VIENNA — Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn was supposed to have been the Versailles of the Austrian Empire but instead the Hapsburgs unlike the French rulers built a palace and a summer residence for their numerous families. The name comes from the Schöner Brunnen or Beautiful Fountain which was built around a spring that Emperor Matthias found while hunting in the 16th century. The first palace to be built here was in 1637 by Ferdinand 11 but this was burnt down. The palace you see today was commissioned by Leopold 1 and at first it was going to be more luxurious than it finally became but due to costs it was downgraded. This building was finished in 1700. Maria Theresia chose Schöbrunn as the base for her court in 1740 and the palace was renovated and extended between 1744 and 1749. Other occupants of Schöbrunn were Napoleon who lived in the palace between 1805 and 1809 and Karl 1 who was the last to leave in 1918. In 1992 it was taken over and opened privately and has been slowly renovated over the years. You can reach the palace using the U4 to Schönbrunn.

The sights found here are:
Schloss Schönbrunn
Gardens
Kindermuseum
Wagenburg
Palmenhaus
Wüstenhaus
Tiergarten

Schloss Schönbrunn

Schloss Schönbrunn
The palace contains 1441 rooms but you will see only 40 at the most depending on which tour you take of the palace. The tours all start in the west wing at the bottom of the Blue Staircase and proceed to the private rooms of Franz Josef and Elisabeth. The palace is very grand and ornate but some of the highlights are the Hall of Mirrors where Mozart played his first royal concert at the age of 6; the Great Gallery with its ceiling frescoes, chandeliers and crystal mirrors and the Millions Room which is what Maria Theresia paid for the decorations which are fabulous with Persian miniatures set on rosewood panels and gilded frames.
For information about Schönbrunn including opening times and prices visit the website at: http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/home.html

Traveller's Tip

There are several different types of tickets that you can buy to tour the palace depending on what you want to see so it is best to visit the website before you go. Tickets can be bought online which is a good idea so you don’t have to queue at the ticket office especially at popular times when the lines can be very long. Also you can have a choice of the time you would like to do the tour rather than be given a time if you just arrive at the ticket office.
  • It is a good idea to take the audio guide so that you can set your own pace on the tour regardless of what tour you pay for.
    Gardens

    Gardens
    The gardens of the palace are truly magnificent and are certainly worth spending some time in. The formal gardens are arranged in the French style and contain many areas of interest including the Neptune Fountain and the Gloriette which stands on a hill overlooking the gardens towards the palace. It has rooftop access for a small fee. There are also some fake Roman ruins and nearby the original Schöner Brunnen which now pours through the stone pitcher of a nymph. A maze and Labyrinth are great to visit if you are travelling with children just be aware that there is a small fee for the maze. East of the palace is the Privy Garden which costs around 2 euros to enter and is a replica of the Baroque original.

    Traveller's Tip

    If you are travelling with children you may like to visit the puppet theatre which is found in the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace.
    For information about the puppet theatre visit the website at: http://www.marionettentheater.at/

    Kindermuseum
    The Children’s Museum at Schönbrunn provides activities and displays so that children can experience what it would have been like to be part of the Hapsburg court. They get the chance to dress up as princesses or princes.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.kaiserkinder.at/index.php?id=54

    Wagenburg
    This is the Imperial Coach Collection which is housed in a large hall and includes carriages, sedans, sleighs and even a car. The highlight of the displays would have to be Emperor Franz Stephan’s coronation carriage complete with gold plating, Venetian glass panels and cherubs and the carriage built for Napoleon’s son with its wing-shaped mudguards and bee paintings. The building is found in the grounds of the palace, east of the main building.

    Palmenhaus

    Palmenhaus
    This absolutely magnificent glasshouse was built in 1882 by Franz Segenschmid and it is a replica of the one in Kew Gardens in London. It is made of iron and glass and is 110m long, 28m wide and over 25m high. The glasshouse houses plants from around the world in three sections — temperate Mediterranean climate; a tropical section and the cold section. The Palm House is on the east side of Schönbrunn, between the Hietzing entrance and the zoo and it costs around 4Euros.

    Traveller's Tip

    On the zoo side of the Palmenhaus is a Japanese Garden which is well worth seeing.

    Wüstenhaus
    This is a small desert house found near the Palm House and it contains four sections — Northern Africa and the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and Madagascar. Inside the building there are desert scenes and plants such as cacti and desert animals.

    Tiergarten

    Tiergarten
    Schönbrunn Zoo was built in 1760 and is the world’s oldest and only Baroque zoo. It is found in the south-eastern part of Schönbrunn. There are some fantastic old buildings found in the zoo that have been well preserved including the octagonal pavilion found in the centre which houses a restaurant. There are around 750 animals from all over the world found in the zoo and some of the highlights would have to be the giant pandas including the baby born in the last few years and the new orangutan habitat. It really is one of the best zoos with so many animals in one place not seen in other zoos around the world.
    For information about the zoo visit the website at: http://www.zoovienna.at/e/index.html