This former palace has it all – formal gardens, sweeping views, superb Baroque decor and the best-known embrace in art: Klimt's The Kiss.
Once a general's palace, now a temple to the arts, Vienna's Belvedere has had a fascinating history. It was called a “Baroque wonder of Europe” when it was first built in 1722 and became one of the first public art museums in Europe in 1781. And, as well as being the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy – the finest military commander of the Austrian Empire – it also became the home of Archduke Franz Ferdinand just before his assassination, which sparked the First World War.
The headline attraction for today's visitors has to be the artwork of Gustav Klimt. The Belvedere is home to his most famous painting, the gold-leafed couple of The Kiss, painted in 1908. The Belvedere is houses the largest collection in the world of this 20th-century Viennese artist’s work, including the beautiful painting Judith, which is almost as well known. Both of these are found in the Upper Belvedere, the grander of the two palaces on the site. Framed by a massive reflecting pond, its glistening copper domes are one of the best-known sights in Vienna.
As well as works from the Viennese Succession – as Klimt and his fellow painters were called – the Upper Belvedere houses Impressionist masterpieces, and the contrasting realism of the Vienna Biedermeier era, from the 19th century. You will find paintings by Degas, Manet and Renoir alongside the distinctly Austrian interpretation of Impressionism.
Wander through the gardens, laid out in a classic French style, past statues and fountains past the Lower Palace. Here you will find two buildings that feature two very different artistic visions – the densely packed Medieval Collection in the white-washed Palace Stables; and the bold provocations of Modern Art in the former Orangery. Add in an invariably exciting programme of visiting exhibitions, and it's no wonder that the Belvedere is right at the top of the list of anyone looking to be awed by Vienna's treasures.
The Belvedere is located to the southeast of central Vienna and is open every day. Entrance to the gardens is free.