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Weltmuseum Wien : House of Habsburg Tour, Vienna

Updated: Feb 28

The Weltmuseum Wien is an ethnographic museum and houses some of the most important collections of non-European cultures. To embark on this tour is to uncover the dynamic Austrian empire and to discover the wonders of the Habsburg family, their contributions, their dynamism, their warfare, their diplomacy and how they became one of the most powerful and iconic families and era that stretches multiple centuries..

House of Habsburg Tour

Embark on a regal journey with the House of Habsburg Tour at Vienna’s newest museum. Explore the opulent history of this iconic dynasty in Vienna's royal legacy. The House of Habsburg tour provides a fascinating insight into the rise and fall of one of the most powerful European dynasties of the last millennium. At the Neue Hofburg, the site of the last residence and seat of power, we present the history of an empire, from the founders of the house of Habsburg to the imperial and royal household of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth. Covering the six centuries of their rule, it includes historical personalities and important locations associated with the dynasty and also explores economic, social, political and cultural aspects.

The tour takes you on a journey through the entire history of the Habsburgs from the late Middle Ages to the modern day, past armor that would have been worth the same as a sports car today, a fortepiano that Mozart once played on and the only wax bust that faithfully depicts Joseph Haydn. The tour traverses the corridors and halls through which the ghost of Sisi hovers, as the empress, who was murdered in 1898, never moved into her former apartments.

The story of the Habsburg monarchy is one of triumph and tragedy. During the heyday of this dynasty, Vienna was a centre of power and music. This is vividly reflected in the Neue Hofburg, the most recent tract to be added to the Vienna Hofburg, on account not only of the history of the building itself but also of the two collections it houses, namely the Imperial Armoury and the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments.

Programme for the whole family

Highlight tours and family tours are offered throughout the day in the Weltmuseum Wien, Imperial Armoury and the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. Tour tickets are issued at the ticket desk half an hour before the start of the tour.

Imperial Armoury

The Viennese collection numbers among the best of its kind in the world. Furthermore, it is the best-documented collection of court arms and armour in the western world, since the exhibits were generally created or acquired in connection with important political occasions: on the occasion of military campaigns, Imperial Diets, ceremonies of homage, coronations, engagements, marriages and baptisms. No family of rulers was connected by marriage with so many European countries as were the Habsburgs. For this reason, nearly all western European princes from the 15th to the early 20th centuries are represented with armour and ornamental weapons.

The suits of armour are custom creations made by the most famous armourers: the Armour for a Horseman by Tommaso Missaglia, the Cuirassier Armour by Lorenz Helmschmid for Emperor Maximilian I, the Boy's Folded Skirt Armour by Konrad Seusenhofer for the future Emperor Charles V, as well as the Half-Armour alla Romana by Filippo Negroli and many others. The often magnificent etchings were quite frequently based on designs by such famous artists as Dürer and Holbein.

History of the collection

Via inheritance, the Habsburgs were the recipients of objects from the most diverse lands: from the old crown lands and associated territories, from Bohemia and Hungary, Galicia and various Balkan areas, as well as from the territory of the present-day BENELUX countries, in other words the Old Netherlands, from provinces of present-day France such as Burgundy, Alsace, Lorraine, and last but not least from Spain and large parts of Italy. Diplomatic relationships and martial conflicts expanded the collection by objects from the Near Orient, ranging from those of the Turkish enemy to those of the Persians and Egyptians, who were occasionally allied with the Habsburgs.

In the process, imperial status and standards guaranteed objects of the highest quality. Everything that surrounded the ruler and his vassals, from the palace in which he lived to the furnishings of the same, was of the greatest possible refinement. In keeping with this idea, what he wore on his own body had to be particularly precious: from his suit of armour, a magnificent costume, to his sword, dagger and mace. The same applied to the equipment for his horse. Thus, each single one of these objects is a work of art.

When nearly all the various chambers of arms and armour from the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg were brought together in Vienna during the nineteenth century, there arose a collection which, today, is among the best of its kind worldwide. In its present-day ordering, it is in principle three large collections to which today’s collection owes its special character.

The foundation was laid by the Imperial Leibrüstkammer (Chamber of Personal Armour), documented since 1436, in which the equipment, mainly suits of armour and ornamental weapons of the ruling house and its retinue, was kept. During the early baroque period, the suit of armour completely lost its significance as a symbol of class, as well, for in the “modern” state it was no longer necessary to symbolize knightly virtues or physical strength and performance via armour. It followed that the objects of the Imperial Leibrüstkammer became museum pieces and were eventually brought together with utilitarian military weapons in a baroque hall of honour designed to commemorate Austrian Habsburg history.

From the baroque era onward, artistic creativity was reserved for the decorative and/or technical design of hunting and sport weaponry, as well as for fashionable accessories such as court daggers. These objects are part of the second large part of the collection, the Hofgewehr- oder Hofjagdkammer (Court Weapon or Court Hunting Chamber), which was established under Emperor Ferdinand II (1578/1619–1637); it includes the best-quality works from every era up to the end of the monarchy in 1918.

The third—and, in terms of cultural history, perhaps most important—group of works we have thanks to the unique Heldenrüstkammer (Armoury of Heroes) created by Archduke Ferdinand of Tirol (1529–1595), who began building this collection in 1577 at Ambras Castle near Innsbruck. This collection is the work of a highly educated, artistically minded and extremely liberal prince who possessed great wealth and made use of his various types of relationships with all the great European courts to use in order to realize his “Atrium Heroicum,” the “Ehrliche Gesellschaft.” (Honest Society, whereby the word “honest” (ehrlich) was understood at the time to mean “honourable.”)

According to a concept that was surprisingly modern even by today's standards, he collected the armour and weaponry that had been owned by all the famous personalities—from princes to military commanders—of both of his own era and previous centuries. His collection encompasses 125 viri illustri, which inventory he commissioned. This first-ever printed and illustrated museum catalogue was published only after his death, in Latin (1601) and in German (1603). Each “hero” is portrayed here in a full figure copperplate engraving, clad in his armour, and described by a biography. As early as the 17th century, this collection was open to the public for an admission fee.

During the Napoleonic occupations, the Ambras Collection went to Vienna in 1806 as private property of the emperor and was united with the collection holdings described above. In 1889, the Weapons Collection was opened as the first collection of the K. K. Kunsthistorisches Hofmusem. After the end of the monarchy at the conclusion of the First World War in 1918, the Kunsthistorische Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses (Art-Historical Collections of the All-Highest Imperial House) passed into the ownership of the Republic of Austria.

Collection of Historic Musical Instruments

The Collection of Historic Musical Instruments is home to the most important collection of renaissance and baroque instruments worldwide. Furthermore, the museum keeps, maintains and presents numerous instruments that were played by famous musicians and composers. The collection includes a particularly comprehensive range of clavichords and Viennese fortepianos. The world of sound in which the composers of Viennese Classicism lived can be heard and understood here in a nearly complete fashion. The holdings of the collection have their origins in Habsburg holdings; they have since been continually expanded via purchases, gifts and loans. The Matinees of the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments give visitors the opportunity to both see and hear the instruments, insofar as their condition allows them to be played.


Opening Hours

House of Habsburg Tour - Neue Hofburg Wien

Neue Hofburg, Heldenplatz

1010 Vienna

Weltmuseum Wien

Neue Hofburg, Heldenplatz1010 Vienna, Austria

+43 1 534 30-5052

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