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 arena and stables
- You get remarkably close to the horses
- …and genuinely behind the scenes
- Our guide was knowledgeable & friendly
- Book tour tickets* for the riding school
- See also:
The tour – a review
(A handsome fellow; photo taken with kind permission of the SRS during a press tour)
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.
(The winter riding school; photo taken with kind permission of the SRS during a press tour)
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.
(If you want a more detailed look at the arena, a special architectural tour spends additional time there and also takes you beyond the public areas and up into the roof.)
(See inside the Renaissance Stallburg stables)
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.
(See inside the tack room. Photo taken with kind permission of the SRS during a press tour)
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 and their “career path”, care, training regime, equipment, performances, and stabling. And she was very open and obliging when it came to questions.
Tickets & tips
The school itself and various agencies will happily sell you a tour ticket.
(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.
- I’d recommend combining a tour with a performance or one of the near-daily public training sessions (consider a combi tour & training ticket package* for a real behind-the-scenes experience with a discount).
That way you get to see some of the practical applications of the concepts and insights explained in the tour.
The riding school is just one of many historical locations that offer guided or self-guided tours of their interiors. I put together a curated list here.
(Should a tour be impossible for you, you might be able to glimpse the horses from the covered archway that runs alongside the Stallburg or as the stallions move from the stables to the arena and back again.)
How to get to the tour
Our tour started in the ticket office hall just beyond the main visitor entrance to the riding school (within the Hofburg complex in the very centre of Vienna). See the end of the main article for travel tips.
Address: Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna