It’s the most popular tourist attraction in Vienna, hosting well over 2 million visitors each year. But what many forget is that the golden and glorious palace itself is but one of many attractions in the Schönbrunn complex.
Read on to discover all the details of this World Heritage site. Or get a flavor of the place with this interactive map.
The palace itself
In its current form, the palace dates back to the 1740s, though it’s undergone various extensions and rebuilding work since. The site itself was a hunting park and lodge well before that, but suffered at the hands of Turkish invaders in 1683. That was the kind of thing homeowners had to contend with back then.
Once a summer residence out in the country, the growth of the city now means Schönbrunn represents an oasis of (relative) architectural and parkland tranquility in the midst of 21st century Vienna. Learn more about the palace’s history and the attached Children’s museum or discover what you can see on the palace tours.
The Schönbrunn zoo is the oldest working zoo in the world, and was first established by Emperor Franz Stephan in the 1750s. Extensive refurbishment and renovation in recent years means it now meets the demands of a modern zoo.
The zoo houses a pair of Giant Pandas, plus the usual array of elephants, giraffes, big cats and more, and is Vienna’s second-most popular attraction after the palace itself.
The large park and gardens are kept in immaculate condition by the Federal authorities and extend to over a square kilometer of tree-lined avenues, lawns, woods and flowerbeds.
They’ve been open to the public since 1779 and are popular with joggers and walkers seeking a bit of green space among the apartment blocks and shopping centers of modern Vienna.
Hidden away within the grounds are various architectural delights, such as lakes and fountains, fake ruins, statues, the Japanese garden, and greenhouses.
The parks also house various birds and animals; you can feed the red squirrels and blue tits from your hand if you catch them at a hungry moment.
A large hill stretches behind the palace, and at the crest is the Gloriette. Legend has it that it was built to ensure a nice view from the windows of the main palace. Indeed, it’s mostly facade, with just enough interior space to house a cafe.
The roman ruins
Aristocrats with more money than sense often fell victim to various fashions and trends. One of these was to have classical ruins in your garden. Schönbrunn’s “Roman ruins” were purpose-built in 1778.
The carriage museum
The Wagenburg is a mammoth collection of carriages, sedan chairs and other modes of transport used by the Imperial family. It’s also part of the numerous collections managed by the Museum of Art History.
The palm and desert houses
The Palmenhaus (palm house) is a huge iron and glass construction dating back to 1882. It contains three climatic zones featuring Mediterranean, tropical and sub-tropical plant communities.
The Wüstenhaus (desert house) is a similar construction, first built some 20-odd years later and now housing a collection of cacti and other succulents.
The Christmas/Easter markets
The open square in front of the palace is an ideal venue for a Christmas market, and Schönbrunn’s market is one of Vienna’s very best. The stands form a wide circle around a towering Christmas tree, and the focus is on arts and crafts and typical winter delicacies.
It’s perhaps the most tasteful of the city’s Christmas markets and certainly one of the busiest. The same might be said for the Easter market.
How to get there
For public transport suggestions, see the Directions to Schönbrunn article for details.
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna, Austria
Website: http://www.schoenbrunn.at/ (with an English version)