The Hofburg, Vienna: 4 best tips for visiting the famous palace
The Hofburg (Vienna) is the former winter residence of the imperial Habsburg dynasty and is now considered the largest secular palace in the world. The site extends over an area of no less than 240,000 m² and consists of 18 wings, 19 courtyards and 2,600 apartments – covering an entire district in the center of Vienna. More than 5,000 people continue to work and live in the palace.
On the territory of the Hofburg in Vienna there are up to 30 separate attractions, among which you can see squares and monuments, castles and apartments, historical museums and priceless collections. The palace complex is so large that it is hardly possible to explore all of its exterior and interior in one visit. Today, every tourist has the opportunity to purchase a tour of the castle, which will present the Imperial apartments, Sisi Museum and the Imperial Silver Collection. We’ll talk about the palace walk in detail a bit below, but to get an idea of the attraction, let’s take a brief dip into its history.
For over 6 centuries, the Hofburg in Vienna was the winter residence of Austria’s rulers and the center of Europe’s history. Until the 13th century it was a medieval fortress, which later was expanded by the ruling emperors. The greatest contribution to the palace’s prosperity was undoubtedly made by the Habsburg dynasty, which ruled Austria from the beginning of the 13th century until 1918, when the monarchy collapsed.
The oldest building of the Hofburg was the Alte Burg, a centuries-old fortress, later renamed the Swiss Wing (Schweizer). In the middle of the 16th century, the famous Schweizer Wing was erected in the residence: to this day, this wing contains treasures from the Holy Roman Empire.
In the 16th century the Amalia Wing was added to the palace, named after Wilhelmina Amalia, who lived there after the death of her husband, Emperor Joseph I. The last royal occupant of these rooms was Empress Elisabeth: today these rooms are open to all visitors to Vienna. In the 17th century, Emperor Leopold I. decided to connect the Schweizer and Amalia’s residence with a new building (Leopoldin Wing). Today the building is used as the office of the Austrian president, and tourists cannot gain access to it.
Austrian National Library
In general during the 18th and 19th centuries, many notable buildings were erected in the Hofburg in Vienna, such as the Austrian National Library, the Imperial Chancellery and the St. Michael’s Wing. The pompous Hall of Ceremonies also appeared during this period and still serves as the venue for balls in the Hofburg today. At the beginning of the 20th century, shortly before the collapse of the monarchy, the New Hofburg was reconstructed with a monumental facade and a unique architectural curve, which now houses part of the National Library as well as several collections and museums.
What to see inside the palace
Today, travelers have a unique opportunity to travel back in time to the time of the Habsburgs and experience the lives of prominent members of the family. Inside the Hofburg, visitors are invited to view three remarkable objects at once. They are all located in the Imperial Chancellery wing and conveniently follow one another. So what can be seen within the walls of this part of the Hofburg in Vienna?
The Sisi Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I. For decades she was considered the most charming and attractive queen in Europe. Sisi’s (as the empress was called in her family circle) life was full of tragic events: her despotic mother-in-law, afraid of losing power over her son, controlled her young daughter-in-law’s every move and limited her communication with her children. Elisabeth was often depressed and exhausted, but the greatest blow came when her son, Crown Prince Rudolph, committed suicide. The empress died at the age of 60, and her death was no less dramatic: while walking in Geneva, the empress was attacked by an anarchist and stabbed through her heart with a shiv.
Today, the Hofburg in Vienna invites everyone to visit the Sisi Museum, where more than 300 personal objects of the empress are collected. Among them you will find various accessories (umbrellas, gloves, etc.), cosmetic items, a medicine cabinet and even an authentic death certificate. The collection also includes Elizabeth’s outfits: of particular interest is the dress made especially for the coronation in Hungary. Here one can see both the black cloak that covered the empress after her assassination and her mourning jewelry. All in all, the exhibits clearly show the transformation of the queen from a cheerful and cheerful young girl to a depressed and unsociable woman.
As the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria, was the Habsburgs’ main winter castle, each member of the family and his entourage had their own suite. Today some of these rooms have been converted into museums, but most are used as offices for statesmen. Tourists are not allowed access to these parts of the palace. But the apartments of the last ruler and his family in the Imperial Chancellery are open to the public.
Most of the furniture is from the second half of the 19th century. But the ceramic stoves, which can be seen in many rooms of the palace, were installed as early as the 18th century. Up to the 20th century the lighting in the Imperial apartments was provided by thousands of candles placed on chandeliers of Czech crystal (afterwards electricity was installed).
A magnificent marble staircase, decorated with carved banisters and gold goblets, leads to the apartments. Then you are welcomed in the audience waiting room, the interiors of which are decorated with paintings by artist Johannes Kraft. And then you get to the audience chamber itself.
It was here that Emperor Franz Joseph received visitors who came to the sovereign, some for clemency, others for gratitude. As a rule, the audience lasted only a few minutes, which allowed him to talk to as many petitioners as possible, which amounted to more than 100 people every day. In all, Franz Joseph received at least 260,000 visitors during his reign.
