If you want to plunge into the world of courtly life, love and even lavatories, you’re in the right place with a tour inside the Hofburg complex.
- Self-guided tour takes you through the Sisi Museum along with the Silver Collection and Imperial Apartments
- Everything from 4,500-piece dinner services to royal baby shoes
- Particularly recommended for fans of Empress Elisabeth
- See also:
What’s on the tour?
Although the wider Hofburg area now features numerous separate institutions, your first address for seeing inside the imperial complex itself should be the tour of the Sisi Museum, the Imperial Apartments, and the Silver Collection.
A single ticket gets you into these three locations in the main buildings at the heart of the Hofburg:
- The Sisi Museum features the life, clothes, and personal possessions of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth): the famous wife of Emperor Franz Joseph
- The Silberkammer (Imperial Silver Collection) includes a wide range of precious porcelain and various household items from Habsburg times
- The Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments) are filled with historical fittings and furnishings. This is where Franz Joseph and Elisabeth lived and worked
Is it worth it if you’re not a big fan of plates and princesses?
I think so.
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 €16 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 consider getting your tickets in advance online. In normal years, it can get busy: particularly the Sisi Museum which has some narrow passages in it
- The Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments are all-in-one, but on my visit there were separate ticket controls for the Silberkammer. So you could take a break between the two. The tour and route was 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, they have 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 appear in large print with a picture of the device next to it. The smaller numbers in the display cabinets refer to the index cards somewhere nearby 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 lie 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