Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wien / Vienna 4: Museums & Tombs

My husband says my posts are too long, and I can't very well disagree with him. I'll try to make this one both shorter and easier to skim through. I'll probably fail at the first, but let's see.

My MiL and I went to several museums, though I have a list of ones we had to skip that I want to see next time!

Nationalbibliothek - Prunksaal

It's like a church with beautiful ceiling frescos, a palace, and a library all rolled into one. The books...just....the BOOKS!!!
It costs €7,00 to get in, and I would recommend the audio guide for an additional €3 so you get some information about what you're seeing. There was also an exhibit while we were there centering on writing collected during WWI - journals, postcards, correspondence, essays, posters - which was very interesting but ends in October.

This is a working library. The books are in two layers, and the ones
tipped on their sides indicate that books behind them are in use.
Of course with bookshelves this high you
need tall ladders! There are 200,000 books
in this library

Karl VI had the Prunksaal built, and it was completed in 1726.
The frescos were painted by Daniel Gran
Ceiling fresco - the image of Karl VI is in the disc near the
center which is held by Hercules and Apollo. 

This is a schoolboy's essay response to the question "How would you defeat
the English?" The lad wrote that he would bring a soccer ball to
the field, and the English would get so worked up about playing
soccer and distracted that they could be easily defeated.

Kaiserappartements and Sisi Museum

These collections are in the Hofburg and your €11,50 ticket gets you into both as well as the Silberkammer (Silver Collection) and includes an audio guide. Unless you love staring at plates, dishes, goblets, and silverware, just walk through that one and spend more time in the Sisi Museum and apartments. You'll see replicas of some of her dresses, many personal items belonging to her, her travel medical kit, and the weapon that was used in her assassination. In the royal apartments you'll walk where Sisi and her husband Franz Josef once dined, rested, and tended to court business. You'll also see Sisi's scandalous workout room (her MiL and attendants were terribly distressed about Sisi's insistance on maintaining a vigorous workout schedule) and learn how her trademark knee-length hair was cared for.

One is not allowed to take photographs in these museums, but of course you can buy postcards in the gift shop afterwards.


The Kapuzinergruft is underneath the Kapuzinerkirche on the Neuer Markt. It is a crypt holding the sepulchres of 146 members of the royal family of the Habsburgs spanning three centuries of Austrian history. The ticket costs €5,50 and the crypt is open from 10:00 until 18:00. Pay the extra 50 cents for a guide showing you whose sepulchre is where and the family tree. Some may find it creepy, but I'd call it fascinating. Among many others, Sisi, Kaiser Franz Joseph, their son Rudolf who committed suicide in 1898, Maria Theresia (mother of Marie Antoinette), and Karl VI rest here.

Kaiser Karl VI

There is an alarm system in the crypt, and visitors are reminded not to touch the sepulchres. We heard it go off several times as tourists leaned over the iron fences to get their iPhones closer for a picture.

Photos are allowed, but visitors are also reminded that this is a burial place and they should be respectful. I cranked up my ISO and didn't use flash.
Sisi, Kaiser Franz Joseph, and their son Rudolf

Papyrusmuseum, Globenmuseum, Esperantomuseum

You pay €4,00 for a Kombiticket to visit the Papyrus Museum, the Globe Museum, and the Esperanto Museum, which are all part of the Nationalbibliothek. They are housed in separate buildings, but at the desk of any of them you can get a map showing how to find the others (they are not far apart). Ask at each place if there is an audio guide available and get one if you can (€2 - €3) - you can listen to as much or as little as you're in the mood for, but at least you'll have more information about what you're looking at. There are some explanation cards in English as well.

Correspondence regarding the Papyrus collection - the largest in the world

Globe Museum (obviously!) 

Catacombs under Stephansdom

You can only visit the catacombs with a tour which is given in English and German (everything the guide says in German he then says in English), but it only costs €5. The entrance to the catacombs is on the lefthand side of the sanctuary, and a sign tells you when the next tour is. You will see crypts, urns containing the entrails of Hapsburger royalty (their innards were buried here, their bodies in the Kapuzinergruft, and their hearts in urns in the Augustinerkirche), and rooms where the bodies of victims of the plague were laid, one which just looks like a pile of bones, and another where the bones were stacked and arranged (by prisoners) in an attempt to fit more bones in the relatively small space. I'm torn whether I recommend this or not, though I'm glad we took the tour.


I'd skip this one unless your heart's desire is to see Gustav Klimt's the Kiss, which is housed in the Oberes Belvedere. It costs €12,50 and I would have far rather put that toward the €14 admission to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. If you do walk here, definitely enter the gardens at the lower end to the left/west of Unteres Belvedere so at least you see a pretty view as you walk up the hill to other end.

There are many museums yet to see in Vienna! Which ones do you recommend?

Vienna 3: Sights, Monuments, and Free Stuff
Vienna 2: Hotels and Restaurants
Vienna 1

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