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: Sightseeing in Vienna
Popular visitor locations
Let us begin with one of my favourite Viennese museums…
The Jewish Museum
Consider this a little gem in Vienna’s museal crown. The Jewish Museum has two locations, but 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 temporary exhibitions: one big, one small.
The second location on Judenplatz houses a temporary exhibition, but also packs an underground surprise.
Below the building and square 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 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), or the often-poignant stories of (extra)ordinary individuals who history has largely ignored.
The Holocaust memorial
That square above the old medieval synagogue 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, the square (Judenplatz) makes quite an evocative location. The first dukes lived just up the road. Mozart once occupied rooms here. And the old buildings and flagstones suggest you best arrive by horse, rather than taxi (not that you could pull up in a car – Judenplatz is fully pedestrianised).
The Sigmund Freud museum
One of the city’s most famous 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 1938, when they fled to the UK in fear of Nazi persecution (the couch went with them).
The Berggasse apartment is now 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
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.
P.S. To learn more about contemporary Jewish life and institutions in Vienna, see, for example, the website of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (The Jewish Community of Vienna).