The Palmenhaus in the Schönbrunn Palace gardens is one of the last of its kind; a giant steel and glass construction over 110m long, 28m wide and over 25m high. It was built in 1882 during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph.
The company that built it — Waagner-Biro — is still going strong and recently won a design award for roofing the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court in the British Museum, London.
As you face the main entrance, the Palm House is split into three botanical and physical sections.
The middle section (the largest) is a temperate, Mediterranean climate. To the right is the tropical section, to the left the “cold” section.
The federal garden service enhances the permanent collections of trees, shrubs and other plants with pot plants. So a blaze of potted colour greets you as you walk in through the entrance.
This first central section is dominated by the huge palms that give the building its name. Be sure to explore the paths around the back; they reveal such delights as a carnivorous plant section.
Seats and benches are frequent, so you can sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.
One oddity to look for here is the fruit tree bearing the Latin name Citrus medica var. Sarcodactylis, better known as the Buddha’s Hand, which has bunches of finger-like yellow fruits.
The tropical section is warm and wet – watch your camera when taking photos upwards as drops of water fall down regularly. In here you’ll find, for example, orchids, pineapples, towering bamboo and two plants with absolutely enormous leaves: a Lodoicea palm (Coco de Mer) and Ravenala madagascariensis (the Traveler’s Palm). Across in the cold section, the Australian tree ferns stand out most.
As with the Desert House opposite, it won’t take much more than 30 minutes to get around, even if you dawdle, so you’ll need to judge for yourself if the entrance fee for adults (plus the usual reductions) is justified.
The Palm House is on the east side of Schönbrunn, between the Hietzing entrance and the zoo. If you visit, don’t forget to look at the Japanese Garden on the zoo side of the building, too.