Museum of Military History Vienna Guide: Expectations & Tips

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The museums in Vienna really exceeded my expectations. In addition to the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the museums within Vienna’s spectacular palaces, such as Hofburg, Schönbrunn, and Belvedere, one that I found particularly fascinating is the Museum of Military History.

The Museum of Military History is a must-see in Vienna, especially for history lovers and travelers like me who used to play or still enjoy Real-Time Strategy games like Rise of Nations, Age of Empires, or Warcraft. As you roam the halls and rooms, you’re surrounded by old maps, tanks, models of battleships, armors, and weapons that span the centuries. It’s an incredible experience!

And the building’s architecture? It’s as much a work of art as the exhibits it contains. With the beautiful symbolic paintings and sculptures of historical figures in the Museum of Military History, you might think of this place as an art museum as well. This museum is indeed a place where one can behold the beauty of Vienna.

Should you decide to visit the Museum of Military History, the interesting things I discovered are written here to guide you in making the most of your visit. You can also find tips and practical information—things you need to know before you go.

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A glimpse to the Museum of Military History

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Should You Visit?

At this point, you may be wondering… while the Museum of Military History is a must-see for enthusiasts like me, what’s in it for the casual traveler?

Well, it largely depends on your curiosity about the history, military, warfare, or maybe politics of Europe, specifically the Habsburg or Austro-Hungarian empire. If these subjects intrigue you, the museum’s extensive collection of historical artifacts and military objects of all shapes and sizes will undoubtedly have you delightfully exploring its halls and rooms… At the same time, I haven’t yet discovered any place with a greater collection of military objects than this Museum of Military History. That’s something to consider!

From another point of view…

…the Museum of Military History is worth a visit if you want to look at the history of Austria and most of Europe from a different angle. Essentially, this museum allows you to uncover more about Austria’s history, going beyond the famous Habsburg Family, the impressive legacy of Empress Maria Theresa, or the fascinating life of Empress Sisi. You can also gain insights into many aspects of life in Europe across hundreds of years, including culture, art, and technology, not only politics and military conflicts.

Spoiler alert: the Museum of Military History also features an exhibit on Empress Maria Theresa. To be honest, I wouldn’t have expected her to be out of the picture, considering she’s one of the most celebrated figures in the Habsburg family.

If you’re visiting Vienna for the first time or have a tight schedule, I’d suggest exploring other notable sites in the city before this one. Let me explain further. While…

  • Taking a peek into the realities of warfare, from the Middle Ages to World War II, I must say, an exceptional experience;
  • Getting a deep understanding of the causes and consequences of war, which, in my view, can further strengthen our values in life;
  • Seeing objects (the vehicle in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, an event that led to the outbreak of World War I) that bear witness to key global events can be found in the Museum of Military History is a privilege;

… there are other experiences in Vienna that might provide you a far more memorable travel experience for you.

If you’re interested in uncovering very important historical treasures and inspiring works of art, the palaces and museums I mentioned earlier are your best bet. They’re the highlights of Vienna. For more breathtaking architecture, see the spectacular churches in the city, such as Karlskirche, Peterskirche, and of course, Stephansdom. And don’t forget about the stunning view of Vienna from the top of Danube Tower.

Nevertheless, a visit to the Museum of Military History can add a unique touch to your Vienna trip, setting it apart from the typical tourist experience. Vienna Pass includes a free entry to the Museum of Military History. Visiting this museum is a way to maximize this special pass.

Interesting Facts

How can the Museum of Military History make your Vienna trip unique? Everything in this museum! The first part is the museum building itself. As a traveler with a keen interest in architecture, I can’t stress enough how extraordinary the museum building is. To my knowledge, there’s nothing quite like it in Austria or even Europe — a military history museum housed within an architectural wonder.

Continue reading…

Constructed from bricks, the building is a harmonious fusion of Moorish-Byzantine and neo-Gothic architectural styles. Its design embodies elements of historicism and romanticism, evident in the building’s features and the artworks that adorn its various sections. I’m particularly drawn to the merlons and crenelations crowning the structure, which lend it a castle-like feel.

Interestingly, the museum’s exteriors bears a resemblance to Venetian architecture.

