Vienna possesses one of the most significant concentrations of great art to be found anywhere in the world. There are Old Master paintings of the highest quality, indigenous early-modern art and design of the highest importance, furnishings and decorative arts from many civilizations, precious regalia and goldwork without peer – and much else besides. This tour includes all of the main art museums and many of the smaller or less-visited ones. There is also more than a passing glance at the most important works of architecture, and the lecturer’s input touches on the fascinating and turbulent history of Austria and her empire.
The seat of the Habsburgs, pre-eminent city of the Holy Roman Empire and capital of a vast multinational agglomeration of territories, Vienna is appropriately equipped with magnificent buildings and broad boulevards. But cheek by jowl with grandiloquent palaces and trumpeting churches are narrow alleys and ancient courtyards which survive from the mediaeval city. In Vienna the magnificent mixes with the unpretentiously charming, imperial display with the Gemütlichkeit of the coffee houses. Diversity and delight.
Fly at c. 11.30am from London Heathrow to Vienna (British Airways) and drive to the hotel in the heart of the city. Walk to the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum), one of the world’s greatest collections of Old Masters. For this first visit concentrate on the northern schools, especially the early Netherlandish school, the famous Bruegels, Rubens, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
The splendid Belvedere Palace now houses the national collection of Austrian art, mediaeval, Baroque, Biedermeier and Secessionist – Klimt and Schiele. An afternoon walk around the Roman and mediaeval core of the city takes in the Cathedral, the greatest of Gothic buildings in the Danubian lands, distinguished for its late mediaeval sculpture, and the Hofburg, the sprawling winter palace of the Habsburgs. The precious regalia and objets d’art in the Schatzkammer (Treasury) are the best of their kind.
In a park a few minutes from the hotel see the Art Nouveau former metro stations by Otto Wagner and the great Baroque Church of St Charles. The excellent Vienna Museum traces the city’s history through art and artefacts. In the afternoon visit the Secession Building which contains Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, the magnificent Great Hall of the Court Library and the excellent if small gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts. Among its holdings is a masterpiece by Hieronymus Bosch.
Another walk through picturesque streets and squares passes private palaces and public buildings such as the Gothic Revival city hall and the Neo-Classical Parliament. The Leopold Collection comprises excellent examples of the arts from the turn of the nineteenth century. The afternoon is spent in the Kunsthistorisches Museum again, this time concentrating mainly on Italian pictures – Bellini, Titian, Bellotto. There is also the recently re-displayed Kunstkammer here, an outstanding collection of metalwork and sculpture.
Visit the Museum of Applied Arts, an outstanding collection from all eras and places, well displayed. Return to Heathrow c. 4.15pm, or if joining Music Along the Danube, travel by train to Passau to join the festival.
Historian, writer and broadcaster. He studied at UCL and the Courtauld and was senior lecturer at Christies Education for many years. He has worked for the Art Fund, Royal Opera House, National Gallery, V&A. He has published on 19th- and early 20th-century painting and on historical vocal recordings. His latest book is Music Wars: 1937–1945.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £1,980 or £1,770 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,250 or £2,040 without flights.
Air travel (economy class) on scheduled British Airways flights (Airbus A320), coach travel for the airport transfers and on one other occasion; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 3 dinners with wine; admissions ; tips for waiters, drivers and guides; all airport and state taxes; the services of the lecturer.
Should you choose to combine this tour with ‘The Danube Music Festival’, the latter will be charged at the no-flights price. The transfer between Vienna and Passau is included.
Hotel Bristol, Vienna: a 5-star hotel in a superb location on the Ringstrasse near the opera house, traditionally furnished and decorated.
There is quite a lot of walking on this tour and standing around in galleries. Tram is used on some occasions.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'The lecturer is superb – informative and entertaining in equal measure. Off-duty he is a congenial companion.'
'The lecturer was first rate. I can't praise him enough. He was generous with his free time and on our free afternoon he offered to show us paintings by Bellini and Veronese in a local church. For our independent lunches and dinners he also knew the best restaurants to go for authentic.'
'Well planned so the city could be experienced on foot.'