The alpine gardens adjoin Belvedere’s, but couldn’t be further away in terms of look and feel.
- Small, but fine, display of alpine flora
- Also includes a marvelous collection of bonsai trees
- Usually closed in late summer, autumn and winter
- See also: The Botanic Garden | The Burggarten
The Belvedere palace gardens are all carefully-cultivated geometric shapes, paths and formal arrangements. The alpine gardens are all meandering pathways drifting randomly around rocky outcrops thick with a tumble of plants, shrubs and small trees.
(Bonsai trees in the Alpine Garden)
The gardens measure around 50m by 50m. So you won’t be spending half a day here. But they do offer a little respite from the Belvedere crowds: it’s just you, the Edelweiss, the chatter of birds, and the distant drone of Viennese traffic.
You can make a similar argument for the botanical garden next door, which covers a greater area (and charges no entrance fee). But the alpine gardens have one thing extra going for them: the bonsai.
(Cultural aside: the folk song, Edelweiss, from The Sound of Music is not actually an Austrian folk song. Rodgers and Hammerstein composed the piece for the musical.)
It’s a little bit more than just Edelweiss (I don’t recall if there was any there at all, actually): the gardens actually cover over 4,000 plant and shrub species from alpine areas around the world and play an important conservation role. You’ll find everything marked with Latin and German names, but I didn’t spot any information in English on my visit.
The collection dates back to the early 1800s and the botanical interests of Archduke John, brother of Emperor Francis I. Schönbrunn originally housed the gardens, but everything moved to Belvedere in the second half of the 19th century.
The most impressive plants (at least for the non-specialist) are found in the bonsai collection, partly behind glass and partly out in the open to your right as you enter the gardens.
Having said that, if you take the path along the left after the entrance you’ll come across what looks like a moss-covered rock which is actually a cultivar of white spruce. And, near the back, cages crawl with houseleeks (which have nothing to do with leeks, but are pretty, rosette-shaped succulents).
There’s something strangely captivating about the bonsai trees, though, and the gardens display quite a lot of them here.
Maples and pines dominate the couple of dozen outside, with the glasshoused bonsai covering a broader mix of species, including juniper, spruce, chestnut, elm, beech, larch, birch, pear and apple. Their accompanying labels look a little old, so the age of each tree is likely more than stated.
The outdoor bonsai are, perhaps, the best examples of this Japanese art form and feature, for example:
- A beautiful 60 year-old purple Japanese maple and 100 year-old trident maple
- Gorgeous miniature pines, including a 180 year-old Japanese white pine
- A perfectly-formed 90 year-old cedar of Lebanon
Tickets & visitor tips
The federal parks and gardens department manage the alpine gardens. Belvedere tickets and passes don’t apply here, so there’s a small fee for adults to go in (typically around €4 for an adult).
Unlike Belvedere, the gardens do not open year round, but usually from the middle of March to early August. During that time they may also have a handful of plants for sale.
In 2020, for example, opening dates were March 14th to August 2nd. At the time of writing, the Department’s website gives the current dates for 2021 as “middle of March to the beginning of August.”
How to get to the alpine gardens
Just follow the directions for Upper Belvedere. To enter the gardens, go to the southern gates of Belvedere and walk east for a few metres – you can’t miss them.
Address: Close to Landstraßer Gürtel 3, 1030 Vienna | Website