The magnificent Belvedere Palace was once built for Prince Eugene of Savoy and today amazes its visitors with opulent architecture, imposing art exhibitions and a dreamlike garden.
The Belvedere Palace in the Austrian capital Vienna is one of the most important baroque buildings in the city. It also played a decisive role in the country's history, as the Austrian State Treaty was signed in the marble hall of the so-called Upper Belvedere on 15 May 1955.
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PICTURES: Belvedere Palace in Vienna
Photo gallery: Belvedere Palace in Vienna
Construction of the Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace dates back to the famous general and Prince Eugene of Savoy. At the beginning of the 18th century, he had the magnificent estate built by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt.
The original design of the city palace came at that time from Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, the builder of the no less magnificent Schönbrunn Palace. The prince used the magnificent Upper Belvedere as his summer residence, which was originally only to be built as a visual finish.
The two building complexes that still exist today, the Upper and Lower Belvedere, were built on a hill outside the city. From this point of view, the name of the palace, "beautiful view", also makes sense, because at that time the prince actually had a wonderful view of Vienna, which was still much smaller, from his garden palace outside the city walls.
Art Museum at Belvedere Palace
After the death of Prince Eugene, Belvedere Palace became the property of the imperial family and was opened to the public in 1780.
The Palais had its beginnings as a museum as early as 1806, when Napoleon threatened to invade Tyrol and the Habsburgs' Ambras collection was moved to the Lower Belvedere before being transferred to the newly founded Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Almost 100 years later, the "Modern Gallery" was established in Belvedere Palace, which became the Austrian State Gallery in 1909 and was expanded to include the Upper Belvedere after the First World War.
The impressive baroque rooms of Belvedere Palace are still used as a museum. On the one hand, they house the palace's collections, and on the other, they repeatedly provide rooms for temporary exhibitions. In addition to the exhibits, the imposing state rooms with their marble decorations and masterful ceiling paintings also amaze the viewer.
World's largest Klimt collection and state rooms
The centrepiece of the Belvedere's collection is the world's largest collection of works by Gustav Klimt. The famous masterpieces "Judith" and "The Kiss", among others, are exhibited in the Upper Belvedere.
Other artists represented at the Upper Belvedere include Schiele, Kokoschka, Makart, Wotruba and Hundertwasser. In the field of sculpture and painting, opulent treasures come from the Baroque period and from the late Gothic period, such as the magnificently decorated Znojmo Altar.
The Lower Belvedere is reserved for special exhibitions and still displays the former splendour of Prince Eugene's time with the Marble Gallery and the Golden Room.
Strolling through the palace garden
Since their construction, the Upper and Lower Belvedere have been connected by a dreamlike Baroque garden. De facto, the garden is the oldest element of the entire ensemble, as it was laid out as early as 1700, shortly after the purchase of the property, and completed in 1725.
Thematically, the garden represents the path from the underworld to Olympus. Accordingly, the flight of steps that adorns the garden is decorated with elegant sphinxes as well as snow-white sculptures from Greek mythology.
A special highlight of the palace garden are the twelve beautiful fountains, which were fed by the imperial court water supply system at the time. The two largest fountains, the imposing upper cascade fountain and the lower shell fountain, mark the differences in level in the Belvedere Palace Garden. From the Lower Belvedere to the Upper Belvedere, the complex overcomes a height difference of 23 metres.
Christmas Market at Belvedere Palace
During Advent, one of Vienna's most beautiful Christmas markets takes place on the square in front of the Upper Belvedere Palace. The 40 or so stalls are distinguished by exclusive and high-quality products. The search for unusual Christmas gifts is accompanied by gospel choirs and Advent songs.
PICTURES: Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace in Vienna
Photo Gallery: Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace in Vienna