €14 for an adult (with the usual concessions). However, there are various combination tickets which let you get a decent discount if you’re intending to visit more than one site.
If you’re planning to return to any of the sites, consider an annual ticket. At the time of writing it was €39, just €10 more than buying a one-time-only ticket for the four main venues: Upper Belvedere, Lower Belvedere (includes the Orangery, Privy Garden and Stables), the Winterpalais and the 21er Haus. Again, check the official website for details.
Visitor tips for Belvedere
Follow the individual links above for site-specific tips, but here is some general advice:
- Think of the buildings and exhibitions as one and the same. Your entrance ticket covers entering the relevant building(s) and viewing whatever’s inside. If an exhibition does not interest you, you may still want to go through it because that’s how you also see the inside of, for example, the palaces.
- In many parts of the main complex look for a small board in German and English describing the decor and perhaps history of the room or area you’re standing in, together with a relevant picture from the early 18th century.
(We’re very lucky – a chap called Saloman Kleiner produced a series of copper engravings of the interior and exterior of Belvedere in the 1730s, so we have a pictorial record of what the original palaces and gardens looked like. You can buy a copy in the Belvedere shops.)
- The main art collection is in Upper Belvedere. So if you’re pushed for time, this is the one to visit. It’s also where you’ll find the Klimt paintings, including the Kiss. But if you do have time, I recommend popping into Lower Belvedere, too.
- Everything but the Winterpalais is within a relatively short walk of each other.
- If you have a specific site you want to see, check with the website that it’s not closed temporarily to set up an exhibition. For example, I missed out on the Orangery on my first visit for this reason.
- There’s a cafe/restaurant in both palaces. A good tip, though, is the Salmbräu restaurant immediately outside Lower Belvedere. It’s often busy with tourists, but every time I’ve been there the food was great (and it has its own house beers, too). So it’s not a tourist trap.