The House of Habsburg started in the 11th century. The powerful family lineage evolved into rulers of Austria and several other European countries, including the Holy Roman Empire, until 1918. In 1279, Austrian monarchs began ruling from Vienna. During the next 600 years, their small castle grew into a palatial estate. Hofburg Palace has over 2.5 million square feet of space in 2,600 rooms within 18 wings! Today, Hofburg Wien is a disjointed network of museums. Since WWII, Hofburg has also been the office and official residence of Austria’s president. Frankly, Hofburg Palace can be difficult to navigate. This guide will walk you around several of the major structures. Your first stop is St. Michael’s Wing. Emperor Charles VI commissioned this project in 1730. The Baroque design of architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach was not finished until 1893. St. Michael’s Wing served as a ball room and then a theatre. Below this magnificent 164 foot dome are three museums. One displays the Imperial Silver Collection. The Sisi Museum showcases the personal effects of Elisabeth of Austria, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Austria’s longest reining empress (1854 – 1898). You can also visit the former royal couple’s 24 room Imperial Apartments.