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.
- Book tickets* to watch the training sessions (a Vienna pass allows one-time free entry)
- Book tickets in advance if you want the best seats for an actual gala performance
- Lipizzaner Special mini-show and guided tours available, too
- Usually a reduced schedule in summer
- See also: Review of Morning Training
Riding School Performances
(Entrance of the horses at a Lipizzaner Special; press photo © Rene van Bakel)
The 18th-century winter riding school hosts the formal display and gala performances, where the stallions show off the full extent of their skills.
These performances take place most months, usually on the weekend. During part of the summer, the stars of the stable enjoy a well-earned holiday in the country. In their place, the younger “trainee” horses sometimes step in for a special Piber meets Vienna* show.
The display and gala shows count as one of Vienna’s flagship events for tourists and locals alike, so tickets may go quite fast. Book early for popular dates, if you want a good view at an evening gala. You can book a seat online from the riding school itself or try for a relatively inexpensive standing ticket* (when available).
Other Lipizzaner experiences
The school also offers very decent alternatives to a display or gala performance, though.
Most of the year, the stallions train in the winter riding hall in the mornings (beginning at 10am) and this Morgenarbeit is open to the public. The riding school has sometimes added a public evening training to the schedule, too.
The horses don’t appear every day – Tuesdays to Fridays are your best bet – and not all year round, either, so check in advance: they may be on a summer holiday.
Although you miss the pomp, glamour and scale of the full performances, the horses still perform their exercises to music, offering a relatively cheap and easy way to see the Lipizzaners doing their (rather impressive) thing.
I rather enjoyed watching a training session and wrote about the experience here in detail.
You do need a ticket* to see the training. You can, for example, buy one on the day from the Spanish Riding School visitor centre. Some days get rather busy and the school has limits on the maximum number of people who can watch. So get some advice from the centre on when best to attend or simply book your ticket in advance online.
The school recently introduced a short, regular (and inexpensive) 45-minute programm that 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.”
Spanish Riding School Tours
A tour* offers another alternative for a suitably equestrian Viennese experience. An expert guide takes you around the riding school (one option includes a trip up into the roof) and the actual Stallburg stables, where you can get up close(er) to the horses.
If you want to see the stallions for free and you have plenty of patience, you can wait outside the stable areas for the horses to transfer from their accommodation on days when there’s Morgenarbeit or a performance.
Stand outside the former Lipizzaner Museum (Address: Reitschulgasse 2), facing the wall. To your right is the entrance to the stables. If you’re there just before, during and after the times of a session or performance, you might see some stallions walked past by their riders.
No promises – it’s been a while since I’ve tried the above, but the bits of straw and the signs of cleaned up horse dung that I occasionally see between stable and riding hall suggest you might have some luck with this tactic.
Equally, from the road you can look into the courtyard of the riding school stables and maybe catch a glimpse of a Lipizzaner poking his head out to catch sight of the tourists (see the photo above).
And to get even closer, visit the Advent market in the very same courtyard – a rare opportunity to get inside without a guide. Though I’m not sure if that event will repeat every year (I visited back at Christmas 2019).
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 numbers 1A and 2A using the Michaelerplatz and 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 the stops Ring/Volkstheater and Oper/Karlsplatz.
Address: Spanish Riding School (visitor center and entrance), Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna | Website