In 1713, Emperor Charles VI of Austria commissioned acclaimed architect Johann Fischer von Erlach to build an imperial stable complex near the city wall of what is now Vienna’s Old Town. In 2001, three centuries after Fischer von Erlach began work, the structure was transformed into a new cultural hub: Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier. The MuseumsQuartier, known as MQ, celebrates the 15th anniversary of its opening this year – and has become a must-visit for anyone exploring Austria’s capital.
Past meets present
The impressive baroque structure was redeveloped for modern use by respected Austrian firm Ortner & Ortner. The team was committed to ensuring a genuine connection between old and new, as well as creating a space where art and recreation could coincide and coexist. The resulting space cleverly fuses historic buildings with new constructions, and is now one of the 10 largest cultural complexes in the world.
Its museums, exhibition and performance spaces, creative studios, shops, research facilities and eateries cover a space of over 90,000 square metres and attract four million visitors each year. MQ is far more than just a collection of museums; it is one of the most bustling places in the city, offering entertainment from morning until night.
The Leopold Museum, home to one of the world’s leading collections of Austrian art, is the perfect place to start a day at MQ. Formed largely from pieces gathered by art patrons Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold, the collection comprises pieces by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and many other modern painters. The space is largely dedicated to Austrian art, especially Viennese art nouveau, and boasts the world’s largest selection of works by Schiele, alongside a number of pieces by other artists. The building’s design, which is largely open-plan with a huge inner court, is almost as striking as the artworks themselves. On the fourth floor, panoramic windows frame a beautiful view of the city centre, over Maria Theresien-Platz and the imperial palace.
In what was once the winter riding hall of the royal stables, you’ll find Kunsthalle Wien, an exhibition institution for international contemporary and modern art. One of the most important contemporary art facilities in Vienna, its events focus on photography, video, film and experimental architecture, favouring interdisciplinary creations. Visitors are sure to find something new and engaging with every visit. The adjoining Halle E + G also hosts events throughout the year.
Something for everyone
This summer, the annual Wiener Festwochen festival runs from 13 May to 19 June, with events throughout at MQ, and the contemporary dance and performance art ImPulsTanz contemporary dance festival takes place from 14 July to 14 August. But even if there’s no festival taking place when you visit, MQ’s offerings are rich and varied, with something for every taste and age. Children will find endless entertainment at the Zoom children’s museum. Dance lovers should check out Tanzquartier Wien, the centre for contemporary dance and performance. Architecture fanatics will love Architekturzentrum Wien. Creative minds are sure to enjoy a tour of Q21, the 7,000 square metres of MQ dedicated to creation and creations. Home to local firms and artists, as well as international creatives invited to take temporary residence, this enormous studio space also holds exhibitions. No day at MQ would be complete without a visit to the Mumok museum of contemporary art. In the biggest collection of modern art in Austria you will discover pieces by Warhol, Picasso, Lichtenstein and many more.
There are also many opportunities for refreshment. For an authentic taste of Austrian cuisine, head to Glacis Beisl for lunch. The restaurant combines typical Viennese tavern traditions and classic food with modern elements. Sip a regional wine alongside a dish of schnitzel or goulash, sitting on the picturesque, leafy terrace. Mumok is home to a branch of the CupCakes Wien bakery. Corbaci, a beautiful tiled café inspired by Turkish coffee houses, serves modern dishes inspired by both Turkish and Austrian cuisines and is the perfect place to take a break. For an evening meal it’s hard to beat Café Restaurant Halle; and at Café Leopold you can sip cocktails on the terrace into the early hours.
While almost all of the spaces in MQ have their own shops, the store that really stands out is MQ Point. Much more than a museum shop, the boutique stocks unusual design pieces and unconventional gifts, from mugs to bags to slogan tees, all with a design edge; a local emerging designer is showcased each month.
Vienna has long been world-famous for its culture and is known not only as the city of music but also as the city of dreams. Embracing this spirit of creativity, the MuseumsQuartier not only protects the city’s cultural heritage but also shows Vienna’s enduring commitment to culture of all kinds.