The Belvedere Palaces

The Belvedere Palaces

The two magnificent Baroque Belvedere palaces – Upper and Lower – are the most visited cultural sites in Vienna. They were built in the early years of the 18th century as a summer residence by Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the Holy Roman Empire’s most distinguished statesmen and military commanders. Napoleon himself considered Eugene to be one of the seven greatest commanders in history. Amongst other treasures, the Upper Belvedere holds the world’s greatest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt.

Built by world-renowned Baroque architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, Lower (‘Unteres’) Belvedere where Prince Eugene lived was completed in 1716 and Upper (‘Oberes’) Belvedere – so named because it sits on higher ground – in 1724. The two are connected by a spectacular garden designed by pre-eminent Parisian garden designer Dominique Girard, a pupil of the principal gardener to King Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre, designer the park of the Palace of Versailles.

The Lower Belvedere Palace where the prince lived includes the Marble Gallery with plaster medallions of the Greek god Apollo, the Grotesque Hall’s detailed wall paintings and the richly decorated Sale Terrene and Garden Pavilion.

The Upper Belvedere Palace contains one of Austria’s – and perhaps Europe’s – finest art collections. Prince Eugene was a famous patron of the arts and was an avid collector of 16th and 17th century Italian, Dutch and Flemish art. On your tour of the Upper Palace you’ll find art from the Middle Ages as well as the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt paintings including ‘The Kiss’ and ‘Judith’. You will also see works by Monet, Van Gogh, Amerling, Fendi, Rottmayr and Troger as well as grimacing character heads by German-Austrian sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.

English-language tours of the palaces and the Orangery are available and if you’re an art lover, you can join some amazing restoration and conservation workshops.


Exploring Vienna's Belvedere Palace: A Visitor's Guide

Belvedere Palace (Schloss Belvedere) &mdash or 'The Belvedere," as this collection of magnificent structures has come to be known &mdash is really two palaces in one. Undoubtedly one of Vienna's most visited tourist spots and an important historic site, this splendid 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 relating to medieval art, the Austrian Baroque period, and Austrian art from the 19th and 20th centuries.

After years of extensive renovations, a visit to Belvedere Palace is one of the top things to do in Vienna and makes for a truly memorable experience. Be sure to purchase a Combi Ticket allowing access to all areas of the complex &mdash and set aside a full day to properly explore this amazing site.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.


Contents

The two Belvedere palaces housed an array of artworks even when they were the summer residence of the art patron and collector, Prince Eugene. After the Prince’s death, the Habsburgs acquired some of his collections together with the palaces. Various parts of the imperial art collection were subsequently placed on display at the Belvedere from 1781 onwards. In 1903, the state's "Moderne Galerie" was opened at the Lower Belvedere. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the Upper Belvedere and the Orangery were converted into museums as well. The Österreichische Galerie (Austrian Gallery), as the museum was named in 1921, came to comprise the Baroque Museum in the Lower Belvedere (opened in 1923), the Gallery of 19th Century Art at the Upper Belvedere (from 1924), and the Modern Gallery at the Orangery (from 1929). The Belvedere's collection of medieval art was first exhibited at the Orangery next to the Lower Belvedere in 1953.

In 1955, after years of rebuilding and renovation, the Upper Belvedere was reopened to the public, showing works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, and other major Austrian artists.

In the years after the Second World War, there were many acquisitions and the museum was expanded and modernized. The Österreichische Galerie Belvedere is today one of the Austrian Federal Museums (Bundesmuseen) and since 2000 has been a vollrechtsfähige "wissenschaftliche Anstalt" (a legally independent public research/scientific institution).

Agnes Husslein, formerly director of the Salzburg Rupertinum and the Museum der Moderne on the Mönchsberg, was director of the Belvedere between 2007 and 2016. She has positioned the Belvedere as a museum of Austrian art in an international context.

Following extensive adaptation and remodelling, the highlights of the collections of medieval and Baroque art (previously in the Lower Belvedere) have been placed on display at the Upper Belvedere since spring 2008. For the first time, the entire scope of the permanent collection, from the Middle Ages to the mid-twentieth century, can now be seen under one roof. The adapted rooms in the Lower Belvedere and Orangery now provide space for temporary exhibitions. Moreover, a study collection of the medieval holdings was set up in the former Palace Stables. The permanent collections were redisplayed in 2011.

Visitor numbers have been increasing steadily during the years of Husslein's directorship and, in 2012, they surpassed the one million mark for the first time (1,088,000 visitors).


Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere garden palace was built by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt between the years 1717 and 1723. Von Hildebrandt was recruited by Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), a renowned Viennese general and avid art collector, to create the palace as his summer home.

Belvedere Palace was originally located just outside the gates of the city, and is currently in Vienna&rsquos third district. The stunning baroque architectural dream has two palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere), connected by a gorgeous baroque garden.

Today these magnificent structures house one of the world&rsquos most beautiful and important museums and are among Vienna&rsquos most visited sites. Along with many other treasures in the Belevdere, they are used to house and present artworks throughout the generations in Austria, including the world's largest Klimt collection.

The Upper Belvedere rises above the surrounding areas, and has an excellent view of Vienna, and the Lower Belvedere contains the well-preserved and splendid staterooms.

Belvedere Gardens

The Belvedere Gardens are a major highlight of the palace. Their baroque landscape architecture is a must-see for anyone who appreciates true beauty. Part of the spectacular palace design is a reflecting pool placed right in front of the palace in order to reflect the building's façade.

Large terraces with charming ponds connect the Upper and Lower Belvedere. Other garden highlights include the Kammergarten, which was originally reserved only for the man of the house and the people with whom he was closest, and the Alpine Garden in the palace park, the oldest garden in Europe.

Belvedere Palace Gallery

The Belvedere is home to one of Europe's most precious museums, the Gallery Belvedere Vienna. Located in the Upper Belvedere, you can find the world's largest collection of the works of Gustav Klimt, as well as pieces created by Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.

There are also precious works of art created by French impressionists such as Renoir and Monet, works by Van Gogh, and a large Biedermeier collection prominently featured in the Belvedere.

The three most popular tours of the gallery are Gustav Klimt and His Time, Vibrant Baroque, and Fascination Masterpiece. These tours are masterful introductions to Gustav Klimt, other impressive artists, and the history of the Belvedere, and are offered in German, English, French, and Italian, and other languages with a special arrangement. Tours are for up to 25 people (special booking is required for more) and you need to book tours at least one week in advance.


The Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace in Vienna Austria is one of many art museums in the city, but perhaps one of the most beautiful. It packs a punch with a large collection of works by the famous Viennese artist Gustav Klimt as well as Egon Schiele who was a protégé of Klimt’s. It like most of the sights in Vienna are packed with tourists but if you can handle the crowd it will certainly take your breath away.

History of the Belvedere Palace

The Belvedere Palace was commission by Prince Eugene of France of all places. He grew up in Paris in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King the very same King who had the Palace of Versailles built. But Eugene due to the escapades of his mother was forced to leave the French court, and instead lent his allegiance and military prowess to the Holy Roman Empire. So great was his fame Napoleonian called him one of the greatest military leaders in history.

Throughout his career serving the Hapsburgs he contributed to and lead countless campaigns for the country which lasted six decades and three monarchs. Throughout those years of service he gained a great deal of wealth and knowing he wanted to live out his years in the country rather in the winter palace (The Hofburg) in Vienna where he had been living while not on campaign he bought the plot of land the palace sits on today. And then he bought a few other plots of land, and had a little squabble with another fellow who was also trying to buy up land to build a palace and a garden in this out of town location. Which by the way, is no longer out of town, but nearly the center of Vienna for how much the city has grown since 1697.

After the tiff was over, land was bought and commissioned and the Lower Palace was started in 1712 and the Upper Palace was completed in 1723. The gardens having been designed and completed somewhere in that time line as well. But even completed the roof was structurally at risk in some locations, so the final completion date was actually closer to 1733. Eugene passed away in 1736, leaving no will. Eventually the palace went to his niece, who eventually had to sell the palace due to financial troubles at which time Maria Theresa (Marie Antoinette’s mother) bought the palace. At which time the upper palace was transformed into a picture gallery and the lower gallery served as a home for French royalty fleeing the revolution, most notably Marie Thérèse Charlotte (Marie Antoinette’s only surviving child).

During the lead up to WWI the palace was again transformed when the upper palace was given to Franz Ferdinand as a home until he took the throne officially. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand, WWI and the political upheaval of Austria’s First and Second Republic saw many changes in the palaces again. After taking significant damage during WWII, the palace was restored and reopened in 1953.

Visiting the Belvedere Palace

Perhaps because of it long and important history, perhaps because it is so beautiful, or because it houses so many incredible works of art, or perhaps it doesn’t matter why but the Belvedere is a wildly popular location to visit, with annoyingly reasonable opening hours making it difficult to sneak in during off hours to visit.

Because it is so popular when you buy your entrance ticket you will be given a time stamp on when you can enter the upper palace, the lower palace and orangery currently have no such restrictions. You can also buy your ticket ahead of time online, which will ensure you can get in on the day and time that is preferred to your schedule, but because of its popularity you will likely be surrounded by crowds the entire visit. If you love art and history and architecture I wouldn’t let this put you off. I would just suggest being prepared to make a day of it, take it in strides and bring lots of snacks. The café in the upper palace is really quite lovely but it has a very small number of tables and a fairly limited menu.

The Upper Palace is the grander of the three buildings, and houses the more famous works of Austrian artists or works highlighting Austria’s history. The Lower Palace has rotating exhibitions, and the Orangery as it has had since it opened houses a large collection of medieval religious works, which I loved. Aside from the buildings that gardens are quite impressive with a large reflecting pool at the front and twin gardens in the back separating the upper and lower palaces, complete with fountains and sculptures and even a waterfall. If visiting is not in your future, you can always explore the outstanding grounds via google maps, sadly they do not have a walking street view option but plenty of users have posted their photos so you can get a good feel for the grounds by exploring those. They do however offer the walking view of the main room in the Upper Palace , the main room in the Lower Palace as well as some of the more impressive rooms of the Lower Palace.

In a nut shell, even though it is annoyingly popular it is popular for good reason and if you have a chance and if art is something you feel you cannot live without seeing while in Vienna I would highly suggest a trip “out of town” which means just next to the main central rail station to visit The Belvedere Palace .


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    Vienna Belvedere Palace: art and history

    The Belvedere is a sumptuous baroque ensemble consisting of two palaces and a park. This complex is preserved better than any other comparable monument of this period in Europe. If you are primarily interested in sightseeing, in two hours you will be to see both palaces and the park. But art and architecture connoisseurs will require at least half a day to explore all collections.

    Upper Belvedere

    When they say, “Belvedere Palace”, they usually mean the Upper Palace, the representative one. This is the must-see site for tourists, and it’s where hundreds of thousands of viewers come yearly to see Gustav Klimt’s work.

    A paragon of Viennese Baroque par excellence, it reminds us of its first owner, Prince Eugene of Savoy. The prince is remembered as a great military commander, diplomat and philanthropist. Sculptures of the Muses, Atlas, and trophies of arms and domes in the form of Ottoman tents should convince you of this.

    The exposition is built up chronologically from the 14th to the early 20th century. You will find the Gothic art on the ground floor, Baroque on the first floor and post-war art on the second floor. Although the timeline principle stays constant, some changes in the exhibition take place from time to time. Of course, such masterpieces as Klimt’s Kiss and Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps remain in place, but the idea of a nation and its past is changing all the time, and the museum reflects these changes

    Thus, the number of medieval religious artworks in the Upper Palace was reduced by half in the last ten years. Those considered to be too middle-class works of the Biedermeier era were also moved to a less prestigious upper floor.

    In the centre of the exhibition are the works of the Art Nouveau artists, headed by Gustav Klimt. As for the generation of their predecessors, like academic history painter Hans Makart, they have almost no place in the Belvedere now. Their costly and pompous canvases had to make space for works of contemporary artists. Twice a year, one artist gets a chance to make his statement in one room with national art treasures. As a rule, these projects are an attempt at a critical meditation on the nation’s past. So, if you like art telling stories from the country’s history, you will love this museum.

    Gustav Klimt in Belvedere

    From all of the Belvedere collections, only Art Nouveau art has overcome the limits of the national canon, attracting visitors with its aesthetic and conceptual qualities. That is why the Belvedere is an obligatory museum in Vienna for those who are interested in the art of Klimt, Schiele of Kokoschka.

    But you also find in the Belvedere paintings by great non-Austrian artists – Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edward Munch and Vincent van Gogh, as well as several sculptures by Rodin, who spent considerable time in the company of Klimt in Vienna. At the beginning of the 20th century, the process of distributing the art collections among museums brought these works to the Belvedere, and today they represent a pan-European context in an exhibition of 19th-century Austrian art.

