The Hofburg formed the original centre of the Habsburg court, where the Imperial family lived, worked and ruled (and ate remarkably expansive dinners).
- Group of historic buildings, open squares and pedestrianised areas you can just walk around and enjoy
- Also home to some must-see Vienna sights and experiences, including:
- The 3-location palace and museum tour
- The Spanish Riding School
- The Imperial Treasury with the crown jewels
- See also: Sightseeing in Vienna | Empress Elisabeth locations
So what’s at the Hofburg?
The Hofburg area covers a collection of formerly imperial buildings and open spaces that now serve a variety of purposes, from the President’s office to the National Library.
Let us begin with the main attraction…
The Hofburg Palace
Don’t expect a standalone palace in the sense of a Versailles. Instead, you get a series of opulent, interconnected buildings that made up the Habsburg monarch’s former residence in town.
The publicly-accessible parts of this winter palace area offer insights into Imperial life…everything from Empress Elisabeth’s bathroom to Habsburg cake tins. The self-guided tour covers three highlights:
- The Sisi Museum, which examines the life of the iconic Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898)
- The Imperial Apartments (Kaiserappartements), which takes you through the rooms used by Elisabeth and her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916)
- The Silver Collection (Silberkammer) with its Imperial porcelain, crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils, and (astonishing) table decor
The Spanish Riding School
The Hofburg also hosts the stables and event hall of the Spanish Riding School, home to the famous Lipizzaner stallions and possessing a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. The entrance to the visitor centre and arena is opposite the Hofburg Palace ticket counter.
If you wish to see the horses in action, you have various options. It’s relatively simple to find tickets for the regular public training sessions, mini shows or formal performances, though you may want to book ahead as they are popular.
The Imperial Treasury
The Schatzkammer or Imperial Treasury forms a standalone part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum group. The valuables inside include crown jewels, religious relics, and similar items collected by the Habsburgs.
The galleries house such baubles as the Habsburg imperial crown, the coronation robes and crown of the Holy Roman Emperor, a rosebush made entirely of gold, the 15th-century ceremonial sword of Emperor Maximilian I, and much more. If Vienna was a treasure map, the Schatzkammer would have a great big X painted on its front door.
The Neue Burg
The Neue Burg palace wing provides a home for numerous visitor attractions, such as:
- The National Library, though its astonishing state hall (genuinely mind-blowing) adjoins the Augustinerkirche church over on Josefsplatz square
- The Ephesos Museum, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts
- The Weltmuseum, which takes you on a journey through the history and art of numerous cultures from around the world
- The House of Austrian History, a new addition to the museum landscape which covers events in the country post-WWI
- The Arms & Armour collection, which features row after row of tournament gear, medieval weaponry and prestigious armour designed to make it very clear that the wearer is more important than his opponent
- The Historical Musical Instruments collection, where you can see, for example, the very instruments used by the likes of Schubert, Liszt, Beethoven, Haydn, and other famous composers
The buildings off to one side of the Burggarten include the Imperial butterfly house.
And the counterpart to the Burggarten on the other side of the Hofburg is the Volksgarten.
How to get to the Hofburg
Let me put it like this…if you’re in Vienna, wandering around the compact centre, you’ll probably end up in the Hofburg by default. It’s huge and impossible to miss, as the map below demonstrates. For specific public transport tips for individual locations, visit the links above.
If I might offer a tip…
Start off at the Volksgarten park and walk on across to Heldenplatz (perhaps peeping round the back to see the Mozart statue). From Heldenplatz go on through the Hofburg proper to eventually emerge on Michaelerplatz square, which leads you down toward the lovely pedestrianised streets of the very centre.
This basic route takes you past the main highlights of the area. But do explore – most people never take the time to pop off down side streets and alleyways that open up to reveal ancient churches, town houses of the aristocracy and similar (not to mention the odd secluded coffee house or three).