The museum building is not just an architectural marvel, but also a symbolic and historical landmark. It’s the centerpiece of Vienna’s Arsenal, a massive former military complex and the largest project undertaken by Franz Joseph I in the wake of the 1848 to 1849 revolution.

A stroll around the museum building reveals symbolic details such as the allegorical representations of Military virtues—sculptures brought to life by the era’s most influential sculptors. You’ll find sculptures symbolizing wisdom, vigilance, bravery, self-sacrifice, military intelligence, and more.

The Museum’s Notable Parts & Exhibits

The second thing that very much sets the Museum of Military History apart from other points of interest in Vienna is the one you can have inside it. First is the interiors’ magnificent historical architecture. Second, and most importantly, the artifacts that shed light on 400+ years of military activities, advancements, and events that unfolded under the Habsburg Monarchy and beyond.

There’s so much to be fascinated by! And after a visit to the Museum of Military History, I realized it has ten features that make it indeed a must-see destination. These include the exhibits and architectural marvels that I believe you should definitely explore when you visit.

Summary of what you can expect in the museum

The Museum of Military History has two floors, made up of 8 halls where the exhibits are grouped together based on the period they were used. The halls and exhibits are arranged chronologically, giving you the sensation of time-traveling back to the 16th century and then journeying back to the present, encompassing notable events such as:

  • The Thirty Years’ War
  • Spanish War of Succession
  • The era of Field Marshal Radetzky
  • World War I
  • and World War II

It’s a comprehensive exhibition that I believe should captivate every enthusiast.

After you’ve taken in the hall, you can continue your journey to the Tank Garden. Here, you’ll find an impressive display of the Austrian Armed Forces’ key combat vehicles, dating from 1955 to the present. And in the Artillery Hall, you’ll discover that even cannons can be seen as works of art. This collection is among the most significant of its kind in the world!

1. Field Marshals’ Hall (Feldherrenhalle)

As with Vienna’s other museums, the Museum of Military History leaves a strong impression from the moment you step in. The first exhibit you’ll encounter is the Feldherrenhalle, sometimes called Hall of Commanders, where beautiful architecture and historical statues await.

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The beautiful sculptures of Austria's greatest military leaders in Feldherrenhalle, Museum of Military History, Vienna, Austria
The beautiful sculptures of Austria’s greatest military leaders in Feldherrenhalle
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In the Feldherrenhalle, overall, you’ll find 56 statues. Each one depicts a famous Austrian warlord or field commander, individuals deemed worthy of eternal emulation by a mid-19th-century Imperial resolution. Wondering who these people are? You’ll find out when you visit – their names are etched on plates above each statue.

2. Staircase

After taking in the sights of the Feldherrenhalle, brace yourself for more awe as you encounter the stunning staircase located directly opposite the main entrance. The rich decorations in this part of the Museum of Military History give it the grandeur of a palace, dedicated to Austria’s most celebrated individuals.

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Lift your gaze and you’ll discover a ceiling embellished with gold and frescoes, representing power and unity at its heart, fame and honor on the right, and cleverness and courage on the left. A fun fact for you: if you explore the area around the staircase, you’ll spot more statues located in the mezzanine. These are the four influential individuals who put down the revolutions in different parts of the Habsburg Empire back in 1848.

3. Hall of Fame (Ruhmeshalle)

The Hall of Fame stands as the epitome of beauty in Austria’s Museum of Military History, and it could very well be one of the most meaningful places in the entire country.

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Here, the great heroes of the empire — colonels, generals, and even simple military officers — are given eternal honor; an appreciation for serving the empire and their nation. They are immortalized by their names, engraved on the marble walls of the hall. Interesting tidbit, the names etched on the walls of the Hall of Fame represent heroes from various periods, spanning from the Thirty Years’ War in 1618 to World War I in 1918. If you were to count, you’d find over 500 names.

In a figurative sense, it’s as if these individuals form the foundation of Austrian victories, as portrayed by the artworks adorning the four large arches and upper sections of the hall. Within these arches, you’ll discover paintings depicting the 1664 Battle of St. Gotthard, the 1707 Relief of Turin, the 1697 Battle of Zenta, and the 1634 Battle of Nördlingen. Additional artworks represent events from the reign of Maria Theresa and the Napoleonic Wars.

4. Franz Ferdinand’s Car & Uniform

Believe me, I’ve watched Epic History TV’s video on YouTube, ‘World War One’, several times. And every time I watch it, I become more and more interested in Austria.

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Did you know that one of the key events that sparked World War One took place in Bosnia, which was under the occupation of the Austro-Hungarian empire? That event was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Today, you can still see the car that bore witness to this event; the car in which Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. And it is here in the Museum of Military History. The uniform that he was wearing that day is also in the museum.

5. The Siege of Vienna

As I explored St. Stephen’s Cathedral, I came to understand that Vienna was historically the easternmost bastion of Christianity in Europe against the Ottoman Empire expanding westward. A testament to this is the Turkish cannon ball that remains punctured in the church’s tower! This event is one of the most significant in history, steering Europe further along its path towards Christianity and away from Islam. It’s hard to imagine what Europe would look like today had Vienna been conquered.

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The gorgeous exhibition hall where you can find the painting, Siege of Vienna, Museum of Military History, Vienna, Austria
The gorgeous exhibition hall where you can find the painting, Siege of Vienna
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By visiting the Museum of Military History, you’ll get more insights into this part of the history. In fact, you can even visualize the Ottoman assault on Vienna! A clear picture will pop-in to your imagination when you see the large painting of The Siege of Vienna in Hall I of the museum, dedicated to showcasing military events from the Thirty Years’ War up to the time of Prince Eugene (16th century to 1700s).

6. Turkish Tent

Interestingly, the Museum of Military History offers more than just a painting of the Ottoman Empire’s assault on Vienna. The Turkish Tent, situated in the same section as the Siege of Vienna painting, can transport you back to the time of the siege.

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The turkish Tent in the Museum of Military History, Vienna, Austria
The Turkish Tent in the Museum of Military History
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Its design may not be as intricate as the silk and fabric found in today’s Arab markets, but it certainly provides a glimpse into how they camped for months outside Vienna as they unleashing a barrage of cannonballs on the city.

7. Musketeers and Pikemen

If you’re trying to picture what the Viennese infantry looked like centuries ago, the life-sized mannequins of musketeers and pikemen in the Museum of Military History can aid your imagination. These mannequins represent their appearance during the Thirty Years’ War.

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Musketeers and Pikemen mannequins in the Museum of Military History, Vienna, Austria
Musketeers and Pikemen mannequins in the Museum of Military History
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Did you know? The exhibits in the Museum of Military History date back to a time when military history was evolving from the Volksaufgebot (a volunteer corps of the people, inconsistently equipped and enlisted only for a campaign’s duration) to a standing army (a permanent, often professional, and salaried force). This transformation is said to have begun during the Thirty Years’ War.

8. Battleships

It’s quite an interesting discovery to learn that Austria, or the Habsburg Empire, was a naval power, even though it has been a landlocked country for a significant part of its history. More about this can be explored in the latter portion of the museum tour, located on the second floor.

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In this section, you’ll find miniature models of the empire’s formidable battleships, sea-based weapons, and even the attire of the naval crew. Paintings of the sea featuring battleships are also on display, offering a glimpse into the might of Austrian naval power. I appreciate the variety of ship designs on display, which offer visitors a peek into how the empire’s naval power progressed technologically. You can see warship designs that utilized wind power for sailing, along with designs that are more familiar to us today.

9. Artillery Hall

If you’re a traveler who also enjoys real-time warfare and civilization strategy games, you’ll want to check out the artillery exhibits at the Museum of Military History. (These exhibits are housed outside the main museum building, in separate structures within the Arsenal complex, such as buildings 2 and 17.)

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Actually, the artillery exhibits are a must-see for all, as they reveal how art was once incorporated into everything, even the weapons used for defense and offense.

The Middle Ages’ wrought-iron guns and cannons, such as the Kartouwe and Nuremberg Monatsrohre, are amazing! If you look closely at the relief surrounding them, you’ll notice symbols and scenes that I believe were intended to lift the spirits of the soldiers. I think I spotted images depicting prosperity, such as people enjoying a feast, among other things. Of all the exquisite exhibits, some of which are from the old Imperial armoury, the Pumhart von Steyr is undeniably the most remarkable. This super gun of its time, an 80 cm-calibre stone cannon, dates back to the early 15th century.

