If you want to experience just how ostentatious and removed-from-reality Imperial life was, drop into the Wagenburg in the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace. It’s basically a giant hall that’s home to what’s left of the Hapsburg’s transport fleet; carriages, sedans, sleighs and even a car.
- Essentially an archive of Habsburg vehicles, but…
- Includes a permanent exhibition devoted to Empress Elisabeth
- Adult entry is €9.50 or get in free with a Vienna Pass. Skip-the-line tickets also available*
- See also: Schönbrunn Palace | Art History Museum
Historical vehicles may not sound too thrilling unless you have a special interest in the displays at hand. However, since I visited, the carriage museum has grown in scope to include more material related to the life of Empress Elisabeth, the Lady Diana of her time.
The Wagenburg certainly gives you some insight into court life and throws out some fascinating historical anecdotes.
For example, there are the miniature carriages used by the children of the imperial family. There’s a richly decorated one for the “King of Rome,” the name given to the Duke of Reichstadt, Napoleon’s son by his second wife (Maria Louisa – a Hapsburg princess), who died in Schönbrunn as a young man. It was pulled by sheep.
Or take the variety of weird and wonderful sleighs, including a leopardskin one. Paintings reveal how the court would go on extravagant sleigh rides around the palace squares in incredibly ornate sleighs built solely for that purpose.
There was even a state carriage just for the man (the court equerry) in charge of the state carriages!
If you want to get close to royal history, keep a look out for the following:
- the black hearse carriage used in the funerals of Emperor Franz Joseph, his wife Sissi (Empress Elisabeth) and their son, Crown Prince Rudolph
- the 1914 motor car used to take the last Emperor into exile in 1920
- the imperial coaches, with their painted sides, used to carry the likes of Emperor Joseph II to various formal coronation ceremonies
- the coach used by Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) when she first arrived in Vienna in 1854 prior to her marriage to the Emperor. The same carriage was used by Napoleon when crowned King of Italy in 1805!
Talking of Empress Elisabeth, a new permanent exhibition includes some of her clothes and other personal items, drawing parallels with the fate of the UK’s Princess Diana:
Tickets & visitor information
At the time of writing, the museum opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm (10 am to 4 pm in December). An adult ticket is €9.50 with the usual concessions. The Vienna Pass sightseeing ticket is valid for free entry. Skip-the-line tickets are also available*. As always, check the official website for up-to-date details.
How to get to the Wagenburg
See the main article on directions to Schönbrunn. You’ll find the carriage museum in the grounds of the palace, a short walk due east of the main building.
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Website