There are certainly larger and more grandiose palaces in Europe than the Belvedere in Vienna. In terms of elegance and architectural grace, hardly any palace on the continent can match Prince Eugene's summer palace.
Today, the Belvedere houses one of Austria's most visited museums. In earlier times, this is where history was made: By the palace's builder, Prince Eugene, for example, or by the signatories of the Austrian State Treaty, who used the State Hall in the Upper Belvedere as a stage for the signing of an epoch-making treaty.
The word "Belvedere" comes from the Italian and means beautiful view. This is indeed what you get at the palace. The painting of the Italian artist Bernardo Bellottos with a view of the historic old town is a famous testimony thereof.
The Baroque palace garden was once walked by Empress Maria Theresa and her daughter Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis the 16th, Anton Bruckner and also the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand, who had the palace massively rebuilt.
For three centuries now, the park and Belvedere Palace have been fascinating the Viennese, as well as visitors from all over the world.
Prince Eugene of Savoy, the glorious general in the service of the Habsburgs, created a monument for himself with the magnificent palace complex. At the beginning of the 18th century, the highly educated military man commissioned the Baroque architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt to build a summer residence at the gates of the city walls.
The construction of the castle fell in incredibly turbulent times. The second Turkish siege had just ended, the plague was raging in Vienna, and the War of the Spanish Succession was in full progress. Nevertheless, a spirit of optimism existed in Vienna. In addition to Prince Eugene, great Austrian noble families such as the Liechtenstein, the Schönborns, and the Batthyány had castles or palaces built outside the city walls.
The magnificent interiors of the palace show: Here one of the richest men of his time created a place of glamorous self-representation. When Eugene's summer residence was completed, the master of the house was already over 60.
As a typical scholar of the Baroque period, Prince Eugene was not only interested in the world of culture, but also cultivated a passion for plants. To this end, he had an orangery set up in the Lower Belvedere. There he had exotic plants cultivated. Thanks to Eugene's excellent network all over the world, he was able to bring exotic plants to Vienna from everywhere, which were then cultivated here. There were the most exotic fruits one could imagine at that time like pineapple and banana. A private zoo was also established with a variety of predatory animals.
Joseph II, a very enlightened Habsburg emperor for his times, had the imperial collection of Habsburg paintings moved from the Stallburg to the Belvedere in 1776. He wanted to make the paintings accessible to the general public. This was considered a minor revolution in the spirit of enlightened absolutism. From then on, the palace was considered one of the most important art halls in the world at that time. Maria Theresa again had the park opened to walkers. According to the empress's wishes, the baroque complex was to serve as a pleasure garden for the public. An offer that is still gladly accepted today.
In the 19th century, the Austrian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand chose the Belvedere as his residence. Franz Ferdinand had the palace extensively renovated and brought it up to the state of the art at the time. He had electric wiring, steam heating, sanitary facilities and a telegraph office installed.
After the First World War, the Belvedere and its art treasures became state property. After a new gallery had already been established in the Lower Belvedere in 1903, the Orangery and the Upper Belvedere now also became a museum, the so-called Austrian Gallery. From exceptional masterpieces of medieval art to world-famous paintings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Today, the Austrian Gallery still attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. More than 1.3 million have visited at recent times.
For good or evil, the Belvedere has repeatedly been the scene and stage of significant historical events. During the Second World War, the complex was severely damaged.
In May 1955, the foreign ministers of the Allies met with Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold Figl to sign the Austrian State Treaty in the Marble Hall of the Upper Belvedere.
Today, the Belvedere presents itself to its visitors as an important art museum, relaxing garden and magnificent historical monument and is one of the city's landmarks. In the pre-Christmas season, a traditional Christmas market is situated in the palace garden.