Interestingly, sections of the hall are adorned with depictions of medieval armies, transportation systems, and various military vehicles and carriages. These illustrations provide insights into how armies utilized and transported the artillery on display.

10. Tank Garden/Hall

The fun for adults continues beyond the indoor exhibits of the museum. Located at the rear of the museum building is the Tank Garden/Hall, where you can see actual combat vehicles used by the Austrian Armed Forces. The display features tanks, jet fighters, armored howitzers, and more!

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Different combat vehicle of the Austrian Army in the Museum of Military History, Vienna, Austria
Different combat vehicle of the Austrian Army in the Museum of Military History
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The information boards beside them revealed that some of these vehicles have origins as early as 1955, while others showcase Austria’s most recent advancements. You’ll get a sense of how tank weaponry has progressed over the years. The M60 main battle tank, the biggest of all the collections, is probably the standout unit in the Tank Garden.

More Tips

In total, four sections of the Arsenal house exhibits of the Museum of Military History: two artillery halls, the main museum building, and the tank hall. The exhibits are well-organized, and I recommend starting your exploration on the first floor before moving to the ground floor. This approach gives you a chronological journey through history from the late Middle Ages to the present.

The first floor showcases exhibits from the 16th century up to 1866, while the ground floor features exhibits from 1867 to World War II. The ground floor also houses special exhibitions and a coffee shop where you can take a break and enjoy a Viennese coffee after your museum tour.

The exhibits are labeled with descriptions, but they’re primarily in German. So, before you explore the exhibits, consider downloading the museum’s app, which serves as an English audio guide. Alternatively, you could download a translator app on your phone that can scan and translate the German descriptions in real time. It’s good to know that the museum offers free Wi-Fi throughout the premises. You can inquire at the front desk in the Feldherrenhalle about how to connect.

In case it happens you forget your headphones or prefer not to download the museum’s app, you can request an audio guide for a deposit of 10 Euros. If you’re looking to make your museum visit a productive learning experience, you can also ask for paper printouts of the exhibit information.

If you’re using a wheelchair, there’s an elevator at the left corner of the Feldherrenhalle near the coffee shop that you can use to access the first floor. Good to know: the museum provides lockers, allowing you to explore the exhibits without the burden of carrying your bags.

More Pictures

Below are photos of the exhibits and architecture at the Museum of Military History, providing you with more ideas about the amazing discoveries you can find there.

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Visitor’s Information

If you’re considering adding the Museum of Military History to your Vienna itinerary, it’s good to know that the museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, except on holidays. The tank hall, however, opens an hour later and closes an hour earlier than the rest of the museum. If you’re planning to visit the museum on the first Sunday of the month, you’re in luck because admission is free. Vienna Pass holders also enjoy free admission.

The Museum of Military History is within walking distance from Vienna Central Station and Belvedere Palace. If you prefer to use public transportation, you can take Tram lines 18, D, and O, or Bus lines 13A and 69A. I wouldn’t recommend driving to the museum due to limited parking spaces available in front of the museum.

For the latest announcements and more information, you can check the official website of the Museum of Military History (see the resources section below).

Resources

For more information about the Museum of Military History, I recommend visiting its official website. You can also take advantage of the museum’s Virtual Tour if you own a VR headset.

Planning a few days in Vienna and haven’t booked a hotel yet? Check out the best accommodation deals in the city on my favorite hotel search and booking platform. It even includes a map to help you find a hotel at the most convenient location. Full disclosure: This is an affiliate link, which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you when you book through it. Your support helps WanderInEurope continue to create helpful guides for you. Thank you!

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For more interesting discoveries in Vienna, simply wander along Ringstrasse, where architectural marvels and breathtaking artistic interiors await. Also explore the streets of Old Town Vienna—I’ve found little gems there, and some are truly amazing!

Vienna also boasts free attractions and viewpoints. However, for a change of scene, consider taking a day trip from the city. I recommend visiting the castles in Lower Austria: Liechtenstein CastleKreuzenstein Castle, and Laxenburg Castle Park—all three are close and accessible from the city. Additionally, Melk Abbey and Salzburg, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, make excellent day trips from Vienna. And if you’re looking for Instagrammable spots, don’t miss Schönbrunn Palace Park.

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