72 hours in Vienna, Austria: An Art Lovers’ guide!
Brimming with magnificent palaces, sumptuous streets and lavish architecture, Vienna is an ideal city to escape into a world of luxury and opulence. Whether you are a seasoned Art buff or simply a tourist with an appreciation for the finer things, this beautiful Austrian city has something to offer everyone. I was lucky enough to visit last month and have noted some of my favourite places to visit.
Comprised of two elegant baroque buildings in the middle of a stunning stately park, Belvedere Palace is a marvel not to be missed. Lower Belvedere was constructed between 1712 – 1716 by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt for the sole purpose of being an ostentatious display of the prestige of the Austrian Royal Family. Upper Belvedere was commissioned between 1717 – 1723 with a view of being a ‘gloriette with a view to the whole city’. By the 1770s, Upper Belvedere was adapted to house the Imperial Picture Gallery and is now home to key works of French Impressionism and Austrian artists. In 1903, a group of artists established the ‘Moderne Gallerie’, a movement allowing for artwork to be displayed in the Lower – thus laying the foundations for the Belvedere as it is known today.
Arguably the most famous piece of Austrian artwork, Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ (1907) is the highlight of the palace. The striking painting depicts lovers in a passionate embrace and derives from a period of Klimt’s work where he was keen on making statements about love as a key element of human existence. Onlookers should pay particular attention to the gold leaf, silver and platinum flakes that adorn the lovers’ robes, highlighted beautifully by the light entering the room through the large glass windows to the left of the artwork. Visitors should expect large groups in front of the artwork displayed in the Upper Belvedere, but the wait is worth it.
The Albertina Museum
The Albertina Museum, based opposite Vienna’s iconic State Opera House, houses one of the worlds’ largest graphic and classical art collections. From Warhol to Lichenstein, and Monet to Picasso, the museum is a must for your itinerary. Key artworks exhibited include, ‘The Water Lily Pond (1917-1919) by Monet, ‘Venus in Front of the Mirror’ (ca. 1614) by Rubens, and ‘Glass and Lemon before a Mirror’ (1974) by Lichenstein.
Once you have made your way through various exhibitions housed in the Albertina, you will find yourself walking through the perfectly preserved state rooms that once served as the residence to the Hapsburgs. Twenty intricately decorated rooms sweep you away into the imperial flair of the dynastic family, and visitors are able to fully immerse themselves into what it was like to live as one of Europe’s most illustrious royal families. The juxtaposition between the minimalistic, contemporary gallery and the baroque, extravagant staterooms provides a truly unique experience for art lovers and curious tourists alike.
Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum)
Whilst Vienna is overflowing with beautiful, lavish buildings, I can definitely say that the Kunsthistorisches Museum stands out as a personal highlight. Based in Maria-Theresien-Platz near the Imperial Palace, the museum is not only famous for the artwork it encapsulates, but also the interior of the building itself. The sandstone exterior is a mirror replica of the Naturhistorisches (Natural History) Museum directly opposite. Both were commissioned in 1871 by the Imperial family to provide a shelter for the Hapsburgs extensive art collection and allowing the public access to view them.
The impressive interior is lavishly decorated with marble, stucco ornamentations, and gold leaf, and the ceiling is adorned with the ‘The Triumph of the Renaissance’ painted by Mihàly Munkácsy. Other paintings located in the entrance staircase alone include early works by Ernst, Klimt and Matsch. The museum is home to major artworks including Raphael’s ‘Madonna of the Meadow’ (1506), Arcimboldo’s paintings of Winter, Summer, Water and Fire as faces, and Caravaggio's ‘The Madonna of the Rosary’ (1607). It is easy to spend hours exploring the exhibitions and getting lost amongst the array of paintings, sculptures, and imperial coin collection.
After the art…
While it is definitely its distinguishing feature, Art is not the only thing Vienna has to offer. To fuel your journey around the city, make sure to visit the 150-year-old Café Central for a taste of authentic Apple Strudel or venture to Hotel Sacher for a slice of the famous Viennese Sacher Torte. For those of you with a head for heights, make sure to take in the views of the entire city from the 446ft high South Tower in St Stephen’s Cathedral – or if you feel safer on the ground, the grandeur of the interior of the cathedral is just as stunning.
In just 72 hours, I was overwhelmed with just how charming Vienna is, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for artistic inspiration during their next city break!
Written by Kerry-Ann Holleyman - Team Assistant at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.