The city’s museums are among the best in the world, with works of global importance and top international exhibitions.
- See also: How to save money on museum visits
Vienna is a bit of a paradise for art lovers. It’s hard to go a few metres without stumbling into something that would fetch a few million at Sothebys. Like these top suggestions, for example.
(The Kunsthistorisches Museum at night)
The Kunsthistorisches Museum group covers various historical collections, including:
- The Kunsthistorisches Museum itself (Museum of Art History), which contains the paintings (Bruegel, Rubens etc.), the Kunstkammer, the coin collection, the Egyptian collection, and the Greek & Roman antiquities
- The Schatzkammer – the Imperial Treasury with its crown jewels and ecclesiastical relics
- The Weltmuseum – a modern ethnographic museum you can consider more a museum of people and cultures, full of artifacts from around the world. The same building houses the historical instrument collection and the imperial armoury
- The Ephesos Museum – a small collection of statues, reliefs, and other antiquities from excavations at the Turkish site of what was once a great Greek and Roman city
- The Wagenburg – located on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace featuring the Imperial carriage collection and an exhibition on Empress Elisabeth
Other major art museums are:
(An entrance to the Museumsquartier)
- The Albertina – home to a huge collection of art (including Dürer’s Young Hare), most of which only comes out of storage for the many temporary exhibitions. The permanent exhibition covers Modernist art (Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, Chagall etc.).
- A second site – the Albertina Modern on Karlsplatz – focuses (as you might guess from the name) on modern and contemporary art
- Belvedere – various locations in and around Prince Eugene of Savoy’s Vienna palaces with temporary and permanent exhibitions featuring everything from medieval to contemporary art. Home to Klimt’s The Kiss (probably Vienna’s most famous work of art)
- The Museumsquartier or MQ – a centre for modern culture with exhibition spaces, cafes, bars, shops, and several on-site museums, such as:
- The Kunst Haus Wien – home to the Hundertwasser Museum and temporary photo exhibitions. The building itself is worth a look in its own right, before you even get to the works of art within
- The MAK Museum of Applied Arts – a lovely museum covering (shock!) the applied arts, and notable for really innovative and excellent temporary exhibitions
- The Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien – hosts a series of temporary exhibitions on the more contemporary side of artistic life, borrowing works from prestigious private and museum collections
- The Wien Museum MUSA – another museum hosting short-term art exhibitions. Usually focuses on contemporary Viennese art, as well as showcasing the work of young artists
- The Augarten Porcelain Museum – attached to the famous porcelain manufacture and displaying a mix of classic and contemporary pieces
- The Schottenstift Museum – the abbey’s in-house museum with various secular and ecclesiastical treasures. Home to the fabulous 15th-century Schottenaltar panels
Museums of music
(Museum at Schubert’s birthplace)
A vast number of famous composers, musicians and singers lived in Vienna, so various museums pay appropriate tribute. For example:
- The Haus der Musik – as well as a general museum of sound, it has whole floors dedicated to composers with a strong historical connection to Vienna, including Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms, etc.
- The Beethoven Museum – covering his life, works, music and legacy. Located in the very house where he (probably) wrote his Heiligenstädter Testament
- The Beethoven Pasqualatihaus – a small museum in a city-centre house he once lived in. More of a homage than a museum
- The Mozarthaus – containing both the only remaining original home of Mozart and his family, as well as a museum dedicated to his many years in Vienna and the music he wrote in the city
- The Haydnhaus – Haydn’s final residence with exhibitions on his work and the times he lived in (with a small Brahms exhibition, too)
- Schubert’s Geburthaus – a small museum in the house where Schubert was born and spent his early childhood
- Schubert’s Sterbewohung – and at the other end of the circle of life, this is the apartment where Schubert died
- The Strausswohnung – a small museum with biographical items and displays. Strauss wrote The Blue Danube here
- The Strauss Museum – packed full of memorabilia and audio stations, and dedicated to the Strauss dynasty as a whole
Discover other historical locations for Vienna’s famous musicians, artists, and composers here.
(Judenplatz location of the Jewish Museum)
It’s not all about the art and music, of course. Vienna has numerous other museums. For example:
- The Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum) – filled with geological, anthropological and zoological displays. And dinosaurs!
- The central Hofburg complex – this is the former winter and city-centre palace of the Habsburgs, various bits of which now house museums and collections. For example:
- Sisi Museum – this tells the story of the life of Empress Elisabeth, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph
- Silberkammer – the Imperial silver collection, which contains a lot of tableware, crockery and similar, whereby you really need more fancy words to describe the kind of pieces within
- The Kaiserappartements – the Imperial apartments occupied by Elisabeth and Franz Joseph in the late 19th century
- The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum – technically the Museum of Military History, but really a history museum with a military focus. Among many historic exhibits…the car Franz Ferdinand was in when shot in Sarajevo, precipitating World War I
- The Technical Museum – full of interactive displays and thousands of exhibits tracing technological development through the years. Everything from antique irons to wheelchair simulators.
- The House of Austrian History – a new museum that covers the country’s more recent, post-Habsburg history
- Sigmund Freud Museum – if you like the idea of pressing a doorbell marked “Professor Freud” and entering the apartment of that same fellow (and what’s not to like about that?), then this is for you
- Jewish Museum – Freud had to flee Vienna after the rise to power of the Nazis. To discover more about the history of the Jewish community in the city, visit this excellent museum
- Hofmobiliendepot – the Imperial furniture museum filled with, well, furniture (but other items, too) that would make antique experts squeak with joy
- The Children’s Museum – located in the Schönbrunn Palace complex. You can entertain the little ones with insights into life for the average imperial toddler
- Dom Museum – home to many of the treasures of Stephansdom cathedral
- The Literature Museum – journey through the literary history of Austria. Lovely display architecture and also includes the original office of Franz Grillparzer
- The Papyrus Museum – a globally-important collection of papyrus fragments and documents dating back up to 3000 years, as well as other items from ancient Egypt
- The Globe Museum – a unique collection of terrestrial, celestial, moon and planet globes, some approaching 500 years old. “Here be dragons” (or Australia)
- The Esperanto Museum – introduces you to the history and importance of the language
- The Hermesvilla – a former summerhouse built for Empress Elisabeth in the 1880s, now fully restored. Tucked away in the wooded surrounds of the Lainzer Tiergarten nature park
Watch this space as I get round to visiting more locations.