The Hofburg was the original centre of the Habsburg court, where the Imperial family lived, worked and ruled (and ate remarkably expensive dinners).
- Group of historic buildings, open squares and pedestrianised areas you can just walk around and enjoy
- Home to some must-see Vienna sights, including the winter Habsburg palace and Spanish Riding School
- See also: Sightseeing in Vienna | Empress Elisabeth locations
So what’s at the Hofburg?
The Hofburg area is a collection of formerly imperial buildings and open spaces that now serve a variety of purposes, from the President’s office to the National Library.
Let us begin with the main attraction…
The Hofburg Palace
There’s no standalone palace in the sense of a Versailles (or Schönbrunn), but a series of opulent, interconnected buildings that made up the Habsburg monarch’s former residence in town.
The publicly-accessible parts of this winter palace area offer insights into Imperial life…everything from Empress Elisabeth’s bathroom to Habsburg cake tins. The self-guided tour covers three highlights:
The Spanish Riding School
The entrance to the visitor centre and arena is opposite the Hofburg Palace ticket counter. If you wish to see the horses in action, but can’t make a gala performance, rest easy: it’s relatively easy to find tickets for the near-daily training sessions.
The Imperial Treasury
The galleries house such treasures as the Habsburg imperial crown, the coronation robes and crown of the Holy Roman Emperor, a rosebush made entirely of gold, the 15th-century ceremonial sword of Emperor Maximilian I, and much more.
The Neue Burg
The Neue Burg is an extensive palace wing and home to numerous visitor attractions, such as:
- The National Library with its astonishing state hall (genuinely mind-blowing), which adjoins the Augustinerkirche church
- The Ephesos Museum, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts
- The Weltmuseum, which takes you on a journey through the history and art of numerous cultures from around the world
- The House of Austrian History, a new addition to the museum landscape which covers events in the country post-WWI
- The Arms & Armour collection, which features row after row of tournament gear, medieval weaponry and prestigious armour designed to make it very clear that the wearer is more important than his opponent
- The Historical Musical Instruments collection, where you can see, for example, the very instruments used by the likes of Schubert, Liszt, Beethoven, Haydn, and other famous composers
The Burggarten is also home to the Imperial butterfly house.
And the counterpart to the Burggarten on the other side of the Hofburg is the Volksgarten.
This park has the best roses in Vienna (probably), a Greek-style temple that doubles as a contemporary art gallery, and a wonderful, almost-hidden memorial to Empress Elisabeth.
How to get to the Hofburg
Let me put it like this…if you’re in Vienna, wandering around the compact centre, you’ll probably end up in the Hofburg by default. It’s huge and impossible to miss, as the map below demonstrates. For specific public transport tips for individual locations, visit the links above.