    Lower Belvedere

    Opposite the Upper is the Lower Belvedere Palace, just 10-15 minutes on foot through the park. This place is willingly visited by the Viennese, as the exhibitions here often change, and two or three exhibitions are held here at once.

    In addition to living rooms of the prince (in which, by the way, the interiors much better preserved than in the upper palace), today’s visitors can also visit a greenhouse and a stable turned into exhibition halls.

    The former stable with elegant marble horses’ troughs now hosts a medieval art collection. Here you will find the head of John the Baptist on the plate, and the devil with bird claws. Stories explaining concepts of Christian religion demonstrate the most remarkable creativity. The most exciting scenes illustrate the lives of 14 holy helpers.

    Exhibitions in the Lower Belvedere serve as extended presentations of the collections exhibited in the Upper Palace. They may show art that places Austrian authors into the international context, though international projects, such as the monographic exhibition of Kiki Smith or Donna Huanca, are much less frequent.

    When deciding which Belvedere to visit, remember that the Upper Belvedere is a showcase of the artistic achievements of the nation. That’s why you’ll find the most famous names and the best works there, while the Lower Belvedere is where discussions are held about who is the “best of the best”. Sometimes these discussions are fascinating, sometimes spectacular, sometimes boring, but always very vivid.

    Address: Prinz Eugen-Straße 27, 1030 Wien
    Opening hours: the Upper Belvedere daily 9 am – 6 pm, Fr 10 am – 9 pm the Lower Belvedere daily except Mon 10 am – 6 pm
    Official website of Belvedere


    The History of Belvedere Palace

    Prince Eugene of Savoy, a celebrated military strategist

    In 1697, Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the most successful military commanders of his time, purchased a plot of land south of the Rennweg, the main road from Vienna to Hungary. He commissioned the renowned Baroque architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt to build a magnificent summer residence and landscaped garden. Hildebrandt had previously built another palace for Prince Eugune, Savoy Castle in Rackeve, Hungary. Construction began in 1712 and the Baroque park is planned by French garden architect Dominique Girad, who worked at Versailles. Various celebrated artists are commissioned to pain frescos, altarpieces and ceilings within the palaces. The Upper Belvedere was completed in 1723.

    Prince Eugene died in 176. He never married, had no children and did not leave a legally binding will. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI named the prince’s niece Victoria as the heir, though Eugene had never met her. Victoria moved into the complex, then named the Gartenpalais in July of that year and auctioned off many of the prince’s possessions, such as his art and books. Eight years later, she moved to her home city of Turin, leaving Vienna for good, and in 1752, Empress Maria Theresa acquired the estate. At first, the buildings at the Belvedere were left unused and the Empress lived in other imperial palaces but in 1770 a masked ball was staged there to celebrate the marriage of Maria Theresa’s daughter, Maria Antoinette, to the French dauphin, Louis XVI. 16,000 guests were invited to the lavish celebrations. A few years later, in 1776, Maria Theresa and her son Emperor Joseph II, decided to move the Imperial Picture Gallery to the Upper Belvedere and transform it into an exhibition venue with a spectacular collection of paintings. The gallery was officially opened to the public in 1781 and, with this, became one of the first public museums in the world. At the time, the Lower Belvedere was mainly used to house royal family members fleeing the French Revolution, including the daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, Princess Marie Therese Charlotte.

    The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

    The Upper Belvedere was used as a museum in this way for over a century until 1891 when the imperial collections were relocated to the newly built Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History). In 1896, under Emperor Franz Joseph, the Upper Belvedere became a residence once again, given to the heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand. Ferdinand remodelled the palace with the help of architect Emil von Förster. The Lower Belvedere became a museum dedicated to modern art known as the Modern Gallery and featured work by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. In 1908, Gustav Klimt’s Art Nouveau icon, The Kiss (Lovers), was acquired by the Modern Gallery.

    After Ferdinand’s assassination and the end of World War I, the palace was acquired by the state and both palaces became home to state museums. The palace was badly damaged in World War II, with parts of the Marble Hall in the Upper Belvedere and parts of the Hall of Grotesques in the Lower Belvedere destroyed by bombs. It also became clear that there were close connections between the museum administration, led by director Bruno Grimschitz, and the Nazi authorities. This was evidenced by the considerable acquisition budget for ‘native German art’ and the closure of the Modern Gallery. Although many efforts were made to recover lost works, some important pieces were never found. Others, however, such as Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I have been located and returned to their rightful owners. Restoration work was carried out on the galleries from 1945 and completed in 1953.


