Anyone wishing to see the interiors of Schönbrunn Palace has to go on a guided tour or buy an entrance ticket for the self-guided equivalent. It’s well worth doing so.
- Fantastic staterooms full of history
- Three self-guided tours available
- …do the longest one (trust me)
- Entrance requires a time slot
- Popular times may sell out, so book in advance if you can
- Book a guided tour or other Schönbrunn experience*
- See also:
Inside Schönbrunn palace
(Schloß Schönbrunn, Wien – the palace)
Ignoring the details of the historical rooms, fittings and furnishings, Schönbrunn Palace is just one of those places where you can talk of “real” history.
Mozart (1756-1791) performed to the court and guests behind these walls.
News from the WWI trenches reached Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916) in his study here.
And the corridors echoed to the sound of Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) planning strategic royal marriages that would help determine the destiny of Europe.
At the same time, so much opulence acts as a monument to the decadence of the nobility and the extreme inequality of times past. You find yourself wondering if they really needed all that space.
If you’re not on a tour with an actual guide*, the palace offers three self-guided alternatives: the State Apartments, Imperial and Grand options.
Think of them as three different levels of permission for accessing the palace.
- The State Apartments tour is a quick “best of” tour, but the extra cost for the longer tours is so low that I’d recommend you do one of those.
- The Imperial Tour sends you around 26 rooms/areas that include the study and bedroom used by Franz Joseph, the dressing room and salon used by Empress Elisabeth (the famous Sisi), and the Great Gallery (imagine a ball scene from a Disney film)
(Schönbrunn Palace, Great Gallery © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. – Alexander Eugen Koller)
- The Grand Tour lets you view an extra 13 or so rooms on top of the Imperial Tour. One is the breathtaking and moving Vieux-Laque room that Maria Theresa redecorated in honour of her deceased husband, Franz Stephan
(Schönbrunn Palace, Vieux-Laque room © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. – Alexander Eugen Koller)
If you’re making your own way around, invest the additional Euros and take the longest (Grand) tour: you pay a relatively small premium for quite a lot more to see.
Schönbrunn tour ticket tips
Be mindful that queues for tickets in peak seasons can sometimes be quite long, and each tour ticket comes with a fixed time slot.
If you’re unlucky, you may have to wait twice: once to get your ticket and again before you can actually go in.
Which means buying an advance ticket with a fixed time slot makes a lot of sense.
I talk about the options in my overview article, but here a quick summary…
- Book a tour with a live guide. For example:
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
- Purchase a Vienna all-inclusive pass from Go City (see my review), which includes one fixed-time guided tour of Schönbrunn palace at the time of writing
- Purchase a Vienna Pass (see my review), which entitles you to one free Grand tour at the time of writing
With the Vienna Pass, you actually still need to book a time slot on reaching the Schönbrunn arrival centre. But if you have to wait to go into the palace, the pass also gets you into other less-busy attractions at Schönbrunn. So you can make good use of any waiting time.
- Book a self-guided Schönbrunn tour ticket and time slot from the official website.
You can also buy these tickets, of course, at the ticket office immediately inside the palace courtyard to the left of the main entrance.
Good to know
- The self-guided tours include a free audio guide, which has a choice of languages (including English, of course), or a printed description
- The rooms include some written information (in German and English) but you need a guide of some kind to fully benefit from the experience
- The interiors have a royalist flavour to them. You won’t see much indication of life for those outside the imperial family or their immediate entourage: you can view various bedrooms and ballrooms, but not the kitchens
- The entrance to the palace proper is away from its centre. Instead, go to the left-hand side of the large palace building after you pass through the main gateway to Schönbrunn
- Once you emerge from all the imperial splendour, sated with history, you may part with your Euros in a large gift shop stocking a huge range of imperial goodies…everything from princess dresses to Maria Theresa iPhone cases
- Again, don’t forget Schönbrunn has plenty of other attractions, even if the palace tour forms the centrepiece. Consider, for example, a walk through the park and gardens to see the various botanical displays and architectural ornamentation
For another dose of palatial household fun, try:
- A tour of the Hofburg palace complex in Vienna’s city centre, notably the imperial apartments and the Sisi museum. The Hofburg tour(s) have a strong focus on Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph
- The Albertina art museum: an entrance ticket includes various top art exhibitions but also allows you to walk around the splendid 19th-century staterooms
And for information and advice on tours of one of Vienna’s many other historical buildings, including Stephansdom cathedral and the venerable concert halls, take a peek at this overview of your main options.
How to get to the palace
Follow these directions and travel tips for Schönbrunn.
Address: Schloß Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna