From Sisi’s home to modern art showrooms
The history of Vienna left behind true wonders of architecture and their historic and cultural legacy can still be enjoyed today.
Every traveller that has set Vienna as a destination will have heard about the Hofburg and the Schönbrunn as symbols of the city. And rightly so, these Vienna palaces are part of the tale of the town, a memory of times past and a souvenir left from history. More than that, they are art galleries and places where beauty and culture meet. Discover splendid architecture, majestic gardens and the story of Empress Sisi.
Photo | Emiliano Felicissimo
One of the most famous Vienna palaces and also one of the best known in Europe, this 13th century imperial palace is famous for having been the winter residence of the Habsburg dynasty. The vast building has seen several architects at work, its expansion seeing several museums and other cultural spaces added to the main building.
Part of it still is the residence and office of the president of Austria but a large part is open to the public that wants to be introduced to the traditions and daily life at court. The palace still features the original Imperial Apartments with authentic furniture from the period and an impressive collection of items belonging to the fascinating Empress Elisabeth, from dresses and jewellery to riding crops and her childhood harp. There are also several paintings of the beautiful empress and a reconstruction of her coronation dress and the gown she wore the night before her wedding.
The office of Emperor Franz Joseph can also be visited, along with the living room and the couple’s bedroom, as well as several other salons and living spaces decorated in ornate Rococo and tapestries. For a fully royal experience, end the visit at the baroque quarters of the Spanish Riding School to experience the famous Lipizzan ballet.
Photo | Anna Blau
Currently known as one of the most famous museums in Vienna, the Albertina hasn’t always served that purpose. Established back in 1805, its history goes beyond that, to the fortifications of the Augustianian Bastion. Originally an administrative building, it was spruced up to become Palais Taroucca, the home of the director of the Court Construction Office.
Until now this tale might not make you feel much like royalty but its story changes when Duke Albert of Saxen-Teschen takes over the place to transform it into his art-filled residence. It is then that it starts to take shape as one of the most artistic Vienna palaces. Formerly a governor of Habsburg Netherlands, the duke returned with his impressive graphics collection from Brussels, extending the building to fit all his art and neighbour the Hofburg Palace. With the help of Albert’s successors and the Genoese count Giacomo Durazzo, the collection was constantly enriched until it passed under the ownership of the Republic of Austria and unified with the collection of the former imperial court library.
2008 finally saw the end of renovations and the Albertina got a show-stopping new entrance designed by Hans Hollein. The graphics collection is now available to the public, with prints and drawings as the main attraction, although the architecture and décor are noteworthy attractions too. The 20 magnificent Habsburg Staterooms were inspired by Louis XVI and many of the pieces for the Hall of Muses were ordered from Paris and Versailles. After several total refurbishments, the original décor was restored, as a tribute to the lives of the Habsburgs who once lived there.
The two splendid Belvedere buildings are some of the most imposing Vienna palaces, due to their size and architecture but also the treasures you’ll find inside. The baroque palaces were designed early in the 18th century and destined to be the home of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the entire domain has been transformed into a true hotspot of art and culture, an ode to Austrian and international art spanning from the middle ages to the present.
The Upper Belvedere is the home of artwork by Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and the world’s largest collection of Gustav Klimt. Here you can see the famous Art Nouveau painting The Kiss, a golden masterpiece and one of the most renowned works in the artist’s collection. The local theme continues with Egon Schiele and a large collection of Viennese Biedermeier art.
Continue your royal tour with the Lower belvedere and the Orangery – both venues hosting temporary art exhibitions – or the medieval art featured in the former Palace Stables.
Of all Vienna Palaces, The Schönbrunn is probably a standout, not only because of its reputation but also because of the generous offer that awaits tourists charmed by the story of the Habsburg monarchs. Over 300 years have left their mark over the building, yet it still saves its graceful imposing façade, reflected in 1,441 rooms representative of Baroque architecture. As one of the most important cultural and historical landmarks in Austria, the palace used to be the summer residence of emperors and the place where Franz Joseph was born, ruled and died.
After the fall of the Habsburg Empire, the vast space became a museum and meeting point for political figures, one recognized on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Why should you visit? Where should I start? The estate features one of the most beautiful gardens of all Vienna palaces, including a natural maze, fountains, an orangery, a palm house, a botanical garden, a zoo and the wonderful Gloriette – currently a café with an exceptional view. All these and many more make the Schönbrunn a truly unique experience, one where you can immerse in the life and times of royalty and genuinely feel like a Queen.
For even more royal experiences, pay close attention to our upcoming Vienna Glam Guide – a tour of all that’s fine and fashionable in the Austrian capital.