Because it’s Vienna’s top tourist attraction, you will benefit from a Schonbrunn Palace insider guide to Vienna’s most stunning castle. With millions of visitors per year the Hapsburg palace is a well-trodden path. To inspire your visit let me share my insider 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
Schonbrunn 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.
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?
Schonbrunn 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 there is this 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. (For a private historian led tour email me at barbara.cacao(at)vienna-unwrapped.com).
If you are short on time, there are also tours that combine a visit to Schönbrunn Vienna with a historical city tour. Not least this means your journey to and from the palace is covered.
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.
Schonbrunn 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
Schonbrunn 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
Schonbrunn 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.
Schonbrunn 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.
Schonbrunn 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 Flute and 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.
Schonbrunn Palace Events
Schonbrunn 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.
Schonbrunn Palace Insider Guide. A real insider tip is the quadrille dancing for children at the palace. Actually, my daughter still talks about her ‘princess dance in the Vienna castle’: During one hour with a professional dance instructor, she and other kids and parents learnt how to dance the Quadrille.
In this traditional society dance men and women line up on either side, step towards each other and dance. Just before the lesson, my daughter chose a baroque-style princess costumes, which got her right into the mood.
Unfortunately, the quadrille dancing happens quite irregularly. To find out about the current schedule, do email the palace about future events.
Tickets for kids: EUR 4.60
Tickets for accompanying adults: EUR 7.80
Dates and bookings: firstname.lastname@example.org
Schonbrunn 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, the Kindermuseum is 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 a Vienna Travel Card ); EUR 6,70 (children between 3 and 18 years); for further information visit website.
My tip: Before you take your kids to Schönbrunn, access The World of the Habsburgs an award winning virtual exhibition and really intriguing puzzle of the Habsburg dynasty and their different epochs.
Schönbrunn Palace’s Markets
Schonbrunn Palace Insider Guide. Specifically its seasonal markets draw many locals back to the Vienna palace each year, around Christmas and Easter. If you happen to be in Vienna then, add the Christmas market or Easter Market in front of Schönbrunn Palace to your list of things to do. For up-to-date details check also my Christmas market guide .
Both markets offer high quality local delicacies and crafts. Although they can get a little windy the background of the huge Christmas tree / a giant Easter egg and the palace itself more than make up for this.
Schonbrunn 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.