Follow the usual tourist trail around Vienna and you’ll come across reminders of the intimate association between the city and its Jewish community.
This page pulls together all my articles on locations of particular interest to those exploring that association. (So it’s by no means exhaustive.)
- The Jewish Museum is an absolute must (and highlight)
- Peek at a history that takes you from medieval synagogues to psychoanalysis, from the darkest of periods to the brightest forms of creativity
- See also:
Popular visitor locations
Let us begin with one of my favourite Viennese museums…
The Jewish Museum
(The Judenplatz location during a Leonard Bernstein exhibition)
Consider this a little gem in Vienna’s museal crown. The Jewish Museum has two locations: both very central and easily reached on foot, should you be exploring the old city centre.
The main location on Dorotheergasse features the permanent history exhibition, shop, café, and (normally) two special exhibitions: one big, one small.
The second location on Judenplatz houses a special exhibition, too, but also includes a permanent underground surprise.
Below the building and square outside are the remains of a synagogue destroyed in 1421 (the date of the first of three particularly dark chapters in Vienna’s Jewish history). An accompanying permanent exhibition explores, for example, medieval Jewish life.
The museum and its curators put together the temporary special exhibitions with loving care and always with English and German receiving equal billing.
The topics vary, but often explore the life and work of those Jews with a particular connection to Vienna.
You might find the paintings of a contemporary artist (like Arik Brauer), a biographical retrospective of a Hollywood star (like Hedy Lamarr), a wide-ranging theme (like an exploration of “guilt”), or the often-poignant stories of (extra)ordinary individuals who history has largely ignored.
The Holocaust memorial
(In memory of Austrian Jews killed by the Nazis)
That square above the old medieval synagogue mentioned above houses the Holocaust Memorial, revealed to the public in 2000 and created by Rachel Whiteread.
The large “inverted library” forms a memorial to the thousands of Austrian Jews murdered during the period of Nazi rule.
As one of the very oldest parts of Vienna, Judenplatz makes quite an evocative location above and beyond the Jewish connection.
For example, the first dukes lived just up the road, Mozart once occupied rooms here, and one building is the former Bohemian Court Chancery.
The Wall of Names
(Completed in 2021)
Located in a small park just outside the old town, the remarkable Wall of Names is Vienna’s second major memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The standalone walls form a large elliptical loop and carry the names of every one of the 65,000+ Jewish people from Austria murdered by the Nazis. The inscriptions create a startling and reverential impression.
The Sigmund Freud museum
(A famous address)
One of the city’s most renowned Jewish inhabitants was, of course, a certain Sigmund Freud. He arrived in Vienna as a toddler in 1859 and went on to spend most of his life here.
The famous couch could be found at Berggasse 19. Freud and family lived there from 1891 until they fled to the UK in 1938 in fear of Nazi persecution (the couch went with them).
The Berggasse apartment now houses the Sigmund Freud museum, which includes such joys as the original waiting room for patients (including the furniture of the time).
The museum reopened in 2020 after extensive refurbishments, with expanded displays, a café, and other treats.
The Jewish info point
(A near neighbour is the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies)
If you wish to delve a little deeper into Jewish Vienna, then make your way to the Jewish Infopoint at Book Shop Singer. There you’ll find info material and a meeting point for relevant tours.
The Jewish Film Festival
Once a year, the Jewish Film Festival brings together a variety of films from around the world tackling some aspect of Jewish life or the Jewish experience.
The actual showings often come with accompanying events, such as a discussion with the director, and most productions are either in English or subtitled in English.