Schönbrunn Palace Tours:
Location: Western Vienna
Getting Here: Take the U4 Metro right to Schönbrunn
Visiting Hours: April-June 8:30am-5:30pm; July & August 8:30am-6:30pm; September & October 8:30am-5:30pm; November-March 8:30am-4:30pm; Grounds open Dawn-Dusk
Admission Cost: Most of the outside grounds are free, but tours are required for the Palace interior which the quick Imperial Tour at 14.20€ and full Grand Tour for 17.50€ (buy here). The Sisi Combo ticket for 29.90€ is also a great deal and explained below.
Zoo Hours: The Tiergarten Zoo’s hours follow closely to that of the palace and costs 14€ for adults, 6€ for children.
Fun Scale: 9.7 out of 10
The huge 1,441 room Schonbrunn Palace is one of the very best estates in Europe and shows the might of the former Hapsburg ruling family. Established in the early-1700s you can tour dozens of the lavish rooms, stroll the beautiful grounds, walk behind a waterfall, see the exceptional Museum of Carriages, and even visit the World’s oldest continuously run zoo. Make sure Schonbrunn is on the top of your Vienna must see list!
History Of Schönbrunn Palace:
As far as European palaces go, Schönbrunn is the only one that is in the same league as France’s Versailles. The grounds of the current Palace have been used since the Middle Ages, but it was in 1569 when the Hapsburg royal family took control of the grounds that is officially turned into a royal property. For the first 200 years the Hapsburg’s owned the property each heir would tinker with the grounds, but none of them ever finished building true Estate.
By the early 1700’s Emperor Charles VI starting using the property as a Summer hunting lodge since the grounds were heavily wooded 4 miles from central Vienna, but still no Palace… It wasn’t until Emperor Charles VI gifted the residence to his daughter Maria Theresa in the mid 1700’s that the Estate started to blossom. Maria Theresa decided to finish the grounds as a true Palace and added many fascinating features like a huge garden, the mighty Neptune Fountain, a theater, a festive zoo, beautiful galleries, along with opulent fixtures from Chinese lacquer panels, murals, and colorful wall papers. These renovations gave the estate its name Schönbrunn Palace, meaning beautiful fountain/spring. When Maria Theresa died in 1780, Schönbrunn Palace again fell to the wayside of the uninterested Royal family and was even occupied by French Emperor Napoleon twice in 1805 and 1809.
The Palace finally began to start hitting its potential in 1853 when Emperor Franz Joseph I, who was born in the Palace in 23 years earlier, married Elizabeth of Bavaria. Elizabeth also known as Sisi had a very keen eye for design and the motivation to spruce Schönbrunn Palace up better than ever. Elizabeth quickly come to beloved by the people of Austria for her individual sense of freedom and how beautiful she was. In a moment of perfect timing during Sisi’s revamping of Schönbrunn Palace, Austria and Hungary joined as one empire in 1867 giving her an unlimited budget for remodeling any way she wanted. During the remodeling the Hapsburg’s built ornate carriages as well as a series of stately Imperial Apartments. Schönbrunn Palace even got its current yellow look thanks to a new coat of paint. Although it may seem that the gold paint was meant to be bold, it was actually used because it was the cheapest color of paint available. It turns out that even empresses with unlimited budgets can still care about making thrifty decisions.
Toward the end of her life Sisi spent more time at the Palace of Gödöllő in Hungary, but she definitely left her mark on Schönbrunn Palace and the people of Austria. Sadly the Empress was assassinated in 1898 at the age of 60 in Switzerland. Her husband Franz Joseph I outlived Sisi by another 18 years becoming the longest ruling Austrian royal ever at almost 68 years on the throne. His death in 1916 led to the end of the monarchy in Austria just two years later.
Since the height of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Schönbrunn has survived many political changes and even a WWII bomb that crashed through 3 floors but failed to explode. Today the giant 1,441 room palace has 40 rooms available to visit with a paid guided tour and pristine grounds that can be seen for free. Inside the rooms had been renovated to look like Maria Theresa and Sissi had just spruced them up yesterday. Our favorite places to see are the Small Gallery where the WWII Bomb crashed through, Neptune’s Fountain where you can walk behind a waterfall, Tiergarten Zoo from 1752 which is now the World’s oldest zoo, and the beautiful carriage museum.
Guided Tours Of The Palace:
While you can tour the outer grounds for free, you really need to join a guided tour not only to take it in, but to better understand Vienna’s royal history. Tours are available daily and can get really busy as it seems to be on everyone’s to do list. To avoid large crowds the best times to go are before 9am, between Noon-2pm, or after 4pm. Please note that the tours start on the top of every hour and you will want to be in line at least 30 minutes early.
The 50-60 minute long Grand Tour (17.50€ for adults, 11.50€ for kids, buy HERE) is the best option because you are allowed to see all 40 of the possible viewable rooms and the tour guides themselves are the most entertaining. In comparison the 20-30 minute Imperial Tours is a quick version where you only see 22 of the rooms. While sometimes you can walk right into the palace and a buy a ticket, we recommend getting your tickets ahead of time because of the usual long lines. To skip the lines and get a mobile friendly ticket you can buy HERE, but note they will sell out in the busy season so buy early. If you are also visiting the Hofburg Palace and Imperial Furniture Collection you can get a combo Sisi Ticket also with a Schönbrunn Grand Tour for 29.90€ here.
Museum Of Carriages:
Often overlooked is the exceptional Museum of Carriages or Wagenburg (website) located in on the Schönbrunn Palace grounds. The highlights of the Carriage Collection include the gilded “Imperial Carriage,” the Golden Carousel Carriage of Maria Theresia, the Child’s Phaeton of Napoleon’s son, the Black Hearse of the Viennese court, the personal Landaulet of Empress Elisabeth and the only preserved Court Automobile of 1914. Daily Hours: November-April 10am-4pm & May-October 9am-6pm. Cost: 6€ (5€ with Vienna Card), 3€ Guided Tour, 2€ Audio Tour. Photos: (Collection).
Below is our favorite room in the entire palace, mainly for what happened here during WWII. During WWII a lot of Vienna’s buildings were hit by massive bombs and the Palace was no exception. A large aerial bomb crashed through the the beautiful ceiling of the small gallery, but failed to explode leaving the building intact for us to visit today.