In the days before refrigeration and container shipping, exotic fruits like oranges were a big deal. And exotic trees an even bigger one. So a properly-stocked glasshouse, like the Schönbrunn Orangery, stood out as a mark of wealth and prestige.
- Remarkably-long orangery, built in 1754
- Home to exotic and Mediterranean plants
- Gardens include a vineyard and rare apple varieties
- Requires a ticket to enter
- Also hosts classical concerts
- See also:
The Orangery and garden
(Schönbrunn Palace orangery garden; press photo © Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur und Betriebsges.m.b.H., Alexander Eugen Koller)
Emperor Franz I Stephan, husband of Empress Maria Theresa, left quite a legacy in Vienna.
Franz’s curiosity and scientific interest laid the foundations for many of the city’s globally-important museal collections, such as the Natural History Museum.
It was during the couple’s reign that Schönbrunn’s Orangery appeared in 1754. Its purpose? To offer a winter home for the growing collection of potted plants from around the world, but particularly the ornamental, crop, and citrus plants from the Mediterranean.
Think of the Orangery as an Olympic-sized glasshouse, with whitewashed stone walls, underground heating, huge arches and, of course, plenty of windows.
Second only to the Orangery at Versailles in length, the 189m building still houses exotic plants today. The summer sees the collection move out into the Orangery garden, which turns into an open-air botanical display case.
Great towering palm trees rub shoulders with figs, pomegranates and other exotics, such as the Illawara Flame Tree. The trees and shrubs often seem impossibly large for their pots.
One end of the building also plays host to palace concerts that hark back to the days of Mozart and Strauss.
The orangery made an excellent party venue, and the Emperor no doubt felt better about drunk aristocrats spilling red wine in an outbuilding rather than on the precious inlaid floors of the actual palace.
The garden itself also features a small vineyard, which is new but harks back to Baroque predecessors on the same site (Vienna has a long winemaking tradition).
A growing collection of rare apple varieties adjoins those vines; the trees sport such splendid names as the Steierische Schafsnase (Styrian sheep’s nose).
I felt a flare of delight at seeing English varieties included, particularly one from my old home county (Schöner von Wiltshire – Wiltshire beauty) and the London Pepping, whose heritage dates back as far as 1580.
Tickets & visitor tips
The Orangery only opens in the warmer seasons, typically April through to early November. Schönbrunn offers various ticket options for seeing the gardens and snatching a peek into part of the building.
You can pay for an individual ticket (€4.50 for an adult at the time of writing), but one of the “all-inclusive” passes from Schönbrunn make better sense. You save money and (most importantly) skip the counter queues and go straight to the entrance turnstile.
Schönbrunn’s is not the only palace orangery in Vienna.
Lower Belvedere palace, for example, has its own (smaller) version. However, the only plants you’ll ever find inside come in painted form: the building serves as a venue for some of Belvedere’s temporary art exhibitions.
How to get to the Orangery
Once you’ve found Schönbrunn, stand outside the main tour entrance to the palace and look left.
Go down that road, under the arch, past the privy gardens on your right (where you can buy tickets for the Orangery), and on past the Marionette Theatre on your left. The entrance to the Orangery is just after the theatre.