Nothing was simple about the life of Austria’s Empress Elisabeth. But if you want to try and get to the bottom of her character, a special exhibition at the Imperial Carriage Museum (Wagenburg) helps.
- Set of videos examining different aspects of her life and personality
- Various original items on display, too…from her coronation carriage to her wedding trail
- You just need a ticket for the Carriage Museum to see the exhibition
- See also: The Sisi Museum | Sisi locations in Vienna
The Empress Elisabeth trail
(Franz Xavier Stöber (Stecher), Franz Schrotzberg (Künstler), F. Paterno (Verlag), F. Kargl (Drucker), “ELISABETH Kaiserin von Oesterreich”, 1855, Sammlung Wien Museum, excerpt from an image reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
Empress Elisabeth, wife of Franz Joseph, was a bit of an enigma, with a personality that would have kept a room of therapists arguing for weeks.
Sisi, as she is known, has become an icon of history in much the same way that the UK’s Princess Diana has. And it’s that parallel that drives the Sisi trail, an exhibition about the Empress featuring various items from her life.
Whatever your feelings about Elisabeth, she was a fascinating individual. The exhibition includes several videos exploring her character and her life – from her engagement to Franz Joseph through to her assassination in Geneva in 1898 at the age of 60.
These videos cover a lot of ground.
For example, you learn about her efforts with poetry, how she developed her riding skills in England, and the psychosomatic illnesses that led her to spend so much time away from Vienna. The videos also highlight aspects of Sisi’s life or experiences that are similar to those of Diana.
Every time I see anything about Empress Elisabeth, I’m never too sure what to think.
A woman of the people (but with thirty horses in her stables).
An ageless beauty (but with unparalleled vanity).
An object of pity (but with the wealth of an empire at her disposal)
…the Sisi glass is always half empty or half full, depending on your perspective.
(Black court dress of Empress Elisabeth; Fanny Scheiner, Vienna, c. 1885; Imperial Carriage Museum Vienna, Court Wardrobe, inv. no. N 123; © KHM-Museumsverband)
The accompanying exhibits are few, but all the more impressive for it. For example:
- The carriage (taken from a defeated Napoleon) that she arrived in on her first visit to Vienna as the Emperor’s betrothed
- Toiletry items and accessories, like a pair of her gloves
- The carriage that took her to be crowned Queen of Hungary, and the landaulet carriage she took with her on that fateful trip to Geneva
- Her riding crop and portraits of some of those thirty horses mentioned earlier
- And for fans of period fashion…her wedding train, a Chenille dress, and an exquisite black court dress. But check the alarmingly narrow waists!
It’s not a huge exhibition, but it certainly adds considersable value to your visit to the carriage museum.
Tickets & visitor tips
You just need a normal ticket for the Wagenburg to view the exhibition inside. At the time of writing, a standard adult ticket* cost €12 and the carriage museum also accepts the Vienna Pass “all-inclusive” ticket for one-time free entry (see my review).
All display text is in English and German, with English subtitles for the videos.
How to get to the exhibition
See the main article on the carriage museum for directions. Of course, if you’re there and interested in Sisi, then walk across to the nearby palace and take one of the tours (both options include visits to Elisabeth’s former chambers).
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Website
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