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Vienna is a city of music. It is also a city of palaces. There are so many of them around the city, many of which, I’ve never even heard of. Many visitors flock to the beautiful and famous Schonbrunn Palace and I’m no different. I adore the gardens and exploring the grounds, but there are plenty of other palaces to discover in the city. While many are privately owned, there are a few that open to the public. The most famous ones being the Hofburg Palace and the Upper and Lower Palaces of the Belvedere.
The Hofburg Palace was the winter palace of the Habsburg family until the end of their rule. The palace was built specifically for the Habsburg family in the thirteenth century. This massive palace is located right in the centre of Vienna. You can’t miss it. Even if you weren’t looking for it, you’ll eventually stumble upon it.
The building sits among all the other buildings in central Vienna. With its many wings and expansions, it is hard to tell what is part of the palace and what isn’t. Today the palace is the official residence of the President of Austria as well as home to a convention centre and numerous museums and art collections.
There are many ways to enjoy the palace. For some, it is fulfilling to just wander around the massive building discovering the different wings of the building. For others, there are museums and areas opened to the public inside.
There are three areas that you can explore inside: The Imperial Apartments, The Sisi Museum and the Silver Collection. I skipped going inside as I was content with exploring the massive building from the outside. I did, however, wander into the Austrian National Library for a quick peek inside. There wasn’t too much to see without paying for a tour. The Spanish Riding School is also located here which hopefully one day I can go check out.
The whole building is full of interesting architecture and I spent more time look up than I did at watching where I was going. It is incredible the amount of detail that went into making the building what it is.
Whether you decide to go and explore the inside or just wander around the outside of the building, the Hofburg Palace is a dominating feature in the Vienna cityscape. You can only imagine what a presence it had during the Habsburg’s rule.
The Hofburg Palace
Michaelerkuppel, 1010 Wien, Austria
September to June: 9.00 am to 5.30 pm
July and August: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
Good to Know
Admission: The one price (Adults € 11,50) includes access to Imperial Apartments, The Sisi Museum and the Silver Collection with an audio guide. Skip the line for the audio guide and download it onto your own player.
If you’re thinking of touring the Hofburg Palace and Schonbrunn Palace, you should definitely consider the Sisi Ticket which gets you a reduced entry.
The Belvedere consists of two Baroque palaces, an Orangery and a Palace Stable. Originally the complex was built as a summer residence for France’s Prince Eugene of Savoy. After his death, the property was purchased from his heir by Maria Theresa of the Habsburgs. While they never lived there, they used the property to store and display art. The Upper Belvedere was home to the Imperial Picture Gallery which was opened to the public – making it one of the first public museums in the world. The Lower Belvedere was used by royal family members escaping from the French Revolution.
Today, you are free to wander the beautiful gardens. The Upper Belvedere is home to the world’s largest collection of paintings by Klimt, including his famous painting “The Kiss.” Prior to my visit, I didn’t even know who he was, but a friend of mine was a fan and took me to see his exhibits. This was the only building that I explored.
In the Lower Belvedere, you can see the apartments and staterooms of Prince Eugene. You can also see the Belvedere’s medieval collection in the Palace Stables.
Wandering the gardens was enough for me. While they’re not as extensive as the gardens in Schonbrunn, these gardens were definitely grand. You could see some resemblance in the overall design of the gardens, but both have their own unique take.
The most notable distinction is the use of water fountains and ponds throughout the gardens of the Belvedere. It added something interesting to look at.
The gardens are set on a gentle gradient with beautiful Baroque sculptures of mythical creatures throughout. The sphinx, symbolizing strength and intelligence, was a common theme found throughout the upper levels of the garden. The view from the top of the sloping garden towards the Lower Belvedere is where the complex gets its name. Belvedere is Italian for “beautiful view”.
Surrounding the entire complex are hedges with majestic wrought iron gates.
I really enjoyed exploring the gardens of the Belvedere and especially marveling at the different waterscapes and interesting sculptures.
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Lower Belvedere, Orangery
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am to 9 pm
Good to Know
Getting There: I’ve always entered the gardens on by the Lower Belvedere at Rennweg 6. Take Tram 71 from Schwarzenbergplatz (Schubertring) on the ring and get off on the 3rd stop (Unteres Belvedere)
Admission: There are a number of different tour packages to see what is inside the museums. Honestly, I would just skip them all and wander around the gardens.
Do you like looking at old buildings? Have you explored these (and other) palaces in Vienna? What did you think?