The Palmenhaus in the Schönbrunn Palace park is a giant palm house with the kind of shrubs and trees you’d expect in a monumental glasshouse managed by the experts of the Austrian Federal Gardens.
- Built in 1882 during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph
- Glass construction around 111m long, 28m wide and 25m high
- Often decorated with colourful flower displays, too
- Be sure to take all the paths inside for little surprises
- See also: Schönbrunn tickets & visitor info
Inside the palm house
(The Schönbrunn palm house as shown on this section of a postcard from around 1898 manufactured by C. Ledermann jun.; Sammlung Wien Museum; reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
At the time of its construction (1882), the Schönbrunn palm house was the largest of its kind. The builders – Firma Ignaz Gridl – survive today, albeit under a different name.
Waagner-Biro bought up the original company in 1934 and still contribute to iconic buildings, such as the roof of the Louvre Abu Dhabi or the dome of London’s “Gherkin”. Rather aptly, they also helped with the palm house’s renovation, completed in 1990.
After you pass through the main entrance, you find yourself in the middle section (the largest) consisting of a temperate, Mediterranean climate with suitable specimens.
Go to the right to eventually reach the tropical section at one end of the building. Or go left to eventually reach the “cold” section at the other end.
The huge palms that give the building its name dominate that first central part. The federal garden service usually enhances the trees and shrubs with pot plants. So a blaze of colour might well greet you as you walk in through the entrance and throughout the building; on my visit one May, hydrangeas and lilies popped up everywhere.
(The 19th century saw many palm houses appear in Europe, particularly in Victorian Britain. The one pictured above is from Kew Gardens in the UK, built in 1844. Photo courtesy of the British Library)
Be sure to explore the paths leading off toward the sides of the building; they reveal such delights as a carnivorous plant section (featuring a selection of the hundreds of “flesh-eating” plants in the wider collection maintained by the authorities).
The real highlights grow in the tropical section. For example:
- Two plants with absolutely enormous leaves: a Lodoicea palm (Coco de Mer) and Ravenala madagascariensis (the Traveler’s Palm)
- Various plants you recognise from supermarket shelves, but may never seen before, such as…
- A banana “tree”
- The vanilla orchid
- A lychee tree
- A fig tree
- Cacao tree (chocolate!)
- A star fruit tree
- A papaya tree
- An African oil palm tree (the source of the infamous palm oil)
The English names did not appear on plant labels on my visit, so take your botanical dictionary with you (or a smartphone).
Tickets & visitor tips
At the time of writing, a standard adult ticket cost €7, with the palm house opening daily all through the year.
- Frequent seats and benches mean you can sit down and enjoy the atmosphere immersed in tropical greenery
- The tropical section is warm and wet – watch your camera when taking photos upwards as drops of water fall down regularly
- It won’t take much more than 30 minutes to get around, even if you dawdle
- If you visit and like your hothouse botany, you might also like the Butterfly house in central Vienna’s Burggarten park. And since you’re practically next door to it, spare a moment for Schönbrunn’s Japanese garden
How to get to the palm house
Just go to the article with directions to Schönbrunn and follow the instructions given under the section, “Hietzing station”.
Address: Schlosspark Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Website