The Habsburg winter palace is actually a complex of courtyards and historical tracts that lacks a single standalone gem of a building. But one part does tick all the right architectural boxes: the Neue Burg.
- Relatively new wing of the palace area (completed in the early 20th century)
- Home to the National Library, the Weltmuseum, the Museum of Austrian History, and more
- Hitler (in)famously used the balcony to announce Austria’s “annexation” into Germany
- See also: The Hofburg winter palace
The Neue Burg forms an extended wing from the main Hofburg palace area and lines one side of Heldenplatz square (see the photo above). Despite its grand look, the building is a relative baby in Vienna’s historical architectural landscape.
When the city walls came down in the mid-1800s and the great period of construction began around the edge of the Old Town, plans were made to build a set of imperial buildings known as the Kaiserforum.
Unfortunately, the good intentions foundered on such small matters as cash. Only part of the Kaiserforum saw the light of day: the Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches museums, for example…and the Neue Burg.
Construction began in 1881, but various delays meant work was still ongoing at the end of World War I. The new building should have provided apartments for the Imperial family and associates, with rooms for guests and other luminaries in a twin building opposite that was never started. By 1918, however, there was no real need for imperial apartments (on account of there being no imperial family to go in them).
Construction work continued (particularly inside) over subsequent years, with the Neue Burg fulfilling a changing variety of functions. It eventually assumed its current form and purpose, which is to offer a home to the national library and various museal collections.
As such, you cannot visit the Neue Burg per se. But you can visit the various institutions within to get a look at the rather extraordinary interior architecture, design, and decoration. For example:
- The Weltmuseum (the magnificent atrium requires no entrance ticket to view)
- The Historical Musical Instrument Collection
- The Imperial Armoury (great for viewing huge curving halls)
- The National Library (the modern library and Papyrus Museum, but not the astonishing Prunksaal, which is accessed from the nearby Josefsplatz square)
- The Hofburg info centre and imperial shop
- The Ephesos Museum (also good for seeing marbled halls and staircases)
- The House of Austrian History
Despite its youth, the Neue Burg did witness one of the most iconic (and unfortunate) moments of world history. On March 15th, 1938, Adolf Hitler stood on its balcony before the cheering crowds and formally announced that Austria had been absorbed into Nazi Germany.
As one newspaper wrote the next day (my rough translation):
Unimaginable expressions of joy and enthusiasm rang out for minutes across Heldenplatz after many words of the Führer
Not one of Vienna’s greatest days.
How to get to the Neue Burg
Meander around Vienna’s centre and you’ll likely bump into the Neue Burg, anyway. It’s across the road from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, for example.
Subway: the closest station is Museumsquartier on the U2 line. But it’s only a short walk from Volkstheater (U3 and U2), Herrengasse (U3) and Stephansplatz (U3 and U1).
Tram/bus: the Ring trams stop practically outside. Take the 1, 2, D or 71 to Burgring.
Address: Heldenplatz, 1010 Vienna