All roads lead to Westlicht. At least, all roads seen through a camera lens. This oasis for photographers combines a camera museum with regular high-quality photo exhibitions.
- Home to the only surviving example of the first commercial camera
- Small museum section features dozens of historical cameras
- Notable for its annual World Press Photo exhibition
- See also:
- The Vienna Pass (offers one-time free entry)
- Photography exhibitions in Vienna
Hub, museum & gallery
(The roadside entrance)
When you enter the Westlicht centre, you can almost smell the silver halides and hear the rattle of film canisters. The place feels like its own photo motif: all industrial-style entrance and building with the outer walls carpeted in exhibition posters.
Inside you find a hommage to the past and present of photography.
Part of the large open-plan building uses over 350 historical cameras to quickly take you through the major developments in camera technology.
These are the kind of cameras familiar from old movies, as prized antique objects in stately homes, or sitting behind glass cabinets in converted dockland apartments. Cameras once operated by stern men in top hats or pioneering 20th-century technologists.
Some surprises lurk in among the wooden and metallic housing. For example:
- Westlicht has the only surviving example of the very first commercially-available camera: the 1839 Susse Frères daguerreotype
Remarkably, the device still produces quality pictures; a nearby display case has a portrait photo (of Brigitte Bierlein, then Chancellor of Austria) taken with the equipment in 2019.
- A Thornton-Pickard Mk III Hythe machine gun camera used when training aircraft gunners in WWI
- The Leica rifle camera used by photographer Werner Wünsch to capture shots of Nazi war criminal Albert Speer in Spandau prison
Westlicht also features a continuous series of special photo exhibitions; one notable example being the annual autumn World Press Photo exhibition.
My last visit took in an exhibition featuring photos of the Beatles, including rarely-seen works and those from behind the scenes or the early days of the band in Hamburg. An absorbing display with the added bonus of a jukebox.
On another visit, an exhibition paid tribute to the 100th anniversary of the province of Burgenland. Historical documentary photos hung alongside more contemporary perspectives (including contributions from renowned photographer Elfie Semotan, subject of a 2021 retrospective elsewhere in Vienna).
The quality of these exhibitions and the broader authenticity of Westlicht certainly make the location a prime address for those interested in the art, impact, and history of photography.
Tickets & visitor tips
At the time of writing, a standard adult entry ticket costs €11. A Vienna Pass gets you one-time free entry.
A few tips:
- The display labels in the camera museum part were in both German and English
- The Westlicht has its own small café and bookstore. The latter largely sells photobooks, some signed by the photographers in question
- Vienna often has several photo exhibitions on at any one time. Look, particularly, for the FOTO ARSENAL WIEN, a major new institution with a series of international exhibitions
How to get to Westlicht
The centre lies within a veritable photography enclave.
Last time I checked, a Leica shop and a vintage photo store flanked the entrance, while the other side of the road had two photography stores and a printing and framing business.
Subway: the nearest subway station is Burggasse-Stadthalle on the U6 line. You can also walk up from Zieglergasse on the U3 line.
Trams/buses: lines 5 and 49 pass close by. Get off at either the Westbahnstr./Kaiserstr. (5 or 49) or Westbahnstr./Zieglergasse (49 only) stops.
Address: Westbahnstrasse 40, 10170 Vienna | Website