December 2023 Because it’s my home city’s top tourist attraction, this Schönbrunn Palace insider guide to Vienna’s most stunning castle will take you a step ahead. With millions of visitors per year the Hapsburg palace is a well-trodden path. To inspire your visit let me share my own guide to pomp and stucco, hidden corners and insider experiences.
Why Is Schönbrunn Palace Important?
A UNESCO World heritage site, this Vienna palace showcases one of the most significant baroque architectures in Europe. In 1696, Schönbrunn was built after the Habsburg Emperors celebrated their second victory over the Turks in 1683. In fact, Schönbrunn replaced the old Imperial summer residence, which had been badly damaged in the Battle of Vienna. To demonstrate their power across Europe, a splendid palace was important for the Habsburgs.
Later on, when Maria Theresa of Austria turned Schönbrunn into her summer residence around 1750, it began to play a key role in Vienna’s culture. For example, lavish court life was influential in creating our love for classical music and elegant balls.
Other than the palace, Schönbrunn gained importance because it established the world’s first zoo in 1752.
What Does Schönbrunn Mean?
The name Schönbrunn derives from ‘schöner Brunnen’ – beautiful well. According to a legend, Emperor Matthias hunted in this area in the early 17th century. When he discovered an artesian well he exclaimed ‘what a beautiful well!’.
Schönbrunn Palace Inside
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. Without doubt, Schönbrunn is one of the finest rococo castles in Europe. Just imagine an imperial playground of almost 1,500- rooms featuring the most delicate baroque and rococo art. However, there is no need to visit all the rooms.
The first floor’s 40 rooms are open for visitors, among them the Great Gallery. Definitely, this is enough to gain an insight into the lives of key Habsburgs: Empress Maria Theresa, Emperor Francis Joseph and his wife Empress Sissi (Elisabeth).
Most of the rooms are decorated in (neo-)rococo and Biedermeier: typical for Austrian Imperial style, white ceilings and furnishings carry golden embellishments. Among the most characteristic features are the French-style chairs in red damask, and enormous crystal and golden chandeliers. Belgian tapestries, gigantic landscape paintings and Imperial family portraits decorate the palace walls.
Schönbrunn In Virtual Reality
Adding an extra layer to their experience visitors can situate themselves in an elegant Baroque-style chair and don a pair of Virtual Reality glasses. During a multi-sensory adventure with vivid imagery and evocative soundscapes they catch an authentic glimpse into the daily life within its walls. Transporting themselves to pivotal moments of the 18th century, they listen to Mozart’s earliest compositions and partake in meals alongside Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph.
Rather than traditional animation-based VR, this experience involves real actors reenacting historical scenes, enhancing the authenticity of the encounter. Find out more.
Taking Photos Inside Schönbrunn Palace
Unfortunately, taking pictures and videos inside Schönbrunn Palace is not permitted. If you are a professional filmer and photographer you will need to apply for a permission with the management up to three weeks in advance of your visit.
Schönbrunn Palace Hours
- from 1st April to 30th June: 8.00 am to 5.30 pm
- 1st July to 31st August: 8.00 am to 6.30 pm
- from 1st September to 31st October: 8.00 am to 5.30 pm
- 1st November to 31st March: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm
How Long Does Schönbrunn Take?
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. Whether with or without a guided tour, a visit to Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens takes between one and four hours. This depends whether you just take the 30-40 min palace tour and stroll through the gardens, or whether you book the extensive 60 min tour and then visit the various garden attractions.
First, you can book standard guided group tours of the gardens and palace of Schönbrunn right at the visitor center. In busy times the groups can comprise up to 30 participants.
However, there are also wonderful (small) group and even private skip-the-line tours available if you book in advance. If you really want to get behind the story of Schönbrunn and the Habsburgs opt for a small group tour led by an engaging historian. Not of the dry sort, but the contagiously passionate one. Unlike other tours, this 3-hour walk starts in the baroque gardens. Along with the palace ground’s bigger picture you will get the big historical picture first before diving into the palace and more detailed stories.
Is Schönbrunn Palace Free?
To enter the palace, you need to pay for a ticket. However, the gardens of Schönbrunn are free, unless you’d like to visit a special attraction such as the orangery, the maze or the Crown Prince’s Garden (Kronprinzengarten.) The cheapest palace ticket is EUR 16 per person, the most expensive is EUR 20 (2019 prices.) If you want to extensively visit the palace and other key local attractions, a Vienna travel card can save you money.
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. At the very top of Schönbrunn Gardens, the Gloriette crowns Schönbrunn castle. Built around 100 years after Schönbrunn Palace the Gloriette overlooks the baroque gardens, the Hapsburg palace and Vienna.
There is an observation terrace on the flat roof, which you can access between April and November. In the summer, sit outside in the side arcades overlooking Schonbrunn gardens, and at the back of the belvedere, facing a tranquil pond.
Other attractions of the baroque gardens of Schonbrunn include the Crown Prince Gardens, the Maze, the Palm House, and the Tirolergarten at the zoo. Moreover, Tirolergarten features an original 18th century farmhouse from Tyrol with a nice restaurant and outdoor terrace.
Vienna Palace Palm House
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. For additional old world grandeur and a truly warm feeling head for Schonbrunn Palace’s palm house. The gigantic glass iron construction goes back to the late 19th century, and is the largest of its kind on the European continent.
Whereas you will know Mediterranean, Tropical and Northern vegetation, the Habsburgs got all excited about it in the palm house. Clearly, the best time to visit the Palmenhaus is when it’s cold outside. Before you visit, consider buying combined tickets of the gardens and palace of Schönbrunn including the Palm House.
