If you want to plunge into the world of courtly life, love and even lavatories, you’re in the right place with a tour of the Hofburg winter palace.
- Self-guided tour takes you through the Silver Collection, Imperial Apartments and Sisi Museum
- Everything from 4,500-piece dinner services to royal baby shoes
- Particularly recommended for fans of Empress Elisabeth
- Standard adult ticket costs €15 (or one-time free entry with a Vienna Pass)
- See also: Hofburg overview | Schönbrunn Palace
What’s on the tour?
Although the wider Hofburg area now features numerous separate institutions, your first address should be what most visitors would probably regard as “the” Hofburg attraction: the tour of the palace.
A single ticket gets you into three locations in the main buildings at the heart of the complex:
- The Silberkammer (Imperial Silver Collection), which also includes a wide range of precious porcelain and various household items from Habsburg times
- The Sisi Museum, featuring the life, clothes, and personal possessions of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth): the famous wife of Emperor Franz Joseph
- The Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments), filled with historical fittings and furnishings and also where Franz Joseph and Elisabeth worked, slept, bathed, and exercised
Is it worth it if you’re not a big fan of plates and princesses?
I think so.
Elisabeth and Franz Joseph are interesting characters, for example, and the contrasts between the two provide an intriguing background to your visit.
Selected exhibits are priceless in terms of historical value. (You do not want to risk some of those teacups in a dishwasher.) But even if you care little for the history or origin of the items on display, you do get a good, big-picture impression of royal life in the 19th century.
The tour also provides insights into the crushing pressures of sitting on top of the social and political ladder, the almost-depressing extravagance of court, and the tragically all-too-human weaknesses of those who would set themselves apart from the rest of us.
Tickets & visitor tips
(Sisi Museum, Michaelerkuppel, entrance; © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H., Severin Wurnig)
At the time of writing, basic admission cost €15 for an adult, with the usual reductions. Rather kindly, your ticket includes an audio guide. Vienna Pass holders get in once for free (read my review of this sightseeing pass).
Some further tips:
- Get there early and get your tickets in advance online. I visited on a March Saturday and again on a wet May lunchtime. Both times, it was already busy – particularly the Sisi Museum which has some narrow passages in it
- The Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments are all-in-one, but there are separate ticket controls for the Silberkammer. So you can take a break between the two. The tour and route is designed such that you should start with the Silberkammer, though
- It took me four hours to get round all three areas, listening to just about everything on the audio guide and reading almost every written information So you can probably get round in half that time
(I may have skipped a few porcelain plates at some point, but, in my defence, there are an awful lot of them).
- Display labels and information are all in English and German. The audio guide provides interesting background information and little bonus bits of trivia
- The numbers to plug into your audio guide are always in large print with a picture of the device next to it. The smaller numbers in the display cabinets are for the index cards somewhere near that tell you what you’re looking at
- If you enjoy the Hofburg insights into life as an emperor or empress, then take a similar tour over at Schönbrunn Palace (the summer Habsburg residence). You get less porcelain and crockery but a lot more interior decoration
How to get to the Hofburg tour
The Hofburg is a big place, largely free of vehicles. So you may have a short walk from all these public transport stops. But since that walk might take you through wonderful historical architecture or landscaped gardens, that’s probably a good thing.
The ticket counter and starting place for the tours are beneath the huge dome at the impressive Michaelerplatz entranceway (pictured above) at the northeastern end of the Hofburg complex.
Subway: Station Herrengasse (U3 and your best choice), Volkstheater (U2/U3) or Stephansplatz (U3/U1)
Tram: 1, 2, D or 71 to Burgring or 1, 2, D, 71, 46 and 49 to Ring/Volkstheater
Bus: 1A or 2A to Michaelerplatz (the best option) or 48A to Ring/Volkstheater
Address: Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Vienna | Website