Forget what you know about summer homes. This “summer palace” of the Habsburg family, a home to many a monarch of the Austrian Empire and Holy Roman Empire, is Austria’s most famous tourist attraction: Schönbrunn Palace. Franz Joseph was born here. Maria Theresa (the only female ruler of the Habsburg monarchy), Sisi, and even Napoleon have lots of history here. A visit to Vienna should mean a half day at the palace as well. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bring a credit card because tickets add up.
The Neptune-themed fountain amid the gardens. It’s free to walk around the grounds (except the zoo and you can’t get into the maze either). The Imperial and the Grand Tour tickets get you into the mansion itself and 22 or 40 rooms, respectively, of the 1,441 total rooms. You get a handheld phone-like audio guide for either tour. Pay extra for expanded tickets and you can visit the zoo, explore the garden maze, hop on and off the resident trolley through the grounds, and get to the top of the Gloriette, the highest point on the property. We stuck with just the 40-room tour and without rushing we spent 1.5 hours in there. No photos allowed, unfortunately. I am not a big fan of palaces. “Look at the royal wall paper! What an exquisite mantle piece! Ah, the bed pan is made of pure GOLD!” Yawn. And while this surely rates high on the lavish interiors scale, I still think it wouldn’t be quite as awesome as it is without that audio guide. The stories of these people are what bring the place to life. The overworking emperor Franz Joseph’s work space is perhaps more remarkable than so many other rooms despite its low-key appearance, because we find out what kind of person he was on the audio. On the 40-room tour you enter where Napoleon twice stayed. There’s an old mural painting where Mozart as a child was added years later when he was famous and someone wanted to draw attention to his having been there. He played for royalty in the Hall of Mirrors.
Kennedy met Khrushchev at a summit here in 1961.
Looking back across the grounds toward the palace from behind the Neptune pool and fountain.
The interiors are in the Rococo style, for all the art and architecture fans out there.
Like everywhere in Vienna, you can always get a carriage ride.
At the high point on the property is the Gloriette, a mini-palace with a view back over the main building and the city beyond. One can climb the steps for free or take coffee inside, but to get to the very top observation deck requires a separate ticket not covered in the Imperial or Grand Tours.
This was one of our last tours/museums of our time in Vienna. I’d call that a mistake. Firstly, because I was getting pretty burnt out on tours and museums. But mostly because knowing all the characters inside these halls helps to make sense of touring the rest of the city. (We had fortunately had some great background information on a river cruise of the Danube before our stay here, so we weren’t so bad off.)
Do check out the palace if you are ever in Vienna!
(Just take the U4, Line 4 of the U-Bahn, to Schonbrunn stop) See Map
And I also recommend some great Vienna walking tours you should pick up for your iPhone. Gretl Goes: Vienna is really well researched and covers a variety of topics.