You’d think a 16th-century stable might quickly reach the end of its working life. Not if you’re the Stallburg, a large Renaissance stable complex still providing a home for the famous Lipizzaner horses.
- Constructed in the 1560s
- Continuously in use as stables since then (for court horses and/or the Spanish Riding School)
- Other (simultaneous) functions have included guest apartments and a royal art gallery
- Not normally open to the public but can be seen from the road (or on a tour)
- See also: Spanish Riding School ticket tips
Horses, art, and more
(You might recognise this view of the Stallburg from the movie, The Third Man)
Put the word imperial in front of even the most banal of buildings and it seems to turn into something rather more impressive than you might expect.
So it is with the Stallburg, ostensibly a set of “old stables” right in the very centre of Vienna. But notably imperial stables.
As such, the Stallburg remains one of Vienna’s few surviving Renaissance buildings: a 16th century bastion sandwiched between Baroque and Rococo townhouses and the Hofburg palace complex.
The building appeared in the 1560s as a four-sided arcade design surrounding a courtyard, though the location had already been in use in Roman times (and possibly earlier).
Habsburg family members or honoured guests found refuge in upper level apartments, for example. A diary entry in the Wiener Zeitung of March 4th, 1722, notes how the Count von Collowart had arrived from Prague and taken lodgings in the Stallburg.
Most remarkably, the Stallburg long housed part of the imperial art collections. It all began with Archduke Leopold Wilhelm (1614-1662), who accumulated an extraordinary collection of paintings while governor of the Netherlands.
The Stallburg provided appropriate storage space and soon became a formal gallery for the display of these works plus, within a few decades, the collections of other Habsburg rulers. It retained this function until the late 18th century.
(Many of the works now hang in the picture galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.)
Today’s Stallburg still fulfills its original purpose, with the Lipizzaners occupying the ground floor. The building remains more or less as it was back in Renaissance times, albeit after extensive reconstruction following WWII damage (a sentence you see all-too-often in Vienna).
The building also serves more prosaic functions than in the days of art and aristocrats, for example as office space for the Foreign Policy and United Nations Association of Austria and the Austrian Federation of University Women.
How to see inside the Stallburg
The Stallburg isn’t open to the public per se. But you have two plausible options for getting inside.
- A tour*: at the time of writing, the Spanish Riding School’s Architectural Tour and standard Guided Tour take you into the stables.
- The Stallburg advent market: I’m not sure how regular this event may be, but this small (and remarkably tasteful) Christmas market allows you to wander inside the courtyard and get relatively close to the stable doors.
One side of that main courtyard faces an old vaulted walkway (see photo above) alongside the road and is fairly open, so you can, at least, see into it from the outside. With a bit of luck, a stallion or two might poke their heads out of the doors or even find themselves in transfer across the road to the riding hall.
How to get to the Stallburg
If you’re enjoying the delights of the old town, you will most certainly pass it on your travels. But follow the travel tips for Michaelerplatz and then just walk a few yards down Reitschulgasse to reach the Stallburg.
Address: Reitschulgasse 2, 1010 Vienna