Exploring Vienna's Belvedere Palaces

Exploring Vienna’s Belvedere Palaces: A Visitor’s Guide

The Belvedere Palaces – or ‘The Belvedere’, as it has become known – are truly two palaces in one. Undoubtedly one of Vienna’s most visited historical sites, this beautiful attraction consists of two Baroque palaces built for Prince Eugene: the Lower (Unteres) Belvedere and the Upper (Oberes) Belvedere. The attraction is also home to many of Austria’s most important art collections, including those related to medieval art, the Austrian Baroque period, and Austrian art from the 19th and 20th centuries. After a recent extensive renovation, a visit to the Belvedere Palaces makes for an unforgettable experience in Vienna. Make sure you buy a Combi ticket which gives access to all parts of the complex – and reserve a full day to properly explore this amazing site.

The history of the Belvedere palaces

With the Château of Versailles leading the way, Prince Eugene – fresh from defeating the invading Turkish armies – had built a summer residence on the deserted slope of the Glacis along the Rennweg. Work began in 1700 and architect Lucas von Hildebrandt devoted ten years to what would become his masterpiece. In 1716, Lower Belvedere, where Prince Eugene actually lived, was completed. It was not until 1724 that Upper Belvedere – so called because it stands on higher ground – was completed and the two buildings connected by a beautiful garden created by Dominique Gerard, a landscape gardener from Paris. After the death of the bachelor prince, the entire property was sold to the imperial court. Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, lived here between 1894 and 1914, and from here he traveled to Sarajevo and to the untimely assassination that led to the start of the First World War. More recently, it was in the Marble Chamber of the Upper Belvedere that on May 15, 1955, the foreign ministers of France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States and Austria signed the Austrian State Treaty, which initiated the country’s land reform recovered. independence.

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Upper Palace Highlights

Upper Palace Highlights
 

The largest home of the Belvedere Palaces’ great art collection, this beautiful building is considered a work of art in itself. Highlights include the ground floor hall (Sala Terrena) with its statues of Atlas supporting the lavish stucco vaulted ceiling, and the adjacent Ceremonial Staircase with its associated stucco relief and frescoes depicting the triumphs of Alexander the Great. In the Carlone Hall there is an impressive ceiling fresco and lots of rich furnishings, while in the Marble Hall – a beautiful two-storey hall – there are many fine historical sculptures and paintings, especially the beautiful ceiling painting.

Lower Palace Highlights

Lower Palace Highlights
Lower Palace Highlights
 

The Lower Palace of Belvedere, built to serve as a residential palace, is no less impressive than the large Upper Palace. It also has a spectacular two-storey Marble Hall designed as a place to welcome guests. Highlights of this large hall are the oval plaster medallions depicting the god Apollo and the rich ceiling painting. Also of interest is the Marble Gallery , built solely to display a number of statues from antiquity, along with collections of notable Baroque sculptures. The Grotesque Hall– named after a popular style of art at the time – is also worth a visit for its well-preserved murals. Other highlights include the beautifully decorated Sale Terrene and the garden pavilion with its rich paintings and murals, as well as the Spitzhof, an outdoor building reserved as an exhibition space.

The Winter Palace

Although the Winter Palace was originally intended as a residence for Prince Eugene, it is best known for its role as the Court of the Treasury. This beautiful Baroque building, which has recently been fully restored and now serves as an exhibition venue, also features a number of beautiful state houses that are open to the public. Highlights include the opulent Baroque interior and a collection of contemporary art.

The orangery

Originally it was a heated house for the palace’s orange trees. The Belvedere Orangery is unique in that it is designed so that the roof and facade can be removed during the summer months, a laborious process that nevertheless avoids the need to replant the trees every year. This beautiful structure today serves as a modern exhibition space for art displays.

The Palace Stables

Once used for Prince Eugene’s horses, this Baroque masterpiece now houses an extensive collection of important medieval works of art – the Medieval Treasury – with panel paintings, sculptures and Gothic triptychs.

The Belvedere Gardens and Fountains

The Belvedere Gardens and Fountains
The Belvedere Gardens and Fountains
 

The beautiful Belvedere Gardens, which connect the two palaces, contain numerous statues that adorn the many pools. It was designed according to Hildebrandt’s overall concept of a terraced park along an axis with cascades and symmetrical stairs bounded by hedges and paths. At the foot of the gardens lies the underworld with Pluto and Proserpina, together with Neptune and Thetis, the deities of water, in the area where the waterfalls play, together with Apollo and Hercules. From the terrace in front of the Upper Belvedere you have a beautiful view over the garden and the Wienerwald.

Art galleries and collections

Art galleries and collections
Art galleries and collections
 

The vast majority of the Belvedere Palaces’ extensive art collections are located in Upper Belvedere. Here you will find impressive collections of Austrian artwork dating from the Middle Ages to the present day and housed in individual galleries. Perhaps the most important of these is Masterpieces of the Middle Ages , a rich collection of sculptures and panel paintings from the 12th century to the 16th century, including the Romanesque Stammerberg crucifix, the oldest surviving example of Tyrolean wood carving. Other highlights include four stone figures of the 14th-century Salzburg Master of Grosslobming; a Madonna and Child on a throne from the late 12th century; and excellent exhibitions of Crucifixion scenes, including the Wiltener Crucifixion.

Another collection focuses on Austrian Baroque artworks and has a large collection of paintings and sculptures from between 1683 and 1780. The most important pieces of Masterpieces of Baroque can be found in the Rottmayr Room, dedicated to the work of Johann Michael Rottmayr. Often compared to the likes of Rubens, his work is famous for its bright, light colors and includes masterpieces such as Praising the Name of Jesus and The Sacrifice of Iphigenia . In the Troger Gallery, works by Paul Troger including his masterpiece, Christ on the Mount of Olives are on display.

Other important collections include Austrian art from the 19th and 20th centuries, with works by Austrian greats such as Oskar Kokoschka and Oskar Laske, Herbert Boeckl, Josef Dubrowsky and Rudolf Wacker. Among the post-war movements are the Austrian Informel, the Viennese school of fantastic realism and the new painting of the 1980s. Impressionist works are represented by artists such as Hans Makart, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, along with Austrian Gustav Klimt, famous for The Kiss .

Also notable are the Upper Belvedere’s beautiful collections of works by artists from the Classical and Romantic periods. Highlights include the historical, mythological and religious themes in the works of Heinrich Füger, Johann Peter Krafft and Leopold Kupelwieser, as well as landscapes by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, the master of the Viennese Biedermeier movement who became famous for his skills in dealing with light, as seen in his Great Prater Landscape . Other landscapes are by Carl Blechen, Rudolf von Alt, Joseph Anton Koch and Adalbert Stifter. Among the portrait painters depicted are Friedrich Amerling, Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder, and Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller.

Finally, more modern works and collections can be seen in the ultra-modern 21er Haus on the south side of the Belvedere grounds.

Touring the Belvedere Palaces

Hourly guided tours with an English language are available. English audio guides are also available for Upper Belvedere, as well as Lower Belvedere and the Orangery. Also of interest is the attraction’s extensive educational programming, including longer-duration themed tours and events focused on a particular exhibition (available for both adults and children). For a truly unique experience, art lovers can take part in restoration and conservation workshops at Lower Belvedere. Highlights include maintenance and restoration of paintings, frames, paper and mounting workshops, as well as photographic workshops (contact Visitor Services for more information). Also of interest is the opportunity to see public restorations of important works of art, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays (10am-6pm).

Where to stay near Vienna’s Belvedere Palaces

We recommend these highly rated hotels a short walk from the beautiful Belvedere Palaces in Vienna:

  • Hotel Sacher Wien: 5-star luxury, ornate furnishings, Belle Époque-inspired rooms, boutique spa.
  • Best Western Premier Kaiserhof Wien: 4-star hotel, quiet location, 19th century building, old-world charm, free breakfast, spa and steam bath.
  • Small Luxury Hotel Das Tyrol: mid-range boutique hotel, artsy decor, private sauna, Nespresso machines.
  • Ibis Wien City: budget hotel, great location, modern style.

Tips and tactics: how to get the most out of your visit to the Belvedere Palaces

The following tips and tactics will help you get the most out of your visit to the Belvedere Palaces in Vienna:

  • Dining: Upper Belvedere has a bistro, the Menagerie, which offers snacks and light meals. The B-Lounge serves similar fair in Lower Belvedere. In summer, the small Café Garden offers light snacks with a beautiful view.
  • Shopping: Three shops are available for souvenirs, books and gifts (two in Upper Belvedere, one in Lower Belvedere). Online shopping is also available.
  • Access: The Belvedere Palaces are fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Going to the Belvedere Palaces

  • On foot : The Belvedere Palaces are within walking distance of central Vienna and most of the main tourist attractions.
  • By bus : The Belvedere Palaces are easily accessible by bus services from Vienna (Route 69A, stopping at Quartier Belvedere).
  • By tram : Vienna’s beautiful tram services travel regularly to the Belvedere Palaces (Route D, stopping at Schloss Belvedere; Routes 18 and O stopping at Quartier Belvedere).
  • By U-Bahn (underground) : The nearest underground station is Südtirolerplatz.
  • By S-Bahn (overground) : The palaces are served by Quartier Belvedere Station.
  • By train : Vienna is easily accessible via the main railway lines from Europe and Austria. The nearest station to the Belvedere Palaces, Station Quartier Belvedere, is just a few minutes’ walk away.
  • By Road: As with most major European cities, much of Vienna’s city center is designated as pedestrian only. If driving is a must, park on the outskirts of the city and use public transportation.
  • Parking: There is no public parking available on site.

Address

  • Belvedere Palaces – Prinz Eugenstrasse 27, A-1037 Wenen
  • www.belvedere.at/en

What’s nearby?

What's nearby?
What’s nearby?
 

Given its central location, the Belvedere Palaces are close to numerous other popular attractions in Vienna. Among the nearest gardens and parks are the beautiful Botanical Gardens of the University of Vienna, the Alpengarten and the Schweizergarten, all great locations for a little relaxation or a picnic after a busy day in the galleries and museums. For art lovers, some excellent collections are on display at the Austrian Gallery (Osterreichische Galerie) with its 19th and 20th century art, along with displays of Baroque and Medieval masterpieces. Also interesting is the Museum of Military History(Heeresgeschichtliches Museum) south of the Belvedere, home to numerous historical artefacts, including Archduke Ferdinand’s car, which he and his wife drove in when they were assassinated in 1914.

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