Schönbrunn: imperial attractions in palace and gardens

The World Cultural Heritage Site of Schönbrunn Palace is Austria’s most frequently visited tourist attraction. In the ownership of the Habsburg dynasty for centuries, this Baroque ensemble of palace and gardens has been preserved largely in its original state. Numerous attractions await the visitor, including tours of the authentically furnished state rooms and residential apartments of the imperial family in the palace, to the Maze and Labyrinth in the gardens and a dedicated Childrens Museum.


© Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H.  Agentur Zolles
© Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. Agentur Zolles

Schönbrunn palace is a unique Baroque synthesis of the arts consisting of the former residence of the Habsburgs and its surrounding gardens and park which cover an area of over 1.5 km². From 1569 to the end of the monarchy in 1918, the estate was on the ownership of the Habsburgs, one of the preeminent ruling dynasties of Europe. Schönbrunn was experience its most glorious epoch from 1760 during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, when it became the centre of court and political life. The Baroque décor of the palace from this time has largely been preserved in its original state. At the end of the monarchy Schönbrunn palace passed into the ownership of the Republic of Austria and was opened to the public shortly afterwards. In 1996 the palace and its park as an ensemble were placed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.


 Impression of the imperial lifestyle

Today visitors to Schönbrunn can gain an authentic impression of the imperial lifestyle in the state rooms and residential apartments of the palace, all furnished in faithful period detail. Forty of the 1,441 rooms in the palace are open to the public. The tour begins with the residential suites of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth in the west wing of the palace, continuing through the state rooms in the middle range and the apartments occupied by Maria Theresa. In the east wing visitors can view the Franz Karl Apartments, once lived in by the parents of Emperor Franz Joseph, Archduchess Sophie and Archduke Franz Karl. The range of décors encountered on the tour is characteristic of the lifestyles, atmosphere and ideology of the imperial era.


The gardens and park with their imposing architectural elements have also largely been preserved in their original state and may be explored by visitors. The Neptune Fountain, Obelisk Fountain, Roman Ruin and above all the Gloriette, which stands on a visual axis with the palace and affords a view over the entire grounds, constitute the defining features of the gardens, which were designed as a continuation of the palace’s stately interiors.


Since the palace and its grounds were hived off from federal administration in 1992, funds for its maintenance and revitalisation have been generated by the operating company, Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. (SKB), from low-impact tourism. The circumstance that the palace and its park can today be seen largely in their original state is due to the most intensive phase of construction since the Baroque complex was built. Apart from repairs carried out to remediate the worst of the war damage, very little in the way of building maintenance had been undertaken for several decades. Since the inception of the SKB a comprehensive and continuous programme of construction has been instituted to conserve and/or restore the palace complex as faithfully as possible to its original state. In order to explore the history of the buildings on this site and to guarantee that renovation has the least possible impact on the historic substance, the SKB carries out its own programme of research. Since 1992 a total of over EUR 170 million has been invested.


Part of this investment has been used to create additional attractions in order to reach new target groups and to relieve the pressure on the state rooms, which have only limited capacity in term of visitor numbers. For example, a children’s museum has been set up in the palace, occupying a number of rooms in the suite decorated with frescos by Johann Wenzel Bergl. The museum has hands-on exhibits, giving children a playful introduction to life in imperial times. The park boasts further attractions, based largely on historical models, such as the Crown Prince Garden or the Maze and Labyrinthikon. Representing an extension of the historical Maze, the Labyrinthikon playground translates the concepts of seeking and discovering into a contemporary idiom. Over a total area of 7,000 m² a varied range of play installations offer children an opportunity to discover and explore.


With the Schönbrunn Palace Conference Centre housed in the former Apothecary Wing, the SKB has created an additional income stream. The available conference and event rooms combine historical charm with state-of- the-art equipment and technology. Extending over a total area of 2,700 m², the centre has eight rooms offering 870 m² of space in a variety of sizes and ambiences, providing the perfect setting for private and business functions of all kinds. Participants at events also have access to the adjacent Baroque Orangery Garden and several attractively planted courtyards.


Since 1992 there has been a huge increase in visitor numbers at Schönbrunn Palace.  In 2011 there were 2.66 million admissions to the palace and garden attractions (compared with 1.2 million in 1993). Schönbrunn Palace is thus Austria’s most frequently visited tourist attraction. Another 6 million people annually use the freely-accessible park, which is not just a tourist attraction but an important amenity for the city’s residents.


In dealing with thousands of visitors every day, the SKB prides itself on providing the best possible service and security. A comprehensive safety package includes state-of-the-art alarm and surveillance systems together with fire security measures. Electronic ticketing allows visitors to book the precise time of admission in advance, thus avoiding long waiting times. The SKB provides audio guides in 16 languages and printed tour descriptions in 21 languages free of charge. The audio guides are also streamed live via a mobile website and can be used on the visitor’s own smart phone. Wireless internet access is provided free of roaming charges. Dedicated guided tours for blind and sight-impaired people are available by arrangement, while deaf and hearing-impaired persons can use guide devices playing sign language videos.


The ”Menagerie of the emperor “ – the world´s Most beautiful zoological garden to day!

A part of the imperial Schönbrunn Palace, the oldest, and possibly the world’s most beautiful zoo provides unforgettable impressions and a unique experience of nature surrounded by “world cultural history” no visitor to Vienna should miss. The former so-called “Menagerie” of Emperor Franz Stephan of Lorraine, husband of Empress Maria Theresia – has been restructured as a modern zoological garden and “survival area” for a huge number of endangered species such as giant pandas from China, Siberian tigers, koalas, penguins, rhinos and African elephants, as well as many native Austrian & European species. Today, Schönbrunn Zoo additionally offers a program containing some very attractive “specials” for visitors & guests: from first class restaurants, to exclusive evening events, guided tours and all kinds of group specials. Joining exclusive guided tours such as “Imperial Austria” will leave you with unforgettable impressions of the imperial residences Hofburg Palace, Schönbrunn Palace, the Imperial Festival Palace Hof with its spectacular baroque gardens, and interesting insights into the lives of the imperial family in the 18th century.

Full of life

Historically the oldest zoo in the world, Schönbrunn, in the last centuries, has become one of the most modern and – as many animal lovers would agree – most beautiful zoos in the world. Today it is “home” to many endangered species and animals from all over the planet. Scientific, zoological research and permanent improvements in building habitats that cater to the needs and nature of our “animal guests” represent the central challenge of our daily work. Important wildlife conservation programmes – such as the successful further breeding of the Batagur river turtle (one of the rarest turtles worldwide!) and the establishment of new facilities – such as the South America Park, the ORANG.erie and the tree-top walk way – are only a few of the examples of the new and larger tasks which the modern zoo has to fulfil today.


Information and contact

Schloss Schönbrunn

A-1130 Wien

Tel.: +43 1 811 13-0

Fax +43 1 812 11 02


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