So how do you get tickets to see the famous Lipizzaner horses in action at Vienna’s Spanish Riding School?
Relatively easily it turns out, especially if you attend something other than a fully-fledged gala performance.
- Range of possible experiences, including tickets for:
- Regular training sessions
- English guided tours
- Lipizzaner mini-shows
- Full and gala performances
- Spot the horses outside, too (tips below)
- Book tickets online* to view training
- See also:
(Entrance of the horses at a Lipizzaner Special; press photo © Rene van Bakel)
Your best options for seeing the Lipizzaners and the riding school are…
Public training to music
Most of the year, the stallions train in the winter riding hall in the central Hofburg complex at 10am, and this “Morgenarbeit” is open to the public.
You do need a ticket to see the training. Although you miss the full pomp, glamour and scale of the galas, the horses still perform moves and exercises to music with their uniformed riders.
As such, public training offers an excellent way to enjoy the Lipizzaner experience without committing time and money to a rarer full-blown performance.
(Booking service by Tiqets*)
I thoroughly enjoyed watching a training session and wrote about the experience here in detail.
The horses don’t appear every day and not all year round, either: they may be on a deserved summer holiday.
In 2022, for example, the standard training took a break in July and the first week of August (though the school had a shorter public training involving the younger stallions during this time).
If you buy a ticket on the day from the Spanish Riding School, note that some periods get rather busy and the school has limits on the maximum number of people who can watch.
Get some advice from the centre on when best to attend or simply book your tickets in advance, for example from an online ticket source*.
Spanish Riding School tours
(The Stallburg renaissance stable building)
An English-language tour offers another chance for a suitably equestrian Viennese experience. At the time of writing, the school offers two alternatives:
- The guided tour: an expert guide takes you around the actual Stallburg stables (where you can get up close to the horses) as well as the riding school arena
(I took this tour and seeing the stallions at arm’s length proved a remarkable experience. They make quite an impression.)
- Architectural tour: a less-frequent tour where you visit the Stallburg, too, but take a more detailed look at the winter riding school. This includes, for example, a climb up into the latter’s Baroque roof with views over Vienna
Spanish Riding School performances
The 18th-century winter riding school hosts the formal 70-minute and 90-minute gala performances, where the stallions show off the full extent of their skills.
These performances take place regularly, usually on a weekend day. Expect periods, though, where the stars of the stable enjoy a well-earned break.
These main shows count as one of Vienna’s flagship events for tourists and locals alike, so tickets can go quite fast. Both formal standard seating and (comparatively inexpensive) standing room tickets* should be available.
(Public entrance to the riding school)
Lipizzaner Special and Classic
The institution recently introduced occasional alternative display programmes to the standard full performances.
The 45-minute Lipizzaner Special showcases three particular exercises with explanations.
So you might experience the School Quadrille, for example, where eight stallions perform a sequence of choreographed movements that have seen this dubbed the “ballet of the white stallions.”
Although rather infrequent, the Lipizzaner Special costs significantly less than a full performance.
The 70-minute Lipizzan Classic features the choreographed horsemanship we have come to know and love, but ends with something the Lipizzaners in a different role: as carriage horses.
Where to see the horses
You may get to see the stallions for free, if you have some patience.
(The vaulted corridor outside the stables)
You can wait outside the stable areas for the horses to transfer from their accommodation on days with a morning training or a performance, for example.
Go to Reitschulgasse 2 and face the wall. To your right down the vaulted walkway is the entrance to the Stallburg stable courtyard.
If you stand near there before, during and after the times of a training or performance, you might see some stallions walked past by their riders or grooms as they head to and from the horse’s private entrance to the winter riding school (on the other side of the road).
The bits of straw and the signs of cleaned up horse dung you sometimes see outside the Stallburg entrance prove the validity of this tactic. And I’ve spotted the horses this way twice on my last walks through town.
Equally, from the road you can look into the courtyard of the stables and maybe catch a glimpse of a Lipizzaner poking his head out to catch sight of the tourists.
Pre-COVID, the stable courtyard hosted an Advent market. This provided a rare opportunity to get a little closer to the horses (but still a respectful distance from them). I’m unsure if that event will repeat, though.
The riding school also has outdoor paddocks in the nearby (public) Burggarten park, where horses have the opportunity to enjoy some space and fresh air.
It’s a matter of chance, though, whether the paddocks are in use at any particular time. I rarely spot a horse there, but got lucky twice when horses and riders walked past me as I crossed the park.
As expected, the stallions left a magnificent impression: the park visitors (me included) just stopped and stood in absolute awe.
(An autumnal ride)
How to get to the riding school
The visitor centre and entrance to the Spanish Riding School form part of the Hofburg Palace complex.
Look for the signs under the giant dome (Michaelerkuppel) that marks the entrance to the Hofburg area from Michaelerplatz square.
(Various historical buildings surround Michaelerplatz; see this article for a guide to all the locations.)
If you aren’t walking past on your travels around the sights, anyway, then you can best reach the centre on bus 1A or 2A using the Michaelerplatz or Habsburgergasse stops.
Alternatively, take a short(ish) walk from subways U1 (Stephansplatz), U2 (Volkstheater or Museumsquartier) and U3 (Herrengasse or Stephansplatz), and from any stop on the trams 1, 2, 71, and D between Ring/Volkstheater and Oper/Karlsplatz.
Address: Spanish Riding School (visitor center and entrance), Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna | Website