You can stand forlornly outside the Spanish Riding School stables, straining for a peek of a Lipizzaner stallion. Or you can go inside and say hello on the guided tour.
- Takes you around the main arena and the stables
- You get remarkably close to the horses
- …and genuinely behind the scenes
- Our guide was both knowledgeable and friendly
- See also:
The tour – a review
(See inside the Stallburg stables and tack room)
They do like to tease you in the nicest possible way. The highlight of any tour of the Spanish Riding School is inevitably going to be the Stallburg stables (and a look at the horses), but our guide saved that for last.
So we started in the winter riding school, which hosts the public performances and training sessions.
This long indoor arena, empty of stallions and an audience, felt heavy with the weight of history. Almost church-like in its silence.
Not a lot has changed inside since the early 1700s.
Emperor Charles VI reigned when the “new” arena opened and his portrait looks out over the more expensive seats, waiting to be acknowledged by the riders when they first enter.
Charles sits on a white horse himself, albeit one with what we might call “unusual” proportions. (Someone skipped the animal classes at art school.)
Unblemished swirls cover the arena floor, bordered on each side by white balustrades. The tour took us from one end to the other, and briefly outside for a view of the outdoor training arena from above.
Then it was off across the road and into the Stallburg stable courtyard for a look around.
Simply stepping inside seemed enough: getting within a yard or two of those stable doors that look out over the courtyard, their openings offering glimpses of smooth white flanks or the curious head of a stallion.
But there was more.
First we got to see the tack room and the custom saddles and special harnesses that hang on name pegs, like kit in a professional football team’s dressing room.
Then we stepped inside the Stallburg proper to the main stable area. No ropes kept us at a distance; we could get close enough to the horses to feel their breath (no touching allowed, though…quite understandably).
The horses seemed to eye us with a stoic benevolence. Majestic might be a much overused word, but seems apt.
No skittish thoroughbred racehorses here, but a Baroque breed seemingly impervious to the march of time. Artisans exuding a self-confidence born of talent and experience. And remarkably beautiful close up, even if not the pure white of myth and legend.
I found myself murmuring words of praise to some stallion whose gaze, admittedly, suggested he’d heard it all before.
All through the tour, our guide regaled us in perfect English with information and anecdotes covering the Lipizzaner breed, their “career path”, training regime, equipment, care, performances, and stabling. And she was very open and obliging when it came to questions.
Tickets & tips
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
A few tips and notes:
The English tours take place most days at the time of writing and ours took just under an hour. At no point did we feel rushed.
That way you get to see some of the insights gained through the tour in practice, so to speak.
How to get there
Our tour started in the ticket office hall beyond the main visitor entrance to the riding school (within the Hofburg complex in the very centre of Vienna). See the main article for travel tips.
Address: Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna