The Hofburg formed the original centre of the Habsburg court, where the Imperial family lived, worked and ruled (and ate 13-course dinners).
- Group of historical buildings, squares & courtyards
- You can walk around most of the area freely
- Home to some top Vienna sights and experiences, including:
- Sisi Museum & Imperial Apartments
- Spanish Riding School
- Imperial Treasury & crown jewels
- Book a guided tour* of the Hofburg
- See also:
What’s at the Hofburg?
(Not the only place you’ll find gold and statuary)
Located in the old town at the centre of Vienna, the Hofburg area covers a collection of formerly imperial and court buildings occupied by the ruling Habsburg dynasty between the 13th and early 20th centuries.
Some parts now serve as visitor attractions, but others remain in use. The offices of the Austrian president, for example, fill part of the Leopoldine Wing. That tract dates back to the late 1600s (apparently, they’ve since upgraded the Wi-Fi).
So what’s inside the Hofburg?
(Where empresses and emperors once lived)
The main part of the complex is not a standalone palace in the sense of a Versailles. Instead, you get a series of opulent, interconnected buildings that made up the Habsburg residency and court in town.
Although you can wander around the outsides freely, you can also take a self-guided tour of the interior that covers:
- The Sisi Museum, which examines the life of the iconic Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898)
- The Imperial Apartments (Kaiserappartements), which take you through the rooms used by Elisabeth and her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916)
In normal circumstances, the tour would also include the Silver Collection (Silberkammer), which presents Imperial porcelain, crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils, and (astonishing) table décor. However, the Silberkammer is closed for the foreseeable future for renovation work; check locally for reopening dates.
The Spanish Riding School
(Entrance to the Spanische Reitschule)
The Hofburg also hosts the riding arena of the Spanish Riding School with the stables just over the road.
The school is home to the famous Lipizzaner stallions and possesses a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. The entrance to the visitor centre and 18th-century arena sits opposite the Sisi Museum entrance.
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 or formal performances, though you may want to book ahead as they are popular.
The Imperial Treasury
(Schweizerhof courtyard and entrance to the 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.
(Steps lead you up into the chapel from the Schweizerhof)
The Hofburgkapelle served as the Imperial Court Chapel for centuries, as you can tell from the Gothic style inside (which still includes original elements from over 600 years ago).
The chapel has public Holy Mass services most of the year on Sunday mornings, with liturgical musical accompaniment from the prestigious Wiener Hofmusikkapelle. This choral and orchestral ensemble draws its members from the likes of the Vienna Boys’ Choir and Wiener Philharmoniker orchestra.
Monument to Emperor Franz
The Neue Burg
(View of the Neue Burg across Heldenplatz square)
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 huge Heldenplatz square in front of the Neue Burg has the Burgtor gates and large equestrian monuments to Prinz Eugen von Savoyen and Archduke Karl. The open space also hosts events like the Festival of Joy.
(We can thank Napoleon – indirectly – for this little green idyll)
The buildings off to one side of the Burggarten include the Imperial butterfly house.
(The rose garden with the Burgtheater behind)
And the counterpart to the Burggarten on the other side of the Hofburg is the Volksgarten park.
This park has, for example, the best roses in Vienna (probably), a Greek-style temple that doubles as a contemporary art gallery, an almost-hidden memorial to Empress Elisabeth, and a monument to the writer Franz Grillparzer.
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.
The complex is 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…consider this walking tour route (actually Part 2 of my suggested self-guided walking tour of Vienna). Here a summary:
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.
Do explore as you go: most people never take the time to pop off down side streets and through gateways that open up to reveal ancient churches, town houses of the aristocracy and similar (not to mention the odd secluded coffee house or three).