Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna

This travel guide provides a pictorial tour and historical description of Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Habsburg Monarchy. Prepare to be delighted and amazed at the interior and outstanding gardens

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1 Spectacular Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace is the number one tourist attraction in Vienna plus Austria. This is a wonderful opportunity to visit one of Europe’s finest royal residences. Tour options are a half hour for 22 rooms or an hour for 40 rooms. To avoid long lines, reserve your tickets online in advance. Also, allocate at least a couple hours to explore the expansive gardens. They are gorgeous. You will quickly understand why the former summer home of Habsburg rulers was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Schönbrunn Palace is often praised by the German word Gesamtkunstwerk meaning a total work of art.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

2 History of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Twin fountains welcome you to the courtyard in front of Schönbrunn Palace. This eastern Ehrenhofbrunnen was sculpted by Joseph Baptist Hagenauer in 1776. The configuration represents the former Empire of Austria regions of Galicia, Lodomeria and Transylvania. Before entering the palace, let’s have a brief history lesson. Where you are standing was an abbey named Katterburg in the 14th century. In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased the property. His transaction began a 350 year ownership by the Austrian House of Habsburg. Maximilian II and his descendants used the acreage as a private hunting preserve for over a century. It was renamed Schönbrunn meaning beautiful spring in 1642. In 1683, the country house (châteaux de plaisance) was destroyed by the Turks. The initial Schönbrunn Palace was built from 1696 until 1700. From 1743 until 1780, Empress Maria Theresa significantly expanded the summer residence and gardens. Most of what you see today resulted from her flamboyant imagination and excessive spending. After her death, few members of the royal family used the palace until Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830 – 1916). Two years later, his successor, Charles I, was dethroned and fled the palace. Since 1918, this architectural gem has been a museum owned by the Republic of Austria.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

3 Opulent Interior of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

There are 1,441 rooms in Schönbrunn Palace! Superlatives such as lavish, extravagant and elegant can attempt to describe them but fail miserably. The predominant design scheme is Rococo, also called Late Baroque. The interior is filled with swirls of gilded stucco, dazzling crystal chandeliers, ceiling and wall frescos, decorative mirrors, carved walnut paneling and molding plus tile room stoves. This photo of the Blue Staircase is an example. The ceiling fresco was created by Sebastiano Ricci in 1702. The painting depicts the future emperor Joseph I receiving the crown of laurels at the throne of eternity.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

4 Marie Antoinette Room at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) was the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa. The future queen of France spent many childhood summers at the palace. This room was named in Antoinette’s honor. It was reserved for informal diners among the royal family. The table is set with Viennese porcelain and silverware plus lead crystal. The portrait portrays Franz Joseph at the age of twenty. He loved Schönbrunn. He was born at the palace in 1830. For 68 years (1848 – 1916), he was the ruler of Austria and Hungry, the longest reign in those countries’ history. For most of his 86 years, the emperor resided at Schönbrunn until his death in 1916.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

5 Authentic Furnishings at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Often when you visit a historic site, the furnishings are reproductions. Not the case at Schönbrunn Palace. Almost everything in the interior was commissioned by the Habsburgs and positioned as they were when abandoned in 1918. Among the priceless collection are silk wall hangings and tapestries, Asian porcelain, portraits and landscape paintings, Rococo furnishings, lantern bearers, vivid carpets plus family heirlooms and collectables. This is the Children’s Room. On the wall are portraits of some of Maria Theresa’s eleven daughters. She also gave birth to five sons.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

6 Garden Pavilions at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Lattice pavilions act as entry points through hedge-covered pergolas leading to gorgeous rectangular gardens. Both feature sculpted flowerbeds. The two Baroque gardens flank the wings of Schönbrunn Palace. In the west is Kammergarten (Chamber Garden). Shown here is Kronprinzengarten (Crown Prince Garden). It is named in honor of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. He was the son of emperor Franz Joseph and heir apparent before committing suicide in 1889 at the age of 30 along with his mistress.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

7 Yellow Facade of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

The regal yet simple exterior of Schönbrunn Palace belies the extraordinary interior. Obviously, you can’t judge a book by its cover. But why is the façade a two-toned shade of yellow? From 1438 until 1806, the banner of the Holy Roman Emperors (who were also members of the Habsburg dynasty) had a golden background. From 1806 until 1918, the flag of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Austrian Empire had two horizontal stripes: black over yellow. So, it seems fitting the Habsburg’s summer residence would portray their color scheme. It is called Schönbrunner Gelb meaning Schönbrunn Yellow. In the corner of this photo is the 18th century sculpture of Calliope (Kalliope). She was one of the nine Muses in Greek mythology and the patron of poetry.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

