Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis (1856 - 1939)
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian doctor, neurologist, psychiatrist, and cultural theorist widely acknowledged as the father of modern psychology and the founder of psychoanalysis.
As the first of eight children, Sigmund Freud was born to Ashkenazi Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg in the Austrian Empire (now the Czech Republic). When he was four years old, his family relocated to Vienna, where he later became known for his pathbreaking theories.
Freud's path to Psychoanalysis
Sigmund Freud is acknowledged worldwide as the founder of an entire school of thought: Psychoanalysis. Yet, few people know that his high-profile career had a rather romantic beginning.
When Freud was 26 years old, he fell madly in love with Martha Bernays. Only two months later, they got engaged. "My sweet girl, it only pains me to think I should be so powerless to prove my love for you," Freud wrote to Martha.
In order to secure the financial status of his future family, Freud decided to switch careers from being a low-paid medical scientist to becoming a clinical doctor. Four years passed while Freud attained expertise in the clinical field until they finally married in 1886.
The legendary Berggasse 19
They had six children and lived in Berggasse 19 in Vienna for over 47 years before fleeing to London from the Nazi regime. This address was not only home to this prominent family but also the practice of Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna Freud, who followed in her father's footsteps. The building is home today to the most immersive Sigmund Freud Museum.
Berggasse 19 is known worldwide as the birthplace of psychoanalysis, where Freud revolutionised the human self-image. In 2020, the museum underwent an extensive renovation, and today visitors can experience the private rooms and practices where Freud and his family lived and worked.
During the renovations, a phone line was discovered, which led from Anna Freud's bedroom to her work and life partner Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham's bedroom upstairs - uncovering some more insights into their relationship. Dorothy was a New York millionaire who moved to Vienna with hopes of a psychoanalytic cure for her son before becoming a psychoanalyst under the training of Sigmund Freud herself.
Follow in Freud's Footsteps
Visit these places in Vienna to explore Sigmund Freud's life...
Sigmund Freud Museum
With the original layout of Freud's apartment largely preserved, the museum creates as authentic an experience as possible of the birthplace of psychoanalysis – the routes linking the individual parts of the exhibition are the same that Freud and his visitors would also have walked along.
The museum is also home to Europe's most extensive library devoted to psychoanalysis, with an inventory of about 40,000 volumes. Freud's writings can be found in first-edition copies in original German, as well as multiple international editions, making the museum a treasure trove for researchers and other curious minds.
University of Vienna
Founded in 1365, it is the oldest university in the German-speaking world. It is where Sigmund Freud and many other outstanding thinkers, such as physicist Erwin Schrödinger, philosopher Karl Popper, and novelist Stefan Zweig spent their young adult years studying and debating the great questions of the world.
Take a peak into the ancient wood-panelled library, stroll through the remarkable Arcaded Courtyard, and get carried back into the life and times of those great scholars.
In 1984, the park stretching between the university and the impressive Votiv church was named after the father of psychoanalysis, "Sigmund Freud Park".
Across from the university building, you will find one of the most traditional Viennese coffeehouses, Cafe Landtmann.
It was founded in 1873 and became a meeting point for prominent figures like Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud, enjoying the vivid coffeehouse culture that formed social life at the time.
Altes AKH (Old General Hospital)
In 1882 Sigmund Freud entered the General Hospital in Vienna (AKH), where he was later appointed lecturer in neuropathology, having concluded important research on the brain's medulla.
The hospital was then located within the campus of a 17th-century invalid home close to the Votivkirche and the Ring. Today the buildings are home to several faculties and lecture halls of the University of Vienna and to numerous Austrian restaurants and cafés offering culinary delights.
Fascinated by its stunning views, Sigmund Freud loved spending time in the woods of Vienna. He spent the summer of 1895 at the Hotel Schloss BelleVue near Grinzing, where he had the groundbreaking idea of 'The Interpretation of Dreams'. In a letter to a friend and colleague, he later wrote in commemoration of the place:
"Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: 'In this house on 24 July 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigm. Freud'? At the moment I see little prospect of it."
The Schloss BelleVue does not exist anymore, but at its former location, which is also one of the most panoramic viewpoints, you will find a monument with the words of this letter inscribed.