A Weekend in Vienna for Art Lovers

Vienna is at the top of “Most Liveable City” lists year after year. It is a clean, safe and efficient city steeped in both a luxurious imperial history and a modern, forward-thinking sensibility.

From the opulence of the Baroque-style Hofburg and Schönbrunn palaces to the majestic Vienna State Opera, visitors come face-to-face with the legacy of the Habsburgs, one of Europe’s most influential royal families, at every turn. But Vienna was also the stomping grounds for the artists of the Secession movement, most famously, Gustav Klimt, painter of the iconic “The Kiss”, and is a city that continues to move into the twenty-first century with a thriving modern art scene.

Most of Vienna’s museums are open daily, typically between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Some of the larger museums have one late night per week where doors remain open until 8 or 9, with one free entry day per month. As is common throughout Europe, visitors may find some museums to be closed one day per week, usually Monday or Tuesday. Always check the museum website for the most up-to-date hours and admission rates.

So, put on your comfy shoes and start your Viennese art tour with fresh eyes at the magnificent Kunsthistorisches Museum. It is not only the largest art museum in Austria, but one of the most important art museums in the world. It houses the Habsburg’s extensive collection, which includes paintings by Rubens, Caravaggio, Brueghel and Titian as well as a vast array of sculpture and antiquities highlighting Greek and Roman, Turkish, Egyptian and Austrian history. If you are pressed for time, the museum also offers guided tours for an additional cost. www.khm.at. Neue Burg Heldenplatz 1010.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum. You really need a week. 

Once you have recharged at the museum café or one of the many surrounding restaurants, say goodbye to the historical and enter the contemporary world with a short walk to the Secession. The statement “To each era its art. To art its freedom.” boldly greets visitors at the entrance to this large, cubic building which is home to the world’s oldest independent exhibition institution dedicated to contemporary art. This building is a gorgeous example of the Art Nouveau style and will hold a special interest for fans of Gustav Klimt where his 1902 work, ‘Beethoven Frieze’, can be found. www.secession.at. Friedrichstraße 12, 1010.

Gustav Klimt’s Secession. One of my favourite buildings in Vienna!

After a day of museum-hopping and before you set out for an evening of entertainment, you will want to rest your weary legs and enjoy a hearty meal. When I am in Vienna, my go-to is the traditional Wiener Schnitzel, a dinner plate-sized veal cutlet, fried in lard until crispy and golden brown, typically served with lemon wedges and potato salad. My favourite can be found at historic Figlmüller. Don’t worry, you’ll burn it off tomorrow. €€. www.figlmuller.at. Wollzeile 5, 1010 and Bäckerstraße 6, 1010.

You can almost hear a classical music soundtrack accompany you as you walk through the streets of Vienna, and an evening at the Opera is a must for any music lover. Ticket prices can be steep but if you are willing to be squished into a small space at the back of the theatre with fellow travellers, you can score cheap, standing room tickets (“stehplatz”) for around €10. These go on sale 80 minutes before showtime on the day of and you must arrive in person to purchase your ticket. It won’t be the most comfortable evening of your life, but well worth it for the ticket price and experience alone. www.wiener-staatsoper.com. Opernring 2, 1010.

The magnificent Vienna opera. Can your legs handle it?

After a good night’s sleep, continue your art tour of Vienna in the lively Museumquartier. This mix of modern and Baroque architecture, formerly the imperial stables, is now one of the largest cultural districts in the world with 60 institutions for fine art, architecture, fashion, theatre, dance and literature. The Leopold Museum is a unique collection of Austrian art which focuses on the second half of the 19th Century and Modernism. Here you can find works by famous Austrian artists such as Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoshka and Richard Gerstl. Across the plaza at MUMOK, the largest museum of contemporary and modern art in Central Europe, visitors will enjoy the art of Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein and collections which highlight classical modernism, pop art, Fluxus, minimal art and concept art. www.leopoldmuseum.org, www.mumok.at. Museumsplatz 1, 1070.

The bright chairs and beautiful setting make the Museumquartier the perfect place to chill!

The Museumquartier is not only 60,000 square feet of art and culture, but a public space filled with cafés, restaurants and shops. It is a pleasant and relaxing place to have a seat in one of the colourful benches and soak up the energy of Viennese artistic life. Enjoy a nice lunch at one of the delightful restaurants on-site before taking a guided tour of the district. Free entry to the plaza, tours extra. www.mqw.at. Museumsplatz 1, 1070.

Photography fans will want to take the 15-minute walk from the Museumquartier to Vienna’s Photo District to visit the WestLicht. Founded in 2001, this gallery holds photography events and exhibitions, and its camera museum is a tour through the history of camera technology, featuring vintage and modern cameras. www.westlicht.com. Westbahnstraße 40, 1070.

Vienna screams luxury and there’s no better place for indulgence to end an art-filled weekend than at Demel. Pretend you are a Viennese aristocrat and take a seat inside the elegant salon or on the charming terrace for a slice of decadent cake or traditional sacher torte and a rich hot chocolate while you take in the view of the Hofburg Palace at the end of the street. €€. www.demel.com. Kohlmarkt 14, 1010.

My first stop whenever I return to Vienna. The gorgeous Demel!

It will take more than a weekend to discover all that Vienna has to offer visitors, but for art lovers, there is no better city to go on a jaunt through art history, experience the works we know and love, and make new and wonderful artistic discoveries.