Schönbrunn Palace and Zoo

Put yourself in Sisi’s shoes

Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most impressive and important heritage sites in Austria with a history stretching back more than 300 years.

Emperor Mathias, son of Maximilian II, is reputed to have exclaimed ‘Welch´ schöner Brunn’ – ‘What a beautiful spring’ – when he came across an idyllic spring while hunting one morning in 1612. Nowadays, the world-famous Neptune Fountain stands on the exact spot where the water had bubbled out of the ground. Surrounded by over 190 hectares of palace grounds, Schönbrunn Palace is the largest baroque castle in Austria, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a masterpiece of human creativity.
 
Together with its magnificent gardens and the oldest zoo in the world, the Schönbrunn Palace is a work of art that is rich in history and unique in its splendour. Join us on a voyage of discovery through the apartments where Sisi and Franz lived, explore the magnificent park and the exotic wildlife in one of the most diverse and modern zoos in the world.
 
The history of Schönbrunn Palace ...
 
... is long and eventful. Mention the castle and almost everyone thinks of Empress Elisabeth (nicknamed Sisi). Although they aren’t wrong, the castle passed through many hands and served a range of purposes before it became the summer residence of Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph. In the 15th century, a hunting lodge was built in the substantial estate, which was subsequently purchased by the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian II and enclosed to form a game park. In 1683, the castle was completely destroyed during the second Turkish siege. Emperor Leopold I decided to build a prestigious new residence for his heir Joseph, creating the Schönbrunn I project in 1688, which closely rivalled the pomp and splendour of the Palace of Versailles. Shortly after its completion in 1728, the Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens were sold to the imperial court, more specifically to Charles VI, who gifted it to his daughter Maria Theresa. She turned Schönbrunn into an imperial summer residence and was responsible for most of the building work that is still evident today. The botanical gardens, the beautiful Gloriette and the Obelisk Fountain are just a few of the wonders Vienna can thank her for. Napoleon occupied the Schönbrunn Palace during the Coalition Wars, but it remained safe in imperial hands. In 1830, Franz Joseph I was born in the palace and the story of the young Emperor Franz and his Sisi began to unfold.
 
The summer residence.
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud
The former Habsburg summer residence was built in the 17th century by Emperor Leopold I together with baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and has an exciting history.
 
Imperial summer residence with 1,441 majestic state rooms
 
Schönbrunn Palace has a total of 1,441 rooms, all decorated in lavish rococo style. 45 of the imperial apartments and lavish state rooms are open to visitors, including the 19th-century living quarters of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth, the state rooms in the central part of the palace, the imperial apartments of Maria Theresa and Franz I Stephan, and the apartment which was occupied by Emperor Franz Joseph’s parents.  The Mirror Room is probably the most famous room in the palace. With its magnificent white-and-gold rococo decor and eponymous crystal mirrors, which reflect each another and create the illusion of a larger space, the Mirror Room is a typical example of a state room from Maria Theresa’s era.
 
The impressive mirror room.
© Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur-und Betriebsges. m.b.H; Foto: Alexander Eugen Koller
With its magnificent white-and-gold rococo decor and crystal mirrors that give the room its name, the Mirror Room is a typical example of a state room from Maria Theresa’s era.
 
Schönbrunn Palace and grounds
 
The palace and its grounds are inextricably linked. In the 18th century, approximately 500 hectares were laid out in baroque style and feature countless paths winding through colourful seas of flowers, interspersed with 44 marble sculptures. Most of these sculptures are on the edge of the Great Parterre, the heart of the park, extending along the main axis of the complex to the Gloriette on its hill. Together with the impressive Neptune Fountain with its larger-than-life figures, they tell stories from Greek and Roman mythology. A voyage of discovery to stimulate all the senses leads through the maze in the palace grounds. The grounds cover almost 7,000 square metres and are divided into three parts. In the maze itself, several paths lead to the central viewing platform, but only one path leads to the destination in the labyrinth. The third part, the Labyrinthikon, is a playground with individual play areas for all ages.
The Great Parterre with the Neptune fountain.
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud
The Great Parterre is the central axis of the palace complex. Laid out symmetrically, it ends at the Neptune Fountain.
The labyrinth of Schönbrunn palace.
© WienTourismus/Peter Rigaud
The maze and labyrinth in the Schönbrunn Palace grounds have been restored to their original plans