Belvedere has to be a highlight of any trip to Vienna. Baroque palaces. Priceless art. Photogenic views. And is that one of the world’s most famous paintings on the wall?
- Art museum(s) with top-class international exhibitions
- Two 18th-century palaces as galleries
- Upper Belvedere has Klimt’s The Kiss
- See also:
- Other (art) museums in Vienna
- Baroque Vienna
Say thanks to Eugene
(Front view of Upper Belvedere Palace)
When you successfully tweak the noses of the Emperor’s enemies, you can expect a little bit more than a thank you note and a bottle of wine.
Which is why the military commander and all-round national hero, Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663 – 1736), managed to accumulate enough wealth to construct two of Vienna’s most impressive buildings. The Baroque upper and lower Belvedere palaces sit at either end of a set of landscaped gardens.
Fast forward 300 years, and today’s Belvedere is a complex of historical and modern buildings that double up as world-class art museums.
Main palace and gardens
So what can you find at this storied location? The main area features…
Upper Belvedere palace
The Upper Belvedere ceremonial palace has suitably-impressive interior architecture (don’t miss the Marble Hall) and permanent displays drawn from the prestigious Belvedere art collection.
This is where to see all those paintings by Gustav Klimt. Including The Kiss.
Lower Belvedere palace
The more functional Lower Belvedere palace also has some nice interiors of its own (functional does not mean plain) and houses special art exhibitions.
Lower Belvedere also includes:
- The Palace Stables: now showing the medieval art collection
- The Orangery: now converted into more exhibition space
- The Privy Garden: small gardens adjoining the Orangery
Palace owners don’t want to look out the window and see a car park and discarded supermarket trolleys.
The landscaped Belvedere gardens connect the upper and lower palaces and feature fountains, clipped hedges, flower beds, and similar.
The Belvedere area and/or institution also includes one or two other delights. For example:
- Belvedere 21: the Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Alpine Gardens and University Botanical Garden: not officially part of Belvedere, but both border the grounds
- The Winter Palace: Eugene’s place in the centre of town. Now part of the Federal Ministry of Finance, so closed to visitors
Ticket and visitor tips
Follow the individual links above for location-specific visitor and ticket tips from me, but some general advice for you:
- The two Belvedere palaces normally open all year and are easy to reach from the centre (see below)
- The main gardens cost nothing to look around, but you need a ticket to enter either of the two palaces and see the interior architecture and art inside
- The permanent exhibition featuring highlights of the Belvedere art collection, like the Klimt paintings, is in the upper palace. So this is the one you normally give priority to. Do check the special exhibitions at Lower Belvedere, though, for some temporary treats
- If you’re not sure where to focus, here are some should-do suggestions
- If an exhibition does not interest you, you may still want to get a ticket because that’s how you also see the inside of, for example, the Baroque palaces
- Don’t worry about language: all display information is in German and English
- Both palaces (and Belvedere 21) have ticket counters and shop areas. Expect more Klimt souvenirs than you can shake a paintbrush at
- Note that the main on-site ticket office for Upper Belvedere is not at the entrance but in an outbuilding slightly to the west of the palace
- In many parts of the main complex, look for a board in German and English describing the decor and, perhaps, the history of the room or area you’re standing in, together with a relevant picture from the early 18th century
A chap called Salomon Kleiner produced a series of copper engravings of the interior and exterior of Belvedere in the 1730s, so we have a pictorial record of what the original palaces and gardens looked like.
- Everything is within a relatively short walk of each other
- Be warned that with the turnover of exhibitions, one or two areas may be closed temporarily for set up
- Belvedere is also a dynamic, contemporary institution, so paintings can move as displays get reorganised, new acquisitions come in, or items go on loan for exhibitions elsewhere. Though I can’t see The Kiss ever leaving…!
- Visit in November and December to experience the utterly delightful Christmas Market; the location makes for some astonishing photo opportunities
- Prince Eugene also owned the lovely Schloss Hof palace and estate. The location can be a challenge for visitors to Vienna, though: over an hour’s drive away out in the country
- If you want to complete your Eugene bingo card, he has a huge equestrian statue on Heldenplatz square
How to get to Belvedere
Ah, there’s a whole page of advice for that. But it’s quite central and not far from the old town.
Address: Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Vienna | Website