First and foremost, the Imperial Palace Vienna, or Hofburg Wien, is just vast. In detail, the Habsburg Emperors’ Palace spreads across more than 30 buildings, 2,600 rooms, and squares, equalling 34 soccer fields in size! Don’t panic, though. Instead, cover off those things that appeal to you: medieval, renaissance and baroque, art, and social places and events. To facilitate your sightseeing access my Imperial Palace Vienna Map below.
Hofburg For Fans of Medieval and Renaissance Castles
Imperial Palace Vienna. If you like Medieval castle romantics start with the oldest part of Hofburg. Surprisingly for many, the Alte Burg dates back to the 13th century and King Ottokar Przemysl. That was a few decades before the Habsburgs started to reign (1278). In fact, the Alte Burg doesn’t look that old. After defeating the Ottomans (1683) the Habsburgs gave the dull, fortress-like façade of the old castle a baroque makeover. Millions of visitors have since been blessed with graceful sculptures, ionic pilasters, stucco flowers and a power-demonstrating golden crown and escutcheon.
On the courtyard’s Eastern side you will find the Swiss Gate (Schweizertor), Swiss Wing and Chapel of the Court Music Band. They date from the 13th to 16th century and look like the perfect modules of Medieval and Renaissance castles. Why ‘Swiss’ Gate? That attribute comes from the Swiss Guard, who protected the Hofburg under Empress Maria Theresia. On the photo, you can see the Schweizertor’s ornaments and escutcheon from the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Habsburg Lion in front. If you like to hear the Vienna Boys Choir do attend the Sunday morning service at the Chapel. This is a traditional and inexpensive way to experience the choir boys live.
Hofburg For Fans Of Imperial Lifestyle
Imperial Palace Vienna. Can’t get enough of Schonbrunn Palace? The Imperial Apartments and the Sissi Museum let you dive into life at the Habsburg Court. As for the individuals, Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Sissi take centre stage. While not being a big fan of the Sissy myth, I loved the Sissi museum. Most importantly, it demystified the person and life of the Empress through showing the individual behind. Best of all: My little daughter, a princess fan, loved it as much. In case you are into glitz and jewelry, don’t miss the Silverware Collection and the Imperial Treasury for an update on Habsburg tableware and gems.
Conveniently, the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum and the Silver Collection are open daily, 365 days a year. From September to June you can visit between 9.00 am and 5.30 pm. During July and August you can get in between 9.00 am and 6.00 pm. Your last chance to enter is one hour before closure.
The entrance fee for the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum and the Silver Collection is EUR 12,50 inc. audio guide for adults (EUR 15,50 with guide), and EUR 7,50 for children aged 6 to 18 years inc. audio guide, (EUR 9,00 with guide). [Prices valid between 15th March 2015 and 14th March 2017].
My tips: When at the Imperial apartments, take a tour or listen to the audio guides about life at the Imperial Court. It will tell you much about the Viennese way of life: including utmost respect for authorities and rules, a love for titles and for ballroom dancing.
If you and your family love princess stories and Empress Sissi, escape on an Empress Sissi tour through the Imperial Palace Vienna. You will dive into her life and daily routines. At Schönbrunn Palace, you can end the day with a concert at the orangery. If you have an extra half day, visit Empress Sissi‘s hideaway palace, a gem!
Hofburg For Fans of Renaissance and Baroque Architecture
Given that it blends Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles the Imperial Palace is a delicacy for historic architecture fans. Just take the Leopoldinian Wing as an example, which connects Alte Burg with Amalienburg. Its simple cream façade with brown window frames represents the essence of Viennese architecture. If you look closely, you can see the window decorations of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
In contrast, the Reichskanzleitrakt (Imperial Chancery wing) opposite tells a different story. Far from being simple, it is ornated with Herculean baroque sculptures, thrombone blowing angels, ionic pilasters and a bombastic golden crown. That building was a powerful PR demonstration of Habsburg glory.
Probably the most visited part of the Hofburg is the Austrian National Library, a key piece of European baroque architecture. As a matter of fact, the main library hall is rated the most beautiful in the world. It is so uplifting to do your research there! Among other things, you will find the legendary library of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Just next to marble sculptures and mighty columns those books rest on gold-plated wooden shelves under a sumptuous baroque fresco.
Equally important, the Hofburg’s other baroque gem is the Spanish Riding School. In its vast baroque winter riding hall, the world famous Lipizzaner stallions dance under sparkling chandeliers, baroque stucco and an arcade of columns. You can also learn about their training habits during a guided tour through the stables.
The Amalienburg, part of the Inner Courtyard, has a Renaissance facade, with an updated interior. Empress Sissi and Francis Joseph introduced rococo and classicistic styles when they lived in the Amalienburg in the 19th century. You can visit a few rooms. The others are used by the Office of the Austrian Federal Chancellery and some Ministries.
My tip: The Treasury’s amazing jewels (Schatzkammer) hold stunning symbolisms. A good guide can get you from just admiring to understanding them.
Imperial Palace For Art Fans
Imperial Palace Vienna. Vienna’s finest artwork lodges in five magnificent buildings that are part of the Hofburg. The Neue Burg, an imposing 19th century neo classicistic crescent leading on to Heldenplatz square, houses the Museum of Ethnography. Don’t miss the 20 large sculptures on the lower level: They personify Austria’s colourful history, from a Marcomanni, Roman legionnaire and Franconian Count to a medieval crusader, a Vienese citizen during the Siege of the Turks to a Tyrolean freedom fighter from the 19th century.
If you like classcial music, consider visiting the Collection of Antique Musical Instruments at Neue Burg. Significantly, that is the THE collection of renaissance musical instruments in the world. By the way, you will also find Anton Karas’ zither there, which he used to play in the legendary film The Third Man.
Just opposite Ringstrasse boulevard, even the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural History technically belong to the Hofburg complex. They house the most important art and natural history collections of Vienna.
To experience the contrast of old and new, visit the baroque Imperial Stables right next, a huge complex which houses various museums and art collections of Museumsquartier, for example the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK).
Behind the Neue Burg, you will find the Burggarten and Palmenhaus. Behind the Palmenhaus is the Albertina. The museum is one of my favourites because of its exquisite and colourful classicistic interiors, its graphic collection and great temporary exhibitions.
Socialising At The Imperial Palace Vienna
Attending a Ball At Hofburg
Imperial Palace Vienna. No tour through Hofburg can beat the experience of a local ball. Each year, the Redouten Ballrooms and the Spanish Riding School stage some of the best Vienna balls. Among them are as the Rudolfina Redoute, the Ball of the Legal Professionals (Juristenball), the Hofburg Ball of Viennese Business, the New Year’s Eve Ball (Hofburg Silvesterball), and the Fête Impériale. This photo shows the modern rooftop foyer housing a huge globe used as a secret conference room. The Habsburgs traditionally used those locations for their own festive balls and equestrian caroussels and ballets. The other great thing about those balls: apart from Hofburg Silvesterball they are hugely popular with the locals.
Picnic, Drinks And Music In Burggarten and Palmenhaus
Imperial Palace Vienna. Come summer and the grass of shady Burggarten is scattered with groups of chatty friends, flirting couples and urban nature geeks. Burggarten is a rare and delightful picnic place in the city centre. The adjacent Palmenhaus, the former Imperial orangerie, is best for coffee, drinks, hanging out in a deck chair in the garden bar, and for listening to occasional live DJ music.
Socialising At Volksgarten
Imperial Palace Vienna. In addition to Burggarten, Volksgarten is another Hofburg garden, just opposite the Neue Burg and Heldenplatz. Many local ladies love it for its roses, while the urban crowd flocks to legendary Volksgarten Pavillon for drinks, barbecues and techno sounds. Highly recommended for fans of 50ies retro chic.
Imperial Palace Vienna Map
Thanks to its dimensions, it is really easy to find a hotel or Bed and Breakfast near some part of the Hofburg. There are around two dozen hotels at a distance of just 0.3 miles from the Palace. Here a a few tips of hotels and B and B’s close to Hofburg.
go to Schonbrunn Palace – History, Tours, Facts and Secrets
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