Consider the Burgtheater or simply “The Burg” as essentially Austria’s national theatre. And the main building forms one of the many historical landmarks that grace the Ring boulevard that curls its way around Vienna’s centre.
- The pinnacle of Austrian theatre, but all plays are in German
- Surtitles available for some performances
- English tours of the 19th-century building available
- Klimt worked on the interior decor as a young man
- See also: Burgtheater history | Sightseeing
The national theatre
This version of the Burgtheater opened in 1888, but the institution itself has a long history involving emperors, wars, and fan fiction rewrites of Shakespeare plays.
Today, the resident ensemble puts on regular performances of plays penned by promising contemporary playwrights through to the great names of world theatre, such as Schiller, Shakespeare, and Goethe.
To be part of that ensemble in whatever form is a badge of honour you might compare to being a member of the RSC in the UK. Although a purely German-speaking theatre, even English-speaking audiences might recognise some of the Burgtheater’s more famous company members.
Klaus Maria-Brandauer, for example, gained an Oscar nomination for his role in Out of Africa opposite Meryl Streep in 1985. And Oskar Werner starred opposite Julie Christie in Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1966.
Walk around the outside to find numerous tributes to famous playwrights and poets. Including Shakespeare – honored with a bust and the to be or not to be scene from Hamlet.
Inside, one of the opulent staircases has another Shakespeare tribute: a fresco of a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, London.
The three artists responsible for that scene (and the other ceiling frescoes) cheekily painted themselves into the Globe’s audience. Which is why you’ll find none other than Gustav Klimt in the painting. Klimt, of course, went on to achieve worldwide fame for such works as The Kiss.
Tickets and tours
If you just want to take a look inside the Burgtheater and view the Klimt frescoes, then go on a guided tour.
If you want to view a play, do remember that all performances are in the German language. However, some of these performances have English “subtitles” available through a local app.
For the record, tickets usually go on sale as of the 20th of each month for the following month, though there are no performances in July and August.
The Burgtheater, despite its origins as the official national and imperial theater of the Habsburg Empire, has an egalitarian tradition that continues today. Seats with unrestricted views can cost as little as €11. And, if you’re prepared to stand, you can see a performance for even less.
How to get to the Burgtheater
Subway: the Burgtheater is just a short walk from three subway stations: Rathaus on the U2 line, Schottentor (also on the U2), and Herrengasse on the U3 line.
Tram/bus: three tram lines serve a tram stop right outside the front door: 1, 71 and D. Get off at Rathausplatz/Burgtheater (the clue is in the name).
If you fancy a quick coffee and cake before a performance (or tour), the Burgtheater’s immediate neighbour belongs to that long list of traditional institutions that makes Vienna (possibly) the coffee house capital of the world.
Address: Dr. Karl-Lueger-Ring 2, 1010 Vienna | Website