One of the most delightfully surprising moments of our trip to Vienna occurred when we stumbled upon the majestic gardens of Schloss Belvedere. From the sumptuously elegant Sans Souci, our home away from home, Charles, the ladies, and I set out for the day in the direction of Schloss Belvedere, only a 30-minute walk from the hotel. En route we skirted the outer part of the Ringstrasse, passing the gilded Secession Building, one of the trademarks of the Vienna Secession art movement; Gustav Klimt’s 112-foot-wide Beethoven Frieze is on display inside. We continued onward past the markedly baroque Karlskirche cathedral, and wound our way around Schwarzenbergplatz and the Hochstrahlbrunnen fountain, which had a glistening rainbow prism refracting in the late-morning September sun.
You’d think it’d be difficult to top all this architectural eye candy — but several meters past Schwarzenbergplatz, tucked behind unassuming walls and hidden from pedestrians and passers-by, Schloss Belvedere unfurled before our very eyes. Ascending a gentle gradient and bookended by the Lower and Upper Belvedere palaces, the regal Belvederegarten blew us away. Classically French and utterly verdant, the gardens span three tiers of perfectly aligned hedgerows, flawlessly sculpted topiary, ornamental parterres, cascading basins with water nymphs, statues of Greco-Roman muses and mythical beasts, and whimsical flower beds. I wasn’t the least bit surprised to discover that they were designed by a disciple of André Le Nôtre, the mastermind behind the gardens of Versailles.
Overlooking the gardens at either end, the resplendent Lower and Upper Belvedere palaces augment the baronial charm of Schloss Belvedere. They were built in the early 18th century for Prince Eugene of Savoy, heir of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, and served as his summer residences. Today, these stunning Baroque landmarks house the greatest collection of Austrian art. We ended our visit with one final piece of eye candy – a glimpse at Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, The Kiss.
Last visited in September, 2019