The Wagenburg or carriage museum
If you want to experience just how ostentatious and removed-from-reality Imperial life was, drop in to the Wagenburg. 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.
The vehicles are simply lined up in the hall with small information signs on each (in German and English). That may not sound too thrilling. And to be honest, it isn't, unless you’ve a special interest in the displays at hand.
Having said that, the Wagenburg does give you some insight into court life and throws out some fascinating historical anecdotes.
For example, one row is taken up almost entirely by 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 on the wall 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, Leopold II and Francis I Stephen 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!
A ticket cost around €4.50 for adults at the time of writing, with a range of available reductions. As part of the group of museums that come under the aegis of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, you may get a ticket to the Wagenburg as part of a wider museum package.
Open daily from April to October, 9am to 6pm and Tuesday to Sunday the rest of the year, from 10am to 4pm. Closed on select public holidays. You'll find it in the grounds of the palace, a short walk due east of the main building.
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna