When sightseeing in Vienna you would not want to miss out on visiting the Belvedere quarter with it’s vast palaces, gardens and parkland, including the Karlsplatz gardens where you can see the famous Karlskirche. It is the area that got developed after the Turkish invasion retreated for good in the 17th century. Therefore, it is one of the most extravagant areas with summer palaces built for the Prince who was a brilliant military commander, now housing an Austrian Art collection from the Middle Ages to today. You can also find Vienna’s botanical garden here.
I will guide you on what to do in this grand area of Vienna.
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Karlsplatz, Belvedere quarter
This is a bit of a square and a bit of a park. It has beautiful grandiose buildings all around, including the Musikverein (or Concert Hall), a beautiful University and museums.
We entered the Ressel Park near by the Karlsplatz Pavillions. They are a bit of a landmark, but were simply built as part of the underground system in 1899.
Straight away you can see the Karlskirche through the park with it’s green dome sitting snug between two giant columns, decorated in a spiral scene inspired by Trajan’s Column in Rome.
After the plague epidemic in 1713, Emperor Karl VI had this new church built and dedicated to Saint Borromeo who was celebrated for the help he gave the plague sufferers. You can spot him in the photo above – the white figure crowning the pediment.
The design is considered a masterpiece bringing together Baroque, ancient Greece and Rome, with a dash of the Orient. So, eclectic is a good word here, I think.
In front of the church is a pleasant pond and a sculpture by Henry Moore, which I thought would look odd, but in person it looks rather good there.
So, here’s to something I was less impressed by. Firstly, to get into the Karlskirche you are expected to pay. No problem, we thought. We were expecting great things. And great it is. Except, I could not be wowed when there was a giant pile of scaffolding supporting a lift shaft.
This photo does not to the scaffolding justice. It really is a significant eye sore. What it does allow, for an additional fee, is for you to head up there and see the ceiling frescoes up close. They too depict Saint Borromeo.
The pulpit is is richly gilded.
The High Alter is, for me, the best feature and shows Saint Borromeo being assumed into heaven on a cloud full of angels. It is stunning.
There is no doubt this is a beautiful church with a fascinating history. However, Vienna is crammed with churches that have even more beautiful interiors and are free to enter.
I would recommend, however, sitting across the pond and gazing at it’s beautiful exterior. There is often a quality coffee stall there, so it’d be rude not to.
TOP TIP: Step behind the Karlskirche to see the Art Nouveau French Embassy. It is a Belvedere quarter stunner.
Palaces and gardens of the Belvedere
There are various entrances into the Palaces of Belvedere. The entrance we came across is from the Rennweg. You get to step into part of the Lower Belvedere before heading into the gardens. Access into the gardens is free, but you’ll have to pay if you want to see the Austrian Art collection within the Palace.
I regretting that we didn’t have enough time to explore inside. The decorative walls in this room alone is so tantalising, let alone the ancient art beyond.
There are actually two Palaces linked by a formal garden. As the site is on a slope there are various levels within the garden and a series of gorgeous water features.
Looking towards the Upper Belvedere, the bigger and more beautiful Palace…
This Palace is highly decorated. There is a slightly mocking and victorious theme to the domed copper roofs as they are intended to look like Turkish tents. As mentioned above these Palaces were built for Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was a brilliant military commander and who’s strategies helped vanquish the Turks (1683).
The Upper Cascade has water bubbling over five shallow steps into a pool below and is one of the main features of the garden.
If you have enough time in Belvedere Quarter, head inside the Upper Belvedere to see:
- The Klimt Collection – the highlight
- The Tiger Lion – Austrian expressionism
- The Plain of Auvers – Van Gogh’s
- Sala Terrena – sculpted figures holding up the ceiling vault
- the Chapel – beautiful and serene.
Other must see sights of the Belvedere quarter
- Botanical Gardens
- The Imperial Hotel – along wit the Sacher Hotel, this hotel is Vienna’s best known and finest. Adolf Hitler made this his headquarters after the Anschluss.
- Musikverein – home of the great Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
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