    1. Upper Belvedere Palace

    Upper Belvedere Palace, Prinz Eugen-Street, 1030 Vienna, Austria

    Availability

    Duration

    Private tours: 3 hours

    Small groups: 2.5 hours

    Group size

    Private tours: 1-10 persons
    Groups of over 10 should contact us at [email protected] in order to get a special rate for their party.

    Small groups: 2-8 persons

    Participation requirements

    As this is a walking tour, please contact us if you have any mobility issues or concerns

    Not included

    Upper & Lower Belvedere and Orangery:

    If you wish to visit the Lower Belvedere’s temporary exhibition after your tour ends, you’ll want to purchase a combined ticket to both Upper and Lower Belvedere.

    What to bring

    About your guide

    Cancellation policy

    For cancellations 72 hours prior to your scheduled tour, Insight Cities offers a full refund. We cannot refund cancellations within 72 hours of a scheduled tour as we need to pay our guide.

    Overview of Your Tour

    The Belvedere complex is an architectural masterpiece of a bygone aristocratic splendor designed to project a sense of earthly harmony. This terrestrial utopia was founded in the first decades of the 18th century as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, the commander-in-chief of the Austrian army and one of the most successful military commanders in modern European history. Among the most significant buildings of its time, the grandiose palace of the Upper Belvedere is a masterstroke of Baroque architecture while the surrounding formal gardens were inspired by classical antiquity. The great water basin in the upper parterre, the tiered fountains and cascades populated by nymphs and goddesses, the marble statues of gods and heroes, and the intricacy of the wrought iron gates still testify to the legacy of Eugene’s patronage of the arts.

    Against this backdrop, the Prince’s private apartments eloquently illustrate his taste and the artistic achievements of his time. Along with your guide, consider the Baroque elements of the Festive room in the Upper Belvedere. After Eugene’s death, the complex continued to play a significant cultural role in Austrian history. Inspired by the idea of enlightened absolutism, the Belvedere became one of the first public museums in the world with the intention to make the Habsburgs’ imperial collection accessible to the general public.

    Today, the Belvedere Museum exhibits a world-class compilation of Austrian and international paintings from the Middle Ages to the present day, including items of the Austrian National Gallery masterpieces. Such pieces include Gustav Klimt’s most acclaimed paintings from his golden period: The Kiss , Judith , landscapes from the Attersee series, and other sophisticated portraits of high society ladies. As a counterpoint, the dramatic and contorted style of Klimt’s younger colleague, Egon Schiele (also on display) evokes the unfolding trauma of the First World War in a profoundly autobiographical manner. The museum also boasts works of Jacques-Louis David, Caspar David Friedrich, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Giuseppe Segan tini, and Vincent van Gogh.

    After the one-hour excursion through the grounds and palaces, ou r Belvedere tour moves you through an introductory 1.5-hour tour to point out the Art Museum’s highlights. Besi des Klimt’s and Schiele’s great canvasses representing Fin de siècle Vienna’s avant-gardism and sophisticated art patrons, you’ll encounter David’s well-known Napoleon on The Great St. Bernard Pass (1801), where the artis t’s propagandist pathos is combined with his fiery boldness. In a different way, Caspar David Friedrich’s atmospheric Seashore in the Fog combines romantic introspection with metaphysical symbolism in a sensitive, precisely painted maritime landscape. Austrian painting in the era of Biedermeier is represented by Friedrich von Amerling’s emotive rendering of familial affection in Rudolf von Arthaber and his Children (1837) and by Ferdinand Waldmüller’s On Corpus Christi Morning (1857), where the realistic reproduction of sunlight demonstrates the sacred on earth.


    Upper Belvedere: (left) hall decorated with Aeneas' Deeds and housing a collection of medieval statues (right) Aeneas and Anchises, a subject which was depicted also in the Prince's city palace and eventually in other buildings the image used as background for this page shows a monkey which is painted in this room

    Today the Upper Belvedere is the most visited art museum of Vienna because it houses paintings by Gustav Klimt and other modern artists in halls which are always very crowded. Less attention is paid to a collection of medieval art in some of the best decorated parts of the building.


    Watch the video: Vienna AustriaTravel Guide: Belvedere Palace 4K