Why visit Klosterneuburg abbey near Vienna? Because the monastery amasses some of Vienna’s most legendary art and wine treasures. In addition, you will discover Austria’s Medieval powerhouse that most tourists never heard of: Not only did the abbey forge the Austrian nation but it hosts Austria’s oldest wine estate.
For the past 900 years, this place had been in the hands of art aficionado clerics. Like El Escorial in Spain, Klosterneuburg monastery is outside the capital. At just 10 km Klosterneuburg is much closer to Vienna, though, than El Escorial to Madrid (45 km). And unlike El Escorial, Klosterneuburg is completely manageable in size.
Home of Art Collectors
Simply put, Klosterneuburg abbey mixes Middle Ages with baroque, church with Imperial state rooms, art treasures with wine barrels. At the monastery’s museum, I learned about the very beginnings of Austria itself. Most famously, the enchanting Medieval Legend of the Veil dominated the narrative, as well as this spectacular Austrian crown (photo above).
To give you an idea of the historic timeline, monastery founder Margrave Leopold III ruled in the 11th/12th century AD. As a matter of fact Leopold was a contemporary of Thomas Becket.
Curiously, Klosterneuburg brimmed with amazing historic objects you’d rather suspect in Vienna’s central palaces, such as these ivory carvings. As hinted at the beginning, the Augustinian canons, who have run Klosterneuburg ever since, have been passionate art collectors.
Amidst precious metal and bone carvings I found a unique ‘Jugendstil’ (Art Nouveau) ecclesiastical garment from 1910, called ‘Marienornat’.
Of all the paintings and artwork my favourite piece was the Medieval Babenberg family tree. Across several square meters the gigantic artwork displayed richly painted medallions of dozens of Babenberg rulers: kings, maids, knights and crusaders who shaped Central Europe. Definitely the kind of historic material that has been nurturing so many fantasy films.
On the side, another great place to trace medieval Austria and the Babenbergs is the Cistercian Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in the Vienna Woods.
As for the most outstanding piece, the Altar of Verdun proved to be ridiculously elaborate. Hidden in the lower part of the monastery’s church the 900-year-old altar depicted key stories of the Bible in scenes, spread across three boards.
Each image was fire-gilded and beautifully enamelled. Some figurines were unusually emotional and dynamic for that period. The altar received its name from its creator Nicolas of Verdun.
Klosterneuburg Abbey’s Imperial State Rooms
Vienna Art Wine Tour. Aside from wine and art, Klosterneuburg Abbey also hosts a few Imperial state rooms. Funnily enough, they don’t just look untouched, they ARE: In the 18th centuryKlosterneuburg almost became Schönbrunn Palace. Whereas Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresa’s father, was desperate to move his seat to the monastery’s site his daughter decided otherwise.
After Charles’ death, a top baroque architect annexed the baroque palace, its gorgeous rooms and a Marble Hall with the monastery. However, Maria Theresa didn’t dream of finishing the project. Clearly, she preferred Schönbrunn. And this meant Klosterneuburg went into decline as an Imperial residence. Walking through those virgin rooms felt to me both like a privilege and a historic error.
The Marble Hall featured a fabulous ceiling fresco. Best of all: you didn’t need to twist your neck to see it. A tilted mirror on the floor created a fantastic perspective, blending the ceiling fresco with some walls.
As polished as Klosterneuburg was, the unfinished work in progress became most obvious in the Sala Terrena entrance hall. To preserve its authenticity, the Abbey’s curators decided to leave the hall in its original condition rather than plastering over it. The result was a striking contrast: Perfectly chiseled Atlas statues lining the room meeting with raw brickwork.
The Winery Tour At Klosterneuburg
As Austria’s oldest wine estate Klosterneuburg Abbey boasts a vast underground wine cellar world. Even today, Klosterneuburg continues to produce around 50 types of wine, sparkling wine, spirits and natural apple juices, along with oils, vinegars, honey and chocolates.
I joined one of the Abbey’s special wine tours after my abbey tour. We descended 36 metres to large vaulted rooms across three levels: the Roman Cellar, the Barrique Cellar and the Fermentation Cellar. Some of the operational rooms were filled with gigantic oak barrels, some with enormous modern steel tanks and a wine distillery machinery.
As the second part of my Vienna art wine tour continued it became obvious how deeply rooted the abbey still is in regional wine production. The Abbey owns vineyards and orchards not only in Klosterneuburg, but in Vienna and Gumpoldskirchen and Tattendorf in the Vienna Woods.
For the past decades, generations of regional vintners attended Klosterneuburg’s renowned viniculture school. During the tour you learn all about local wine production over the centuries, and local wine growing. Emailvinothek@stift-klosterneuburg.atto arrange a tour in English, and a wine tasting.
Klosterneuburg is open during the following periods:
16th November to 30th April : 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
1st May to 15th November: 09:00 am to 6:00 pm
24th December : 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
25th, 26th and 31st December : closed
1st January: 01:00 pm to 05:00 pm
Entrance tickets: EUR 17 (adults): EUR 11 (children); Children under 6 years of age go free. If you get the VIENNA PASS, the entrance is free and you can get a hop on hop off bus to take you to Klosterneuburg.
How To Get There by Public Transport: take metro U4 to Heiligenstadt, then bus 238 or 239 to Klosterneuburg-Stift. Walk 5 min to the monastery.
Hike to Klosterneuburg: Make the most out of the rolling hills between Vienna and Klosterneuburg and hike there with a guide. Includes a visit of the abbey.
Rent a car: If you plan to explore the whole region of Klosterneuburg, take a scenic ride through Hohenstrasse in the Vienna Woods, Kahlenberg mountain and the vineyards. Here are some tips for car rental in Vienna.
visitVienna wineries– Heuriger Guide and Map by Two Natives
go to Vienna DanubeGuide – Highlights on Vienna Danube, Old Danube And Danube Canal
go to Wachau Valley TourReview – Wine And Danube by Minivan
visitWhat To Do In Vienna– Must See and Do Tips
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