Student Voices — Aaron Martin’s Guide to Museums in Vienna, Austria

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Kiah Zellner-Smith
February 3, 2016

My name is Aaron Martin. I'm a History major with French and German minors at Indiana University. I studied abroad in Vienna, Austria, in Spring 2015, when I visited 23 cities and 15 countries. I plan to turn my study abroad experience into a career in museums and wrote this piece to share some of my favorite museum experiences from my time abroad.

10. Albertina

Ease of Access:  Easy walking distance from Karlsplatz

Cost:  8.5 euros

Hours:  10-6 p.m., open later on Wednesdays

Languages:  German and English

Review:  The largest Habsburg residential palace, the Albertina is superior in two ways: It acknowledges its own status as a historic building well, and it has a better variety of art than the two other famous art museums: the Belvedere and the Kunsthistorische Museum. It was also interesting to learn about lesser-known members of the Habsburg family. I went on my last day in Vienna and was pleasantly surprised. 

9.  Bezirksmuseen (District Museums)

Ease of Access:  Variable

Cost:  Free

Hours:  Highly variable, no more than four hours per week

Languages:  German

Review:  There are 23 District Museums, one for each district. I visited two: the 5th and 20th.  My impressions are that the Bezirksmuseen are for history enthusiasts. That’s where you learn the smaller, unknown stories of Viennese history. The people who work there may not speak English, but they’re very friendly and always happy to share their knowledge of history with visitors.

8.  Kunsthistorische Museum (Art History Museum)

Ease of Access:  Very easy. Just take the 1 tram one stop from Karlsplatz to Burgring or even walk.

Cost:  14 euros, included on the museum pass

Hours:  Open longer on Thursday, closed on Mondays, September to April

Languages:  Descriptions provided in German and English

Review:  The Kunsthistorisches Museum is very large and very interesting. It’s easy to get lost in the galleries and to those who aren’t huge fans of art, it can be a bit much. The antiquities collection—with its fascinating set of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other artifacts—was the highlight for me. The coin collection on the top floor is mainly for enthusiasts. Overall, the Kunsthistorisches Museum is good, but is also large and if you try to do it in one day you could wind up getting overwhelmed.

7.  Museen der Neuen Burg

Ease of Access:  Easy walking distance from the IES Abroad Center

Cost:  11 euros, included on museum pass

Hours:  10-6 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday

Languages:  English and German, English audio guides

Review:  The Museen der Neuen Burg include the Ephesus Museum, the Collection of Antique Musical Instruments, and the Collection of Arms and Armor. The Ephesus Museum is a far better collection of ancient artifacts than the Roman Museum. The Collection of Antique Musical Instrument has some unique and weird examples and doesn’t require a lot of time.  The Collection of Arms and Armor requires a bit more time, but a lot of the pieces aren’t all that interesting except for military enthusiasts.

6.  Das Feuerwehr Museum (Museum of Firefighting)

Ease of Access:  A rather remote location in the first district

Cost:  Free

Hours:  9-12 p.m. on Sundays

Languages:  German

Review:  Despite the limited hours, this one is worth a visit. The paintings and stories of firemen are beautiful and stirring, the music is poignant, and the artifacts are old and interesting. I feel comfortable classifying this as a hidden gem of Vienna.

5.  Museums of the National Library:  The Esperanto, Globe, and Papyrus Museums

Ease of Access:  The Esperanto Museum and Globe Museum are in the same building within walking distance of Herrengasse (U3), while the Papyrus Museum is closer to the previous two museums listed.

Cost:  All three can be visited for 4 euros

Hours:  Closed Monday, open most days for 8 hours

Languages:  The Globe Museum has German and English, the Esperanto Museum adds Esperanto, and the Papyrus Museum has mostly German.

Review:  These three museums are fairly niche, but cheap and interesting. The Esperanto Museum was a small, but interesting, and occasionally interactive exhibit about constructed languages. The Globe Museum was large and could be fairly dense if one bothers to read all the information about globe making. I particularly enjoyed the globes of other planets. The Papyrus Museum, despite the language barrier, was possibly the best of the three, containing 2,000-year-old documents ranging from the mundane (shopping lists) to the significant (a copy of the Odyssey).

4.  Schatzkammer (Treasury)

Ease of Access:  Walking distance from the Heerengasse U-Bahn stop and the IES Abroad Center

Cost:  9 euros, included on museum pass

Hours:  9-5:30 p.m., closed Tuesdays

Languages:  English and German

Review:  The treasures of the Habsburgs are beautiful, giving you a great idea of the life of the royal family. Although the collection is large and some rooms are dark, many artifacts are very old and very interesting, including some unique items.

3.  Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Army History Museum)

Ease of Access:  Quite difficult, requiring a walk across a park from the Quartier Belvedere stop on the D line

Cost:  6 euros and an extra 2 euros for pictures

Hours:  9-5 p.m.

Languages:  German, with sheets available in English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian among others

Review:  The extra 2 euros for pictures is annoying, but worth it. This museum is fascinating, especially the new WWI exhibit featuring Franz Ferdinand’s car. It really gives a good overview of Austrian military history with interesting artifacts and helpful sheets. I would definitely recommend it.

2.  Haus der Musik

Ease of Access:  Right down the street from the IES Abroad Center on the corner of Johannesgasse and Seilerstätte

Cost:  9 euros, but some nights it’s 6.5 euros after 8:30 p.m.

Hours:  Open later than most museums

Languages:  German and English

Review:  Haus der Musik is another favorite.  As one of the seemingly few non-music people in Vienna, not all of the exhibits were comprehensible or interesting to me. However, the exhibits here were fascinating, mostly interactive, and, sometimes, thought provoking. I particularly enjoyed the piano stairs, sound games, giant instruments, and the Vienna Philharmonic simulator. Definitely worth a visit, no matter your knowledge of music.

1.      Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum)

Ease of Access:  Right across from the Kunsthistorischemusem, see above

Cost:  10 euros

Hours:  Closed on Tuesday, open longer on Wednesday

Languages:  German and English

Review:  The twin of the Kunsthistorisches Museum is just as large and offers some fascinating collections. Highlights for me were the animatronic dinosaur, meteor collection (including a simulator) and the Venus von Willendorf (a very old statue). There were the usual rooms of stuffed animals and rocks, but it was fascinating in spite of all that and never felt excessive like its counterpart. It’s my favorite museum in Vienna, Austria, and definitely worth a visit.

Check out our student blogs for more advice, travel tips, and first-hand accounts of what's happening at our Centers around the world. Or, head to our program pages to learn more about our study abroad programs in Vienna, Austria!

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Kiah Zellner-Smith

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