Upper Belvedere presents you with the eternal Vienna dilemma…what’s more impressive: the art on display or the building housing it?
- Art from the medieval to the modern
- World-leading Klimt collection includes The Kiss
- Wonderful interior architecture
- Book Upper Belvedere tickets* online
- Tip: advance booking a time slot avoids possible waiting time
- See also:
- Selected past exhibitions at Belvedere
- Art exhibitions in Vienna
Quick Belvedere tickets
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
The Upper Belvedere palace houses most of the semi-permanent displays that draw on the extensive Belvedere art collections.
At the time of writing, the location is nearing the end of a reorganisation of its various exhibition sections. Everything’s open, but you may find an occasional room closed temporarily for modifications.
(Upper Belvedere seen from the rear today)
Those continuous displays include:
- The History of Belvedere: the history of the building and collection (at the time of writing, a wall-drawn chronology with much of the original exhibition now contributing to the lovely Belvedere: 300 Years special exhibition. Check locally.)
- The Medieval Masterpieces: gothic religious art that includes some remarkable altar panels and the Carlone Contemporary installation
- Klimt and Vienna around 1900: the most popular part where you find The Kiss and other works by Gustav Klimt. Also includes masterpieces by, for example, Schiele, Rodin, Makart, and others
- Baroque and beyond: portraits, landscapes, and more
- Emerging Modernism and The Avant Garde: new sections I’ve not had a chance to explore yet. Watch this space!
(Upper Belvedere in the 19th century. Not a lot has changed! Photo courtesy of the Rijksmuseum)
Built between 1717 and 1723, the palace started life as the purely ceremonial residence of the military genius, Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Lower Belvedere building (which also hosts temporary exhibitions) acted as the more functional residence.
So, yes, the prince had enough wealth to build a palace largely for show. Like a second car you keep for Sunday drives in the country.
Eugene fought a lot of battles, won most of them, and made sure we never forget the fact by decorating his homes with constant reminders.
Various locations within Upper Belvedere feature pictures of these battles, along with triumphalist wall decorations and ceiling paintings of the prince being honored by grateful figures from mythology.
Many parts of the palace now consist of modern-style gallery rooms to host the priceless art on display. But other parts retain much of their historical grandeur.
You can imagine Eugene discussing each room with his prospective Baroque interior decorator:
“Your suggestion for the north wall?”
“Perhaps a battle scene, my prince. It keeps the servants on their toes.”
“Can we put one on the ceiling, too? My image should be surrounded by angels. And by Gods. And by laurel wreaths. Especially laurel wreaths.”
“You think it too much?” [Eugene moves hand to sword hilt]
“Not at all, my prince. Perhaps we might add some enemy soldiers in chains, too?”
The visitor entrance to Upper Belvedere is the Sala Terrena, a large, brilliant white “lobby” with a decorated stucco ceiling, sculpted pillars, and supporting arches.
This leads to the Grand Staircase: it seems you measured a person’s worth by the size of their staircase in Baroque days. And Eugene was worth a lot.
The grand staircase is, well, pretty grand: a huge wide stone staircase with stucco martial reliefs and giant iron-wrought lamps that would have greeted visitors as they arrived in their carriages.
(Upper Belvedere interior: the marble hall © Lukas Schaller / Belvedere, Wien)
The stairs take you up into possibly Upper Belvedere’s biggest “wow” moment that doesn’t involve a painter with the first name Gustav: the Marble Hall. The illusionist paintings add false galleries and niches to the impressive architecture.
The windows of the Marble Hall give great views down to Lower Belvedere and let you properly grasp the layout of the main gardens.
Although the room dates back to the early 1700s, its big historical moment came in 1955 when the allies signed the treaty here that gave Austria its independence after the post-WWII occupation.
The palace also has a small chapel which you can glimpse while walking round the Klimt part of the permanent exhibition.
Tickets & visitor tips
I’d strongly recommend getting tickets in advance* for Upper Belvedere, as the ticket office queues can grow quickly during peak season.
Upper Belvedere uses a time slot system. So purchased tickets for the location come with your choice from available entry times (you can take as long as you like once inside). Which is why booking in advance makes sense, as purchases on the day can mean waiting for the next available time slot.
You don’t normally need a time slot if you have a Vienna Pass (my review), which gets you into the location for free (one time only).
The entrance to the palace is on the north side, facing the main gardens and Lower Belvedere (just follow the big, red museum signs). This takes you into the entrance hall (the Sala Terrena), which is your starting point.
Once inside, you have a shop and café to your left and the medieval masterpieces to your right
(Even if medieval art leaves you cold, consider at least going into the first room on the right. This often houses a single piece of contemporary art specially commissioned for the rather splendid-looking surroundings.)
Go ahead and up the stairs for the Marble Hall and the main permanent displays and any other temporary exhibitions.
As elsewhere in Belvedere, look in each room for a copy of its Salomon Kleiner engraving from the 1730s. Not every room has one, but the picture lets you grasp the original design, decoration and function, even if the room no longer looks anything like it did in Eugene’s day.
How to get to Upper Belvedere
See the directions article for detailed guidance.
Address: Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Vienna