VIENNA — Hofburg

Hofburg is the Imperial Palace of the mighty Hasburg dynasty who based themselves here for over six centuries from 1279 to 1918. This palace which was once a medieval castle is absolutely huge and very grand. It was continually extended as the Habsburg’s power increased. The oldest part of the Hofburg is the Schweizerhof (Swiss Courtyard) which dates from the 13th century and is named after the Swiss Guards who used to protect the palace. From this courtyard you can access the Burgkapelle (Royal Chapel) and the Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury). The buildings that encircle this courtyard are known as the Alte Burg (Old Palace). Next to the courtyard is the In der Burg (Inner Courtyard) with is large monument to Emperor Franz at its centre and also the entrance to the Kaiserappartements. The Hofburg building is full of different architectural styles, from Gothic to Art Nouveau. Today it houses the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (National Library), the Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum of Ethnography) and the famous Spanische Hofreitschule (Spanish Riding School).

Traveller's Tip

Near the Schweizerhof is Josefplatz. The film The Third Man was filmed in this small square and it was outside Palais Pallavicini that Harry Lime, the character in the film, faked his own death.

Next to the Hofburg is the enormous Heldenplatz or Hero’s Square with its equestrian statues of Archduke Karl, who won the battle of Aspern against Napoleon's troops in 1809 and Prince Eugene of Savoy, who defeated the Turks. This square is considered one of Austria’s symbols of national identity.
For information about the Hofburg visit the website at: http://www.hofburg-wien.at/en/home.html

The sights found here are:
Kaiserappartements
Schatzkammer
Burgkapelle
Spanish Riding School
Nationalbibliothek
Augustinerkirche
Albertina
Neue Burg Museums
Museum für Völkerkunde
Schmetterlinghaus

Kaiserappartements

Kaiserappartements
The Kaiserappartements which are found on the first floor of the Hofburg and are entered through the rotunda of Michaelerplatz. They are where the emperors and their wives and children lived and centre mostly on the reign of Franz Joseph 1. The apartments are very lavishly decorated and one of the highlights is the Imperial Silver and Porcelain Collection from the Habsburg household of the 18th and 19th centuries. Six of the rooms in the Hofburg contain the Sissi Museum which opened in 2004 and is devoted to the life of Elizabeth of Bavaria who was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph 1.

Schatzkammer
The Schatzkammer which is reached by a staircase from the Swiss Court is the Imperial Treasury and some of the items contained there are really superb as well as ‘priceless’ in the true sense of the word. It is considered to be the greatest treasury in the world and you will need to spend some time here as there are so many exhibits to see and it can become overwhelming. The displays are divided into two sections — the secular and the ecclesiastical. The secular section displays the crown jewels and other imperial riches, while the other contains ecclesiastical treasures. There are so many items to see that it is easy to miss some of the more spectacular ones. The most outstanding exhibit in the Schatzkammer is the imperial crown dating from 962 and is enormous. The crown found in Room 11 is studded with emeralds, sapphires, diamonds and rubies and is one of the priceless treasures of the Schatzkammer. Some of the other important exhibits in this section are the coronation robes of the imperial family, some of which date from the 12th century. Another exhibit of note is the Burgundian Treasure which was captured in the 15th century and contains clothing, paintings and gems as well as artefacts connected with the Order of the Golden Fleece which was the medieval order of chivalry.

The collections found in the ecclesiastical section contain some extremely rare and precious religious relics. These include a piece of the cross on which Jesus was crucified, a tooth from John the Baptist and one from St Peter, a piece of the tablecloth used at the Last Supper and the nail used to pin Jesus’s right hand to the cross. Because there are no records dating from the history of these relics their authenticity cannot be proved but they are still really worth viewing. Also in this section in Room 5 is the famous Agate Bowl from the 4th century which is the largest carved bowl of its kind in the world.
For information about the Schatzkammer visit the following website: http://www.khm.at/en/treasury/

Burgkapelle

Burgkapelle
This chapel is found above the Schatzkammer and built in the 1440s under the rule of Friedrich 111 who was the first Hapsburg to become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It is one of the older parts of the Hofburg but it isn’t a particularly spectacular church. The vaulted wooden ceiling and statuary are quite fine but it is most famous for the fact that the Vienna Boys’ Choir and members of the Vienna State Chorus perform here.

Traveller's Tip

If you are in Vienna on a Sunday between September and June it is possible to catch the Vienna Boy’s Choir performing in the chapel at the 9.15am Mass. You will need to reserve tickets at least 8 weeks ahead and you can do this on the following website:
http://www.viennaticketoffice.com/mass-with-the-vienna-boys-choir-at-the-hofburgkapelle-wiener-hofmusikkapelle-287l409024-en.html

Spanish Riding School
You can find the Spanish Riding School on the Michaelerplatz and the Josefsplatz near the Hofburg. The world-famous performances of the Lipizzaner stallions are held twice a week and have been taking place here since the horses were first imported from Spain around 400 years ago. The performances are very popular and shows can be booked out months in advance. If you c don’t want to see a performance you can buy tickets for the morning exercise sessions between 10:00 a.m. and noon on Tuesday through Saturday. You can also take a guided tour round the riding school and stables.
For information about the Spanish Riding School visit the website at: http://www.srs.at/en/

Traveller's Tip

It is possible to just see the horses for free but you will need a lot of time and patience. You have to wait outside the stable areas for the horses to transfer from their accommodation to the training areas on days when there is a training session or a performance. Stand outside the former Lipizzaner Museum which is at Reitschulgasse 2, facing the wall. To your right is the entrance to the stables. If you’re there just before, during and after the times of a session or performance, you should see some stallions walked past by their riders. Just look on the website for performance and training session times.

National Bibliothek
The National Library was once the imperial library and is now the largest library in Vienna. The highlight of this library is the Grand Hall which was commissioned by Charles V1 and finished in 1735. It is an absolutely massive place, holding around 200,000 volumes of books beautifully bound in leather. You will see some rare 15th century books behind glass open to various sections of text which are just wonderful. The central dome is also magnificent with its fresco by Daniel Gran.
For information about the library visit the website at: http://www.onb.ac.at/ev/index.php

Augustinerkirche

Augustinerkirche
This church was built in the 14th century within the Hofburg complex to serve the imperial court. Over the years it has been used for royal burials and weddings and as the departure point for jubilee processions and pilgrimages. Some of the royals who have been married here include Maria Theresa to Francis Stephen of Lorraine in 1736, Marie Antoinette to Louis XVI of France in 1770, Marie-Louise of Austria to Napoleon in 1810 and Franz Joseph to Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1854. The interior of the church is Gothic as the result of a restoration in the 18th century and is quite lovely with its white-painted vertical lines, ribbed vaults, and hanging chandeliers. Make sure you see the lavish tomb of Maria Christina, the favourite daughter of Maria Theresa, which is in the main nave near the rear entrance. Another place to visit is the Loreto Chapel to the right of the high altar with its silver urns containing the hearts of Habsburg rulers, which can be viewed through a window in an iron door.

Traveller's Tip

A highlight of this church is the 11 am mass which happens every Sunday from June to September. It is a spectacular organ mass which regularly features Haydn or Mozart. You will need to arrive at least 45 minutes in advance to ensure a seat.
For information about times visit the website at: http://www.augustiner.at/ (in German only)

Albertina
This Hofburg museum houses one of the world’s greatest graphics collections. Some of the masterpieces found here are Dürer’s Hare and Clasped Hands, Ruben’s children’s studies and works by Schiele, Cezanne, Klimt, Kokoschka, Picasso, and Rauschenberg. There are so many exhibits stored in this museum that only a small percentage can be displayed at any one time and so the exhibits are changed every three months. These works are housed in the former Hapsburg state apartments which were built by the founder of the Albertina, Duke Albert of Saxe-Teschen from 1801 to 1807 and are among the most valuable examples of classical architecture. They had a $110-million renovation in 2003 and now there are three airy new galleries on the four floors constructed into a former city wall.
For information about the museum visit the website at:
http://www.albertina.at/jart/prj3/albertina/main.jart?rel=en&reserve-mode=reserve

Neue Burg Museums

Neue Burg Museums
This is part of the Hofburg complex and the Neue Burg museums houses what is effectively three-museums-in-one which are all branches of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The Neue Burg has housed various collections since 1908. The first were items collected during a world tour by the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Francis Ferdinand. Gradually more and more collections of the Kunsthistorische Museum were moved to the Neue Burg. Since 1935 the Collection of Arms and Armour has been housed in the main building and since 1947, the collection of Ancient Musical Instruments. In 1978 the Ephesus Museum was installed in the magnificent stair-well. One of the highlights of the museum is the Parthian Frieze.
For information about the museum visit the website at:http://www.khm.at/en/neue-burg

Traveller's Tip

Make sure you look at the balcony of the Neue Burg Museums as it is where Hitler addressed a rally during his 1938 visit to Vienna.

Museum für Völkerkunde
This ethnological museum is found in the Neue Burg around an arcaded Italian Renaissance-style courtyard. In this museum you will find a large collection of exhibits of non-European cultures. The Oriental collection features lacquer screens, garments, furniture, ceramics and musical instruments. There are some lovely ivory sculptures in the African section and other exhibits display artefacts from Australia, Polynesia, Bali, Borneo and pre-Columbian Mexico. One of the highlights of the museum is an Aztec feathered headdress of Emperor Montezuma.
For information about the museum visit the website at:http://www.khm.at/en/the-museum-of-ethnology/

Schmetterlinghaus
The Imperial Tropical Butterfly House is found in a magnificent greenhouse that is part of the Hofburg complex. The building itself is wonderful but the display of butterflies is quite small and it can be very hot and humid especially in summer.
For information about the butterfly house visit the website at:http://www.schmetterlinghaus.at/english1.htm

Traveller's Tip

It is well worth visiting the website before you visit the Hofburg for information about the various tickets you can buy. Some of the tickets combine attractions and depending on what you want to see it is better to have this information ahead of your visit to save you time and money.
For information about the Hofburg visit the website at: http://www.hofburg-wien.at/en/home.html