8 Memorable Events at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

There is no question your visit to Schönbrunn Palace will be memorable. Now consider how many other memorable events have occurred here. For example, in 1762, Wolfgang Mozart performed a concert for the royal family. The child prodigy was six years old. Napoleon used Schönbrunn Palace as his headquarters in 1805 and again in 1809. He was almost assassinated during his second residency. After the French Emperor was defeated in 1814, the Congress of Vienna assembled here for six months to negotiate a European peace plan. In 1918, Charles I of Austria, became the final Austrian emperor and House of Habsburg-Lorraine monarch by signing the Armistice of 11 November 1918, ending World War I. Charles I was the last royal to live at Schönbrunn Palace. In 1961, President John Kennedy had a gala dinner with Soviet Union’s premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Vienna Summit to discuss the Cold War and the Cuba crisis. The contentious meeting between the superpowers almost led to war.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

9 Garden Features at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Schönbrunn Palace consists of 460 acres plus a surrounding buffer zone. The majority of the property is devoted to gardens. The picturesque centerpiece is The Great Parterre. These symmetrical lawns encircled by gravel contain sculpted flowerbeds resembling embroidery. Other garden features include a landscaped maze (Irrgarten), the Eastern and Western Fountains, a botanical garden (Rosarium), four botanical houses, Roman Ruins (Römische Ruine), Obelisk Fountain (Obeliskbrunnen), a swimming pool (Schönbrunner Bad) and the world’s oldest zoo (Tiergarten).

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

10 Garden Sculptures at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

The edges of Schönbrunn Garden are defined by manicured hedges accented with 32 white marble sculptures. The larger-than-life statues predominately portray mythological deities. A dozen master sculptors are credited with creating the pieces. The most prolific artist was Johann Wilhelm Beyer. He worked on the project from 1773 until 1780. This is his rendition of Apollo. The son of Zeus is the Greek god of the sun, truth, prophesy and music. The deity’s left arm is resting on a lyre. In Apollo’s other hand is a laurel wreath symbolizing victory and honor.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

11 Garden History at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

In 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased the land now occupied by Schönbrunn Palace and stocked it with large game, exotic birds and fish. The property remained a private hunting preserve for over a century. In 1695, Jean Trehet was hired to design a magnificent garden. He was inspired by two 17th century landscape designers for French monarchs: Claude Mollet (the originator of parterre gardens) and André Le Nôtre (created Palace of Versailles gardens). In 1740, Maria Theresa commissioned architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg to significantly expand the gardens. Although other features have been added since then, the central garden has not changed much since 1780. In fact, many of the 18th century techniques for maintaining the garden are still used today.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

12 Neptune Fountain at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

The masterpiece of sculptor Johann Wilhelm Beyer at Schönbrunn Garden is Neptune Fountain. Beyer finished the Neptunbrunnen in 1780, a few months before the death of Maria Theresa. The design by Hetzendorf von Hohenberg includes an engaging display of statuary. Encircling the two-tier bowl are Tritons. These half-men, half-fish each hold a conch shell while harnessing seahorses (hippocampi). Holding a trident on top is Neptune, the Roman god of the sea. Kneeling is Thetis, the mother of Trojan War hero Achilles. Neptune is also being attended by a nymph on the right. This fountain is symbolic of the power and reign of the Austrian Habsburgs.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

13 Gloriette at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

Perched on a 200 foot hill overlooking the central garden at Schönbrunn Palace is the fabulous Gloriette. The colonnade was designed by court architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg and finished in 1775. Maria Theresa intended this to be a Monument to Just War, meaning engaging in battle to accomplish peace. The memorial honors those who died during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748) and the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). On top of the triumphal arch is an eagle holding a laurel wreath while standing on a gilded globe. This tranquil setting was the favorite dining room of Franz Joseph I. You can experience the emperor’s pleasure by eating at a café inside of Gloriette.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria

14 Panoramic View of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria

A perfect crescendo to your day awaits you atop Gloriette, the grand war memorial created for Maria Theresa in 1775. As you climb the staircase, you can admire shields and lions sculpted by Johann Baptist Hagenauer. You will be in awe when you reach the nearly 200 foot rooftop. Stand behind the balustrade and among the massive trophies. Below your feet is a panoramic view of The Great Parterre’s sculpted flowerbeds, the rows of mythological deities, the expansive edifice of Schönbrunn Palace and the city of Vienna in the horizon.

Schönbrunner Schloßstraße 47, 1130 Wien, Austria
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