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 Special mini-show
- Full and gala performances
- Spot the horses outside if you know where to go (tips below)
- Schedules can reduce at certain times of year
- See also:
(Entrance of the horses at a Lipizzaner Special; press photo © Rene van Bakel)
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 full performances, the horses still perform moves and exercises to music with an introductory commentary.
(Booking service by Tiqets*)
I rather 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, so check in advance: they may be on a summer holiday.
As such, public training offers a relatively cheap and easy way to see the Lipizzaners doing their (rather impressive) thing.
You can, for example, buy a ticket direct (or on the day) from the Spanish Riding School. Some days can 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:
- Guided tour: an expert guide takes you around the actual Stallburg stables (where you can get closer to the horses) as well as the riding school facilities
- Architectural tour: a less-frequent tour where you visit the Stallburg, too, but take a closer look at the winter riding school. This includes, for example, a climb up into the latter’s Baroque roof with views over Vienna
Two main options exist for seeing the Lipizzaners in all their finery.
The institution recently introduced an occasional short 45-minute display programme 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.”
Although rather infrequent (at the time of writing, only three were scheduled for 2022), the Lipizzaner Special costs significantly less than a full performance.
Full Riding School Performances
(Public entrance to the riding school)
The 18th-century winter riding school hosts the formal 70-minute display 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. During part of the summer, the stars of the stable may enjoy a well-earned holiday in the country.
These main shows count as one of Vienna’s flagship events for tourists and locals alike, so tickets can go quite fast (when the world is traveling as normal!). Both formal standard seating and (relatively inexpensive) standing room tickets* should be available.
Where to see the horses
You may get to see the stallions for free, if you have some patience.
You can wait outside the stable areas for the horses to transfer from their accommodation on days when there’s morning training or a performance, for example.
Go to the location of the former Lipizzaner Museum (Address: 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 just 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 winter riding school entrance opposite on the other side of the road.
The bits of straw and the signs of cleaned up horse dung that I sometimes see outside the Stallburg entrance suggest you might have some luck with this tactic.
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 got lucky once and three horses and riders walked past me as I crossed the park.
Up close, the stallions left a magnificent impression: the park visitors (me included) just stopped and stood in absolute awe.
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