The room is decorated predominantly in red hues with gilded motifs. The room is decorated with numerous paintings depicting both Franz Joseph himself and his predecessors. The ceilings and walls are decorated with golden stucco patterns.
Another remarkable room is where the meetings headed by the emperor took place. Its interior is dominated by white and turquoise colors, as well as gilding. On the walls are several paintings, among which the portrait of Franz Joseph at the age of twenty deserves attention. And right below him is a bust of his mother, Archduchess Sophia.
The study served Franz Joseph as both workplace and living room, so several family photographs can be seen here. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Alexander II, the Russian emperor who was personally friends with the Austrian sovereign and supported him in his fight against the Hungarian uprisings. The ruler’s bedroom has very modest furnishings: a small bed, a chair for prayers, a chest of drawers and a night table. Also here you can see several photos and artistic portraits of his wife Elisabeth and mother Sophia.
The spacious room, immersed in burgundy and gilt trim, served as a meeting place for family members. Of the greatest interest here is a canvas depicting Franz Joseph, painted in honor of his 50th birthday. Decorating the room is also a portrait of Crown Prince Rudolf, created shortly before his suicide.
In photos of the Hofburg in Vienna you can see many rooms related to the activities of the Austrian sovereign. But when visiting the Imperial Apartments, it is also worth paying attention to the rooms where Elisabeth once lived. First and foremost is the Grand Salon of the Empress, where Sisi gave her audience. Her dressing room, decorated with tropical wallpaper, is also of interest. The Empress’ restroom, where the original furnishings have been preserved, shows you how royalty used to take baths.
In the Hofburg, you can see the apartments of the Russian Emperor Alexander I, who lived in the palace in 1815, when the Congress of Vienna was held here. The Red Salon, decorated with elaborate French tapestries, is especially magnificent.
After the fall of the monarchy, most of the treasures of the Vienna palace were sold off to the new powers, but still managed to keep many valuable objects of everyday life of the imperial family, which today are transformed into museum exhibits. The collection includes porcelain, glass and silver tableware that was once used to serve the tables of the Austrian sovereigns.
The most elaborate ensemble in the collection is the Central Table of Milan, a masterpiece in gold with allegorical figures dedicated to Italy. The Minton dessert service is also striking, with 116 pieces: it’s not just a kitchen accessory, but a real work of art. The collection includes many plates with floral patterns, porcelain sets from various European countries, and beautiful silverware. It is noteworthy that all these dishes were bought by the emperors themselves or were given to them as gifts.
How to get there
If you do not know how to get to the Hofburg, then we inform you that it is fairly easy to do it with the help of public transport. Near the palace are bus and streetcar stops, and nearby are metro stations.
To get there by subway, use the U3 line and get off at Herrengasse station. You can also take the U1 line and get off at the Stephansplatz stop.
In the immediate vicinity of the Hofburg, streetcars 1, 2 and D stop at Burgring station. This is also where the buses 57A go. You can also take buses 2A and 3A to get to the palace, dropping off at the Hofburg stop.
- Address: Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Vienna, Austria.
- Official website: www.hofburg-wien.at
- Opening hours: June to September from 09:00 to 18:00, October to May from 09:00 to 17:30.
|Visitor category||Guided tour||Guided tour||Sisi* ticket|
|Adults||13,90 €||16,90 €||29,90 €|
|Children (6 to 18 years)||8,20 €||9,70 €||18 €|
* The Sisi ticket is valid for one year and allows you to visit not only the above-mentioned sites, but also Schönbrunn Palace and the Museum of Furniture in Vienna.
The prices are for January 2019.
- The Hofburg in Vienna has a really large scale, so try to allocate at least 3 hours to visit the palace complex.
- If you’re planning to see several sights in Vienna (by the way, we recommend checking out the Hofburg library), the Vienna pass will help save you money. First of all, it opens the entrance to more than 60 places and with it you can use Vienna public transport free of charge. The pass costs 59 € for one day, 89 € for two days, 119 € for three days and 154 € for six days.
- If you want your walk around the palace to be as informative as possible, do not skimp and buy a guided tour.
When visiting the Hofburg (Vienna) remember that photos may be taken only in the halls of the Imperial Silver Collection. In the apartments and the museum Sisi to do so is strictly prohibited.
Author: Catherine Unal
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The Hofburg in Vienna
Adults: 16 Euros (with audio guide); 20 Euros (with guided tour). Children (6-18 years old): 10 Euros (with audioguide); 12 Euros (with guided tour). Students (19-25 years old): 15 Euros (with audio guide); 19 Euros (with guided tour). Disabled: €15 (with audio guide); €19 (with guided tour). School groups (ages 6-18): 7.50 Euros (with audio guide); 9.50 Euros (with guided tour).
From 1804 to 1918 the Hofburg served as residence of Austrian emperors and was the center of secular and political life of the country. Since 1918, the palace complex is owned by the Austrian Republic. Today, only a part of the Hofburg is open to visitors.
