Comprehensive introduction to one of Europe’s most important cities across the centuries
Artists of the Viennese Secession: Klimt, Schiele, Wagner and Loos all featured
The Habsburg dynasty’s patronage explored
Magnificent exhibition on Brueghel at Kunsthistorisches Museum included
Comfortable 4* hotel in Vienna’s historic centre
Opportunity to attend Opera, Ballet & Concert performances
One hundred years ago, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to be, bringing to an end one of the greatest dynasties in European history. With its vast court, right at the heart of an extensive landmass, the Habsburg imperial capital of Vienna maintained a magnetic hold over the continent’s finest artistic talent. One of their favourite artists was Peter Brueghel the Elder, whose work will be, by happy chance, explored in a ground-breaking exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum which we have included in this tour.
And yet the Habsburgs’ flair for matters cultural went hand in hand with a system of political laissez-faire, stoking resentment throughout the Empire’s crownlands and particularly among the liberal bourgeoisie at the end of the nineteenth century. This gave rise to a new, urgent culture, with the likes of Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos challenging established artistic and architectural codes with their dazzling paintings and buildings. This seven-day tour looks at the juxtaposition of those two worlds; the Imperial Court and the liberal intelligentsia, both inside and beyond Vienna’s city limits.
In a gently paced week, we shall stay at the comfortable 4* Hotel Das Tigra located within the historic centre reasonably close to the Stephansdom, Vienna’s great medieval Cathedral of St Stephen. Given that almost all the sites we are visiting are near to our hotel, a good deal of our time will be spent on foot and not in a coach. We shall also make use of the excellent Viennese tram system, where appropriate.
Day by day
- Day 1: Sunday 28 October
- We fly from Heathrow with BA mid-morning and on arrival in Vienna we transfer into Vienna and begin with an orientation tour by coach along the Ringstrasse, taking in its municipal and other buildings. This will be the ideal opportunity to chart the momentous changes which transformed the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We check into our hotel and there will be a group dinner that evening – wine, water and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners.
- Day 2: Monday 29 October
- The morning begins with a gentle walk through the centre of Vienna. Our destination is the city’s famous Kunsthistorisches Museum, housing the great imperial collection of paintings, armoury and antiquities. In the morning the permanent collections will be explored via two guided introductions, broken by coffee. After time for lunch in the Museum Café, not included, we have reserved entry to the much anticipated Brueghel Exhibition which opens later this year. In addition to the content of the Museum, the tour will look at the building itself, designed after plans by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer and decorated by Gustav Klimt, his brother Ernst and their colleague Franz Matsch. Should the Brueghel exhibition not be of interest, you can either explore the museum independently or enjoy some free time in the city. The evening will be free.
- Day 3: Tuesday 30 October
- The day features various fin-de-siècle architectural masterpieces, beginning with the MAK Museum, Vienna’s equivalent of the V&A. The building includes furniture and interiors by various figures of the Wiener Werkstätte including Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, who died one hundred years ago. We then continue to visit some central Jugendstil addresses in the city, including the Postsparkasse, Otto Wagner’s extravagant postal savings bank on the Ringstrasse, the Anker Clock on Hoher Markt (Franz Matsch), the Hacherlhaus on Brandstätte (Jože Plečnik) and Adolf Loos’s shop frontages for Knize and Matsch, before visiting the former Department Store (now a bank) designed by Loos in 1909–11 and built opposite the city entrance to the Hofburg. After time for a group lunch, the afternoon is spent at the Spital ‘Am Steinhof’, a psychiatric institute on the outskirts of Vienna, devised by Wagner and including the Kirche ‘Am Steinhof’, a stunning Jugendstil site, with mosaics and stained glass by Secessionist Koloman Moser.
- Day 4: Wednesday 31 October
- The day is spent travelling up the Danube Valley. After paying a visit to architect Josef Hoffmann’s artists’ colony on the Hohe Warte, the journey begins by the Danube in Vienna, looking at the unique flood defences designed by Otto Wagner to protect the city from the might of the river. We then journey to the village of Gneixendorf in the heart of Danube wine country, where Beethoven spent the autumn of 1826, shortly before his death, and penned his last masterpieces. A group lunch follows at the Heurigenhof Bründlmayer in Langenlois. We then journey through the steep valleys of the Wachau to spend the afternoon at Melk Abbey. As well as the stunning Benedictine Abbey Church, we shall visit its extensive Baroque library, before travelling back to Vienna for an evening spent at leisure. NB that as we are likely to return to Vienna quite late, this would not be a suitable evening to plan to attend the opera or other musical event.
- Day 5: Thursday 1 November
- The day will be devoted to the Hofburg, the central Habsburg palace. The earliest section is the Alte Burg, begun in 1275 as a fortress. The main sites here are the Burgkapelle, built in the mid fifteenth century and much altered subsequently. The part of the Hofburg known as Josefplatz contains two of the finest eighteenth century interiors in the city, the National Library, again designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. There is also the Sacred and Secular Treasuries, which contain many of the jewelled treasures of the Habsburgs. The next section of the Hofburg is named In der Burg and is the busiest part of the complex. Of interest are the Imperial Apartments, now given over to mementoes from the later Habsburgs. There is also the Silver and Porcelain Collection, which is superlative. The last section, Neue Burg, is mostly nineteenth century, though has had a prominent role in more recent decades. Lunch is not included today and the evening will be free.
- Day 6: Friday 2 November
- Close to the hotel is Karlplatz, featuring a number of prime sites of both old and new Vienna. We begin in the Karlskirche, built by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and completed in the 1730s. This sits opposite two Jugendstil gems, the Secession Building, designed by Joseph Olbrich in 1897 as an alternative to the imperially-endorsed Künstlerhaus (also on Karlsplatz), and Otto Wagner’s Pavilions for the square’s underground station. We will visit the Secession and view Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze inside. The afternoon is spent at the Wien Museum, the museum of the city of Vienna. The collection spans the Roman origins of the city to its heyday, before the outbreak of World War I. Later on, we have our second group dinner.
- Day 7: Saturday 3 November
- Our final day begins with a tour of the Upper Belvedere, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s summer palace, with sweeping views across the city. The building now contains the state collection of Austrian paintings, dating from medieval times to the present day. We focus on the art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Klimt’s renowned painting The Kiss. After a break for coffee, we visit the nearby Lower Belvedere for a retrospective of Egon Schiele, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the painter’s death. The exhibition features Schiele’s searing portraiture alongside his beguilingly eerie landscapes and townscapes. The visit ends with a late group lunch, after which we transfer to Vienna Airport for the flight home.
Details of all performances during this visit will be sent to participants when known.
- Price: £2,370 per person
- Price without flights: £2,220
- Deposit: £275
- Single Supplement: £295 (Double Room for Sole Use)
- Tour Manager: Ingrid Sawerthal
6 nights with breakfast at the 4* Hotel Das Tigra
Upgrade from Standard to Comfort Room £75 or to Superior Room £295 per room
Outward: BA700 Depart London Heathrow (Terminal 3) 0925 arrive Vienna 1250
Return: BA705 Depart Vienna 1825 arrive London Heathrow (Terminal 3) 1955
2 dinners & 3 lunches with wine, water & coffee, all local transfers, City Tax, entry fees & gratuities, services of Gavin Plumley & Ingrid Sawerthal
Travel to/from Heathrow, 4 dinners & 3 lunches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.