Schonbrunn Palace: Imperial Splendor in Vienna
It was supposed to be easy, very easy.
Here is a basic list of the steps I was supposed to take:
- Get into the metro towards the Schonbrunn station
- Exit the train and turn right
- Ascend a flight of stairs
- Walk towards the palace
The reality is that something went wrong in the second step. The train was crammed with bodies once we reached the station. In the hurry of getting out, we turned left instead of right.
Nothing looked suspicious. Other people were walking towards that direction. Plus, I saw signs with the palace name pointing on the direction we were walking.
We entered a trail along a park. Once the trail came to an end, I saw another sign pointing towards the palace.
We walked and walked and walked a little bit more. The streets started to get solitary. We saw a gas station but nobody was around.
I took a peek through a fence and saw a bunch of train tracks. I located them in the map and realized we walked on the opposite direction. We had left the palace way behind!
There was no other option than to walk back towards the train station. That is when I saw the vibrant yellow characteristic of Schonbrunn Palace.
The signs I was following? They were directing me to the complex’s parking lot (which is a bit far from the actual palace).
After minutes of agony under the melting sun, we made it to our destination. And, what a destination! When I thought things couldn’t get better than Vienna’s Old Town, I felt mesmerized when I found myself in front of Schonbrunn Palace, the imperial summer residence of the Habsburg.
This is no ordinary palace. It has 1,441 rooms and it is one of the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Austria. That is why in 1996 it was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
In the year 1569, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased a large floodplain of the Wien (Vienna) river beneath a hill, where a former owner, had erected a mansion called Katterburg.
The emperor ordered the area to be fenced and put game there such as pheasants, ducks, deer and boar, in order to serve as the court’s recreational hunting ground. In a small separate part of the area, birds such as turkeys and peafowl were kept. Fishponds were built, too.
A century later, Empress Eleonora, added a palace to the Katterburg mansion. The first mention of the name “Schönbrunn” was printed on an invoice dating from that time. The present form of the palace dates from the 1740–50, when Empress Maria Theresa was reigning.
Following the downfall of the Habsburg monarchy in November 1918, the palace became the property of newly founded Austrian Republic and was preserved as a museum.
However, the magic of this place is not centered only in the main structure. An area known as the Great Parterre is full of flowers orange trees and sculptures. This French garden covering large part of the grounds, and dating back to 1695, is free to explore nowadays.
That is not all. In addition, the palace gardens house the following:
- An Orangerie
- A Privy Garden
- A Maze
- A Palm House
- A Desert House
- A Tiergarden (here is where the zoo is located)
- Many fountains and statues
You are probably noticing the trend in here. The palace grounds are huge! Exploring all the attractions will take you an entire day (or more). Because of time reasons, we didn’t enter any of the paid attractions. However, there is plenty to see if you are on a budget or time constrained.
While exploring the Great Parterre, it is impossible to miss the Neptune Fountain. Designed as the crowning element of the section, it is sited at the foot of the hill behind the palace. It was conceived as part of the overall design of the gardens and park commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa in the 1770s. The completion of the fountain was completed in four years.
On a hot day, sitting beside the fountain was a great treat. You can walk behind the structure and cool down a little bit more (or get all soaked, your choice!)
You cannot visit the palace and miss the Gloriette. It is located on the top of the hill behind the palace. Yes, you will have to walk uphill to get up there. This may not sound ideal after several days walking around European cities. However, little by little you can conquer.
You will thank me later when you see the views from the top.
The Gloriette was commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa too. She decided Gloriette should be designed to glorify Habsburg power and thereby ordered to recycle stone left after the demolition of another palace owned by the crown.
The Gloriette was destroyed in the Second World War, but had already been restored by 1947, and was restored again in 1995.
The Gloriette has a café and an observation deck (fee area).
I hope you have a better appreciation of Schonbrunn Palace after reading this post. In my opinion, it is a place that cannot be missed if you are in Vienna!
- Here is the link to palace’s website: https://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/
- In there, you can check prices for all the attractions located within the grounds. There are passes that include several attractions for one price (that may be of better value).
- A “simple” or “short” visit can take up to 3 hours (including traveling time from the center). Make sure you are carrying all your essentials with you (glasses, hat, snacks, water, etc.)
Have you visited Schonbrunn Palace?
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