One of the largest palace complexes in the world began under construction in the 13th century, the building works lasted almost until the XX century. The Hofburg was the residence and center of the reign of the imperial Habsburg dynasty until 1918.
Today the majestic palace and park complex Hofburg combines 19 palaces and 18 buildings, which were built in different eras and in different architectural styles, among which you can see the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. On the territory of the Hofburg there are numerous museums with unique collections, Spanish Riding School, the Congress Center, the residence of the Federal President of Austria, as well as the historic Heldenplatz. The palace is surrounded by two beautiful parks – the Burggarten and the Volksgarten.
The Hofburg covers an area of 240,000 square meters, which is adjacent to the Heldenplatz and Josefplatz squares, the Burggarten and Volksgarten parks.
Audio guides are available in 13 languages: Chinese, German, English, French, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Czech and Hungarian. To avoid waiting in line for an audio guide, you can download an oral audio guide for free on your cell phone or iPod.
In the heart of the Imperial Palace there is a Hofburg restaurant, which offers local cuisine. Open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.
It is forbidden to take pictures in the Hofburg Palace, as well as to bring animals and large suitcases.
The Hofburg has a total of three museums on its grounds: the Sissi Museum, the Treasury and the Imperial Chambers. Collections of all three museums can be seen with a single ticket. When you purchase a ticket to the three museums, you can take an official audio guide of the museum exhibits at no extra charge.
The Sissi Museum was opened in 2005 on the 150th anniversary of her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I. The museum tells the story of the life of the great empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, who was called Sissi in the family circle. The museum presents exhibits of her personal belongings, of which there are about 300, including jewelry, umbrellas, fans, gloves, articles of clothing, cosmetics, there is even an original death certificate and her reconstructed dress that Elisabeth wore at the Coronation.
The Sissy Museum makes it possible to learn about the unusual fate of the empress, understand her enigmatic personality and see her personal belongings live.
The Imperial Suite has 24 rooms in rococo style. The last monarch of Austria, Franz Joseph I, lived here with his wife Elisabeth, and their apartments offer a glimpse into the private lives of Franz Joseph and Princess Sissy. In the museum you can see Elisabeth’s gym, their bedroom, workplace and many other rooms.
The Imperial Silver Collection allows visitors to experience the luxury and sophistication of royal cutlery. The most valuable items in the museum are the Viennese silver cutlery and numerous objects from the former dining room. The unique collection is of cultural and historical significance and was opened on April 1, 1995.
More than 7,000 objects are stored in the Silver Chamber. The extensive collection from the time of the Habsburg dynasty consists of expensive crockery made of porcelain, silver and glass; kitchen utensils, tablecloths, napkins and porcelain sets. You can also learn about the best recipes for traditional court dishes as well as the culinary preferences of the Habsburg dynasty.
What to see in the Hofburg in Vienna
Tourists and visitors have the opportunity to see the imperial apartments, the Spanish riding school (Apanische Reitschule), the treasury (Schatzkammer), the national library (Nathionalbibliothek).
The Hofburg Treasury is located in the Swiss Court. It contains the royal regalia of the Habsburgs as well as artefacts that belonged to the imperial dynasty, such as staffs, crowns, swords, imperial robes of the Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and everyday objects.
One of the most valuable objects in the Treasury is the imperial crown of Charlemagne, which was worn during coronations from the 10th century.
Hours of operation:
- Wednesday-Monday: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
- Tuesdays off.
On the territory of the Hofburg is the largest library of the country – the Austrian National Library. Here are stored copies of all Austrian publications and works of Austrian authors. The library collection contains more than 7.5 million copies of books, including manuscripts and old books, maps, globes, paintings, photographs, autographs and posters.
In addition, the Hofburg library has a department of literature in artificial languages, including Esperanto and others. The library’s catalogs are digitized and available online.
Monument to Joseph II
One of the most beautiful monuments in Vienna stands on Josefsplatz, the monument to Emperor Joseph II. The monument was erected in 1807 in honor of one of the main reformers of Austria, who carried out some changes in the domestic policy of the country.
The monument is a figure of the emperor on horseback, who extends his right hand, emphasizing his importance. At the corners of the pedestal there are small columns with 4 medallions on each, which reveal the key events of the ruler’s life.
Spanish Riding School
The Spanish Riding School offers rides on the world famous Lipizzan horses, an ancient breed of racehorses. In addition to riding, courses, trainings and excursions are available. The school also has a museum dedicated to the famous horse breed. In addition, the Spanish Riding School attracts a large number of spectators to its unique performances.
Ticket prices start at 13 euros.
Excursions to the Hofburg
As a very popular place in Vienna, the Hofburg is visited daily by a huge number of tourists from all over the world. You can visit the palace on your own or as part of a guided tour group. During the tour, the guide tells about the history of the Hofburg, from its formation to the present day.
Group tours (private and evening) in English are also available at the Hofburg. Group tours include visits to the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments, and the Silver Collection.
Tickets for the Hofburg
You can book tickets to the Imperial Palace Hofburg in advance. The cost will depend on the chosen tour and the number of people.