To call Belvedere "a palace" is technically a misnomer. It consists of two, individually constructed buildings that offer fascinating histories and purposes in their own right. Together they form the Belvedere, one of the most significant Baroque complexes in the world. The Upper and Lower Belvedere are some of the most iconic sights in Vienna and have faced off in the city's third district for over 300 years.
In the 18th century, the Austrian general Prince Eugene of Savoy commissioned the renowned Baroque architect Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt to build a summer residence. Prince Eugene intended for the Belvedere to be an escape from the city, which didn't extend beyond the first district in his day. "Landstrasse," which is now a bustling part of town was completely undeveloped when construction began in 1712. After the death of Prince Eugene, Empress Maria Theresa acquired the entire complex and transformed the Upper Belvedere into an exhibition venue for the imperial collections – making it one of the first public museums in the world.
Today, the Belvedere is one of Vienna's most iconic landmarks. The Upper Belvedere perches proudly in the centre of the gardens, giving both sides an impressive view of its facade. The Sala Terrena, the grand staircase, and the Marble Hall are three architectural highlights you can't miss when you go inside. The Lower Belvedere, formerly the residence of Prince Eugene, is home to illustrious exhibitions.
In between the Upper and Lower Belvedere stretches an iconic French garden, full of carefully planted flower beds and several fountains. Locals like to walk the gardens even without a visit to the two museums housed inside the Belvedere. It's a stunning oasis of Baroque horticulture that transports you from the modern city to a more refined time.
For an entirely different architectural gem, visit Belvedere 21. The modern pavilion, by architect Karl Schwanzer, sets the stage for contemporary art and is just a short walk from the main complex!