No visit to Vienna would be complete without a visit to Schonbrunn Palace. Located just outside the centre of Vienna, Schonbrunn was the summer residence of the Habsburg family from the 18th century to 1918. With over 1400 rooms, left as if Maria Theresa would walk in momentarily, Schonbrunn Palace is renowned for its impressive display of Baroque architecture and design.
Following the downfall of the monarchy, the palace fell into the hands of Austrian Republic who turned it into museum, preserving the rooms and chambers in their opulence. Because of its beautiful and well preserved Baroque features, the palace and its gardens have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1996.
Tickets for the palace tour start at €11,50. There are three different tour options available to you depending on how much of the palace and its grounds you want to see. Also, if you’re going to be visiting some of the other sites in Vienna, you might want to consider picking up the Sisi Ticket. We opted to go with the 40 room tour for €14,50 which includes an audio guide. The tour around the rooms takes about 1 hour. Photography is not allowed inside the palace. Instead, you can take a look inside with this video:
If you’re doing things on a budget, I would advise just skipping the palace tour. There are other grander palaces in Europe (ie. Versaille) that are more worth your time and money. Instead, jump right into the gardens behind the palace.
I love the gardens of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Of all the palaces and gardens that I have wandered in Europe, this one is by far my favourite. I have visited the gardens three times now and I can’t get enough of it. Every time I go, I seem to discover a new part of the gardens because the grounds are so extensive. It extends 1.2 km from east to west and about one kilometre from north to south. You could easily spend a day getting lost in the gardens. The grounds would make an awesome place for a game of hide and seek (or perhaps a picnic).
Even during the middle of summer, you can easily be alone on a pathway with barely any other tourists in sight.
On one end of the gardens, stands the palace. On the other, high above on a hill, is the Gloriette. The Gloriette was built to commemorate a victory in a war against Prussia. It was used as a dining hall and festival hall as well as a breakfast room for emperor Franz Joseph I.
From a distance, the hill looks small and easily walkable, but in reality, it is quite the trek up (especially in the heat of summer!) and once you reach the top it’s quite surprising how high you actually are.
Today the Gloriette houses a cafe, a welcomed break from the heat of summer, as well as an observation platform which offers a view of the gardens and the city. Entrance to the top of the Gloriette is 3 euros. While higher up, I’m not sure it is worth the money for the view. A couple meters doesn’t make that much of a difference to the view.
The sculpted garden between the palace and base of the hill is called the Great Parterre. At its end stands the Neptune Fountain which depicts Neptune and his entourage which include a number of tritons and sea horses.
My favourite view of the palace is from behind the Neptune fountain.
The Great Parterre is lined with 32 statues depicting various mythological deities and virtues.
It was believed in Baroque times, that the gardens, as an extension of the palace, also represented a ruler’s status. As such, the flower beds followed traditional embroidery designs which can still be seen today.
Wandering around the grounds, you find interesting fountains, ponds and statues littered throughout.
Hidden on the grounds are also Roman ruins, also known as the Ruin of Carthage. They’re not real ruins, just designed to look that way. Apparently it was popular in the 18th century to have ruins as a garden feature.
Also in the grounds of the garden is the world’s first zoo, a maze, a palm house and a botanical garden. I have yet to visit these areas so there is always something more to explore next time.
Visiting in the winter offers a completely different experience. Many of the statues in the gardens are covered to protect them from the elements and of course, there are no flowers in bloom. Update: A reader commented saying that the statues were uncovered during her visit in the winter so I have no idea why they were covered up on my visit.
However, you get the place to yourself and during the holidays, there is a fantastic Christmas market right on the palace grounds.
Weather you decide to visit Schonbrunn in the summer or in the winter, or in between (I’ve been once in October too!), it is a must visit for anyone in Vienna. The gardens are truly beautiful and a lot of fun to explore. Plus, you will get to feel like royalty for an hour or two imagining yourself as the Habsburgs.
Good to Know
Entrance to the gardens is free. However, there is a fee to tour the palace. If you plan on going to Versailles in France, I would recommend skipping this one.
To get to Schonbrunn Palace, take the U-Bahn to the Schönbrunn stop on the green U4 line. From there it is just a short walk to the palace gates.
In the summer, pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it on the grounds. We found a little shaded area with plenty of benches and had lunch there. If you ask me where we were in the garden at that point I have no idea. All I know is that we were on the left hand side of the map.
Have you been to the Schonbrunn? Do you think the palace is worth the entry price? What was your favorite part of the gardens? Do you have any tips for future visitors?
Schloss Schönbrunn / Schönbrunn Palace
Schlosstrasse 47, Vienna 1130, Austria