If you want to plunge into the world of courtly life, love and even lavatories, you’re in the right place with a tour of the Hofburg winter palace.
- Self-guided tour takes you through the Silver Collection, Imperial Apartments and Sisi Museum
- Everything from 4,500-piece dinner services to royal baby shoes
- Particularly recommended for fans of Empress Elisabeth
- Standard adult ticket costs €15 (or free with a Vienna Pass)
- See also: Hofburg overview | Schönbrunn Palace
What’s on the tour?
Although the wider Hofburg area now features numerous separate institutions, your first address should be what visitors would probably regard as “the” Hofburg attraction: the tour of the palace.
A single ticket gets you into three locations in the main buildings at the heart of the complex:
- The Silberkammer (Imperial Silver Collection), which also includes a wide range of precious porcelain and various household items from Habsburg times
- The Sisi Museum, featuring the life, clothes, and personal possessions of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth), the famous wife of Emperor Franz Joseph
- The Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments), filled with historical fittings and furnishings and where Franz Joseph and Elisabeth worked, slept, bathed and exercised
Is it worth it if you’re not a big fan of plates and princesses?
I think so.
Elisabeth and Franz Joseph are interesting characters, for example, and the contrasts between the two provide an intriguing background to your visit.
Some of the exhibits are priceless in terms of historical value. (You do not want to put some of those teacups in a dishwasher.) But even if you care little for the history or origin of the items on display, you do get a good, big-picture impression of royal life in the 19th century.
The tour also provides insights into the crushing pressures of sitting on top of the social and political ladder, the almost-depressing extravagance of court, and the tragically all-too-human weaknesses of those who would set themselves apart from the rest of us.
Tickets & visitor information
At the time of writing, basic admission cost €15 for an adult, with the usual reductions. Your ticket includes an audio guide. Vienna Pass holders get in free (read my review of this sightseeing pass).
The Hofburg tour is open every day of the year from 9 am to 5.30 pm (until 6 pm in July and August). Needless to say, do check locally for current admission and opening times, prices and ticket options.
Some further tips:
- If you’re going all Imperial and don’t have a Vienna Pass, for example, then buy the value-for-money combination ticket that also gets you into the Schönbrunn Palace Tour and the Hofmobiliendepot (Imperial furniture museum)
- Get there early and get your tickets in advance online. I visited on a March Saturday and again on a wet May lunchtime. Both times, it was already busy – particularly the Sisi Museum which has some narrow passages in it
- The Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments are all-in-one, but there are separate ticket controls for the Silberkammer. So you can take a break between the two. The tour and route is designed such that you should start with the Silberkammer, though
- It took me four hours to get round all three areas, listening to just about everything on the audio guide and reading almost every written information
So you can probably get round in half that time. (I may have skipped a few porcelain plates at some point, but, in my defence, there are an awful lot of them).
- Display labels and information are all in English and German. The audio guide provides interesting background information and little bonus bits of trivia
- The numbers to plug into your audio guide are always in large print with a picture of the device next to it. The smaller numbers in the display cabinets are for the index cards somewhere near that tell you what you’re looking at
How to get to the Hofburg
The Hofburg is a big place, largely free of vehicles. So you may have a short walk from all these public transport stops. But since that walk likely takes you through the wonderful Hofburg complex, that might be a good thing.
Subway: Station Herrengasse (U3 and your best choice), Volkstheater (U2/U3) or Stephansplatz (U3/U1)
Tram: 1, 2, D or 71 to Burgring or 1, 2, D, 71, 46 and 49 to Ring/Volkstheater
Bus: 1A or 2A to Michaelerplatz (the best option) or 48A to Ring/Volkstheater
Address: Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Vienna | Website