Vienna Wien Museum Karlsplatz & its Branches

The typical sightseeing attractions in any decent Austrian town consist of a town call (Rathaus), a church that usually comes in a somewhat weird blend of Gothic and Baroque elements, a brothel (which most travel guides don′t tell you about) and a town museum. Vienna is no exception: Rathaus, Stephansdom and Gürtel area account for the former three attractions, the Wien Museum with its several branches for the latter.

The entrance of the Wien Museum with reflections of Karlskirche Church

The main site of the Wien Museum is the headquarter on the Karlsplatz, just next to the Karlskirche. In addition to this one, the museum maintains small chapters for specialist topics such as the Hermesvilla on the outskirts of Vienna, several flats of composers, special exhibitions or even museums and archaeological excavation sites.

The main museum on the Karlsplatz gives a detailed picture of Vienna′s development from Neolithic times to the current day. A focus lies naturally on Vienna′s ultimate heyday in the second half of the 19th century, the "Gründerzeit" ("Era of Founders"). From the arty point of view, the museum has a very remarkable collection of works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

Main Building & Hermes Villa

The predecessor of the museum, the "Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien" was founded in 1887 and was located in the Rathaus until 1959. There were plans to move it into a proper museum as early as around 1900, but due to a shortage in money and a bit of fighting (WWI and WWII), the plans had to be postponed repeatedly. When the current museum was finally opened in 1959, it was the first new museum in the Second Republic. The architect in charge was Oswald Haerdtl, who also designed the interiors including the furniture for the director′s office.

The Wien Museum has an extensive collection of Schiele works.

In 2000, the inner courtyard was covered by a roof and in the following years, refurbishments and structural reforms modernised the institution significantly. Today, the Wien Museum offers a rather unusual blend of a historical and art collection. I do admit that this has a typically Austrian touch (no proper concept, but with a dash of art and a lot of good will).

In the outpost of the Hermesvilla, a villa in the Lainzer Tiergarten area, changing exhibitions (usually art) take place. The Hermesvilla was built by Emperor Franz Joseph I for his neurotic wife Elisabeth between 1882 and 1886. The imperial couple spent a few days every year there, until Elisabeth was assassinated.

Otto Wagner Exhibition & Prater Museum Vienna

Another outpost of the Wien Museum is the Otto Wagner Pavilions on the Karlsplatz Square and in Hietzing next to Schloss Schönbrunn. Those on the Karlsplatz contain a permanent exhibition on the life of Vienna′s most famous Jugendstil architect. This exhibition was opened only in 2005.

The Jugendstil Pavilions on Karlsplatz Square

A proper museum is the Pratermuseum nearby the planetarium in Vienna′s fun fair and amusement park district. Here you can find old attractions from fun fair days long gone - this odd collection was started privately in a flat by a man called Hans Pemmer. He gave his collection to the city of Vienna in 1964, the museum was purpose-built and supplemented with an exhibition on the history of the amusement park.

The "Uhrenmuseum" ("Clock Museum") near Judenplatz is located in an old Palais and is considered to be among the most important museums of its kind in Europe. I have not been there yet, but expect that it will meet specialist interests only. It was founded in 1917 and incorporates the clock collections of Rudolf Kaftan (who served as the first directory) and the famous Realist writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach. Important parts of the collection were destroyed in WWII, but since then the Wien Museum continued to develop it and it is still in a very presentable state.

Other Attractions & Archaeological Excavations

Beyond this, the Wien Museum also maintains a collection of apparel design, including a library. Only the library is open to the public, though. The several flats of composers that house small museums will be described in a separate article. Finally, there are several archaeological excavation sites that the Wien Museum presents to the public.

The most famous one is the Michaelerplatz just between the Hofburg and the Michaelerkirche. The Virgilkapelle Chapel was associated with the Stephansdom and can be seen from the subway station - it was built in 1250, served as a tomb for a wealthy Viennese family since the 14th century and was demolished in 1781. Since 1973, the subway opens a look at the foundations of the chapel.

On the Hoher Markt Square, pieces of the Roman camp Vindobona are presented and at the Am Hof Square, you can see more Roman remains that were found in the course of tidying up following WWII bomb raids. In the Tuchlaubengasse you can find the Neidhart-frescos from 1398, the oldest non-sacral frescos of Vienna. They depict scenes from the life of the faring singer Neidhart von Reuental and were discovered under a layer of mortar in 1979. They are open to the public since 1982.

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Sightseeing in other Provinces

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Linz & Upper Austria - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official Website on the Wien Museum

Vienna Board of Tourism on the Wien Museum