Clearly, Schonbrunn Palace is the number 1 Vienna attraction. With millions of visitors per year it is a well-trodden path. Since I fitted into a pram, I visited the gardens and palace of Schonbrunn. To inspire your visit and smooth it out let me share the delightful pomp and stucco, the hidden corners and small group experiences.
Most famously, UNESCO World heritage site Schonbrunn Palace showcases the finest baroque architecture in Europe. At the end of the 17th century, it replaced the old Imperial summer residence, which had been badly damaged in the Battle of Vienna. When Maria Theresa of Austria made Schonbrunn Palace her summer residence, lavish court life created history.
Schonbrunn Palace Inside
What does Schonbrunn look like inside? Just imagine a 1,400- room vast playground featuring the most delicate baroque and rococo art.
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).
Schonbrunn Palace Hours
1st April to 30th June: 8.00 am to 5.30 pm
1st July to 31st August: 8.00 am to 6.30 pm
1st September to 31st October: 8.00 am to 5.30 pm
1st November to 31st March: 8.00 am to 5.00 pm
Big And Small Group Palace Tours
First, you can book standard guided group tours of the gardens and palace of Schonbrunn right at the visitor center. They take between 30 minutes and four hours.
In contrast to these busy tours, and to get more insight, you can join a small group tour through Schonbrunn Palace (and skip the line). Expect no more than six participants during this comprehensive small group tour through the gardens and palace.
Third, if you are short on time, there are also tours that combine a visit to Schonbrunn Vienna with a historical city tour. This means your journey to and from the palace is covered.
Schonbrunn Palace Gloriette
The Gloriette was built as a belvedere around 100 years after Schonbrunn Palace and stands on top of a hill overlooking the baroque gardens, the palace and Vienna. There is an observation terrace on the flat roof, which can be used between April and November. I remember when it was re-opened to house a café-restaurant in the mid Nineties. In the summer, you can sit outside in the side arcades, 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 and the Tirolergarten at the zoo, which features an original 18th century farmhouse from the Tyrol in Western Austria with a nice restaurant and outdoor terrace. Find out more about the Palm House below.
Vienna Zoo At Schonbrunn
One of Europe’s best zoos, Schonbrunn Zoo is one of the best attractions if you visit Vienna with kids. My grandparents used to take me to this oldest zoo in the world, and now my family takes our kids there. The zoo is at the upper part of the Schonbrunn gardens.
My tip is to combine it with a visit to the Gloriette Café which overlooks the park gardens and is on the way between the zoo and the palace. Find out more in my Vienna Zoo guide.
For additional old world grandeur with a 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. You will likely know Mediterranean, Tropical and Northern vegetation, but it’s nice to imagine the Habsburgs getting all excited about it. Clearly, the best time to visit the Palmenhaus is when it’s cold outside. Consider buying combined tickets of the gardens and palace of Schonbrunn that include the Palm House.
During my last visit to Schonbrunn Palace I almost ditched this place, and was so glad I didn’t: Landtmann’s relatively new Jausenstation (‘afternoon snack station’) is a relaxed but stylish country-style café, serving Austrian snacks such as scrambled eggs on dark bread with chives, and Brettljause (cold meat and veg platter). It is close to the Obelisk in the gardens, and very popular with locals. Great if you want to escape tourist magnets like Gloriette, Tirolerhaus and Residenz Café.
The marionette theatre is still a well traded insider tip. I discovered it with my children and we were over the moon. The multiple award winning theatre for adults and kids is located in the Hofratstrakt on the left of the palace.
It builds on an 18th century tradition of graceful wood carved puppets on a string performing operas such as Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (The Bat). Acoustics are better than you may think. There are performances for adults, and shorter performances for children. Read our story of seeing the marionette opera Mozart’s Magic Flute.
Schonbrunn Palace Events
If you are an eternal romantic and don’t mind busy tourist concerts with singing and dancing, attend a palace concert. The Habsburg Emperors loved to stage concerts, theatre and opera performances at Schonbrunn. This tradition continues at the palace’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.
A real insider tip is the quadrille dancing for children at the palace. My daughter still talks about her quadrille dancing: 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
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.
During the school year: open daily between 15th March and 5th November; Saturday, Sunday & holiday: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm; Cashier closes at 4.00 pm
During Viennese school holidays – daily: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm; Cashier closes at 4.00 pm
Tickets: EUR 7 (adults); EUR 5,50 (adults with a Vienna Travel Card ); EUR 5,50 (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.
Specifically its seasonal markets draw many locals back to Schonbrunn 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 Schonbrunn Palace to your list of things to do. See also my Christmas market guide for up-to-date details.
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.
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 Schonbrunn Palace grounds, this historic public bath is one of the best guarded secrets of Schonbrunn 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 12 for the day (adults);
From Centre To Gardens And Palace Of Schonbrunn
This map helps you to locate Schönbrunn Palace in relation to the city centre, and gives you an idea of the dimensions of the whole compound. The U4 metro line takes you straight from the city centre to Schönbrunn Palace in 10 minutes.