Vienna Zoo At Schonbrunn
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. One of Europe’s best animal enclosures, Schönbrunn Zoo is one of the top attractions if you visit Vienna with kids. After my grandparents used to take me to this oldest zoo in the world, my family now takes our kids there.
While my kids adore the pandas, flamingoes, penguins and lions, I particularly love the forest-like settings.
Since the entrance is at the upper part of the Schönbrunn gardens combine it with a visit to the Gloriette Café. Find out more in my Vienna Zoo guide.
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. When searching for a charming hideaway, why not relax at the Emperor’s kids’ former play pavilion? Refurbished just a couple of years ago, the airy pavilion hides behind trees and flower beds in the Western corner of Schonbrunn gardens.
Apart from its colourful interiors children love the outside playground and sandpit, and adults the deckchairs just next.
Other than delicious coffee and drinks, delve into Austrian snacks such as scrambled eggs on dark bread with chives, and Brettljause (cold meat and veg platter). Much less formal than the Vienna castle the café is close to the Obelisk in the gardens, and very popular with locals. In particular, it is perfect if you want to escape tourist magnets like Gloriette, Tirolerhaus and Residenz Café. Do bear in mind that the cafe closes between November and March.
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. Even within the walls of this Vienna castle, the marionette theater is a well traded insider tip. More than 10 years ago I discovered it with my children and we were over the moon.
Essentially, the multiple award winning theater for adults and kids builds on an 18th-century tradition. Most of the time the graceful wood-carved puppets on a string perform operas such as Mozart’s The Magic Fluteand Strauss’Die Fledermaus(The Bat). The acoustics are better than you may think. As for the length of the performances you can watch 2-hour operas for adults, and shortened versions for children.
Locationwise, the marionette theater is located in the Hofratstrakt on the left of the palace. Read our story of seeing the marionette opera Mozart’s Magic Flute.
Schönbrunn Palace Events
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. If you are an eternal romantic and don’t mind tourist concerts with singing and dancing, attend a palace concert. Historically, the Emperors loved to stage concerts, theatre and opera performances at their Vienna palace. Until today, this tradition continues at Schoenbrunn’s orangery.
At their regular concerts, you can listen to those composers Vienna is most famous for: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vienna waltz king Johann Strauss. Prepare that the acoustics are not the best, the hall is small and sometimes fold-up chairs are used.
Beware that during the off-peak season (1st November to 23rd December and 2nd January to 31st March) an 8-musician ensemble will perform rather than the whole orchestra.Access concert and event calendar.
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. Have you got a little princess or a noble man at home? Chances are they will adore the palace’s museum.
Most importantly, theKindermuseumis very interactive and lets children learn history from their own perspective: how the Imperial children lived, what they ate, what they played, and generally how their life was like at Schonbrunn Palace and Vienna.
Definitely, the highlight of the show for my kids and many others was slipping into imperial costumes and having their photograph taken on a throne or with a group painting of imperial ladies in the back.
Opening hours:daily 10.00am to
5.00pm; Cashier closes at 4.00pm.
Tickets:EUR 8.80 (adults); EUR 6,50 (adults with aVienna Travel Card); EUR 6,70 (children between 3 and 18 years); for further information visit website.
Before you take your kids to Schönbrunn, access The World of the Habsburgsan award winning virtual exhibition and really intriguingpuzzle of the Habsburg dynastyand their different epochs.
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. Specifically its seasonal markets draw many locals back to our Vienna palace each year, around Christmas. If you happen to be in Vienna then, add the Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn Palace to your list of things to do. Although it can get a little windy the background of the huge Christmas tree and the palace itself more than make up for this. For up-to-date details check also my Christmas market guide .
From 2023, the Crown Prince Garden will host an enchanting display of light sculptures at its new Winterwonderland. Available daily from mid-November (4.30pm to 9.30pm, 30 min slots) this magical spectacle uses the mystique of dark winter evenings, and the baroque allure of the palace to weave a tapestry of light.
Featuring an array of luminous themes and a projection show the light park first guides you through a luminous tunnel. Further on, the animals of the hunting garden, radiant bees, the allure of Empress Sisi and Emperor Francis Joseph, and the opulent attire for a grand baroque ball appear. And noná (of course) as we would say, everything culminates in a majestic imperial ballroom, resonating with the melodies of waltzes.
Schönbrunn Palace Insider Guide. If your travel agent told you of Schonbrunner Bad, he or she deserves a medal. Tucked away behind trees and bushes just 300 metres from Gloriette belvedere at the Schönbrunn Palace grounds, this historic public bath is one of the best guarded secrets of Schönbrunn Palace.
When Emperor Francis Joseph was a child in the 1830ies, he used to splash around at the water reservoir that used to be there. At the turn of the 20th century, the bath was transformed into the Imperial Swim School. More recently, the Vienna Municipality renovated the two outdoor pools and manicured the lawn for sunbathers. On a warm July morning I finally glided through the waters – divine!
Opening Times: April, May: 8.30am to 7pm; June, July to 15th August: 8.30am to 10pm; 16th to 31st August: 8.30am to 8pm; from 1st Sept: 8.30am to 7pm
Admission: EUR 8 to 11 for an afternoon (adults);
How To Get To Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens
From the city centre the U4 metro line takes you straight to Schönbrunn Palace in 10 minutes. However, there is also bus 10A and tramway 60 stopping at the palace.
To give you an idea of how long it takes to go by taxi or Uber from the city center, you will reach Schönbrunn in 15 to 25 minutes from the Vienna State Opera on Ringstrasse.
Below, this map helps you to locate Schönbrunn Palace in relation to the city centre. On top, it gives you an idea of the dimensions of the whole Vienna castle compound.