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When I was a little girl I remember I once asked Father Christmas to bring me a copy of Princess Sissi’s castle for my Barbie dolls. I never enjoyed Barbie dolls, but I most definitely adored Sissi’s TV series, and when I went to Vienna, I knew I simply had to visit Schönbrunn Palace and the gardens.
Schönbrunn literally means “beautiful spring”, and it refers to the artesian well from which the court consumed water.
Schönbrunn Palace used to be the residence palace of the Austrian royal family. However, at first, when the Imperial family purchased the hill in the late 16th century, there was not a residence yet, and the place was used as a simple ground on which members of the royal family could go hunting. In fact, it offers the perfect setting for recreational activities.
It was only in 1695 that the royal family decided to adopt the hill as a potential residence, and Leopold I asked architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to project a majestic palace in Baroque style.
Given the dimensions of the palace and the times in which it was projected, the residential palace was completed only around the end of 1800s, when Maria Theresa commissioned Nikolaus Pacassi to complete it.
Although at first the most stunning thing that impress the visitors is how rigid, enormous, and at the same time scary Schönbrunn Palace is, it’s only once one has the chance to see the back of the Palace that the “magic” happens.
The perfectly symmetric building is open on the front on a relatively big yard, but on the back, wonderful gardens, a labyrinth, and pools amaze everyone.
I truly suggest all future visitors to invest a few extra euros in the Classic Pass ticket. For 18,50 € you can not only take part in the Grand Tour (40 rooms) of the Palace, but it also grants you the access to Crown Prince Gardens, the Maze and the Labyrinth, and especially it allows you to visit the Gloriette Panorama Terrace.
The Palace itself can only be described with the same word Leopold I described it: baroque.
High ceilings, wooden floors and marble columns, decorations that come from all over the world (my favorites were the ones coming from Japan, adored by Maria Theresa), and a touch of the Royal Family every here and there: most of the rooms were directly decorated or furnished by members of the family, and it gives the place a special touch that kills the formal atmosphere and makes you feel part of the history of Schönbrunn.
Schönbrunn was not only a special place for the Austrian royalty, where someone like Kaiser Franz Joseph was born and lived with his strong mother and unloving wife Sissi, where important decisions concernin the Second World War were taken.
The Palace is special, it brings together so many different historical moments and important personalities that one feels almost over-stimulated to imagine how things used to be centuries back.
Schönbrunn is the place where six-year-old Mozart first performed for a public (made of Maria Theresa and few other royals), and where Kennedy and Khrushchev met in 1961.
From the XVII century until the Cold War, Schönbrunn made its appearance in global history, and the walls seem to hug you and whisper “yes, it’s all true, we can prove it!”.
Not only the palace, but also the gardens are majestic, wonderful, and make you feel a bit of a prince (or princess).
The “must-see” is most definitely the panorama from the Gloriette Balcony: both Schönbrunn Palace and the city of Vienna seem to be literally melting to your feet. There are no adjectives to describe such panorama, so buy a ticket and see it for yourself!
People are crazy about the labyrinth, and I was quite excited too… until I almost fainted in it, so I’m not really able to give an unbiased review… just a suggestion: DON’T FORGET YOUR HAT!
How to get there
- by metro: U4 – Schönbrunn
- by tram: 10 or 58 – Schönbrunn
- by bus: 10A – Schönbrunn
More information about the various ticket options can be found here: TICKETS
- April 1st – June 30th: 08.30 – 17.30
- July 1st – August 31st: 08.30 – 18.30
- September 1st – October 31st: 08.30 – 17.30
- November 1st – March 31st: 08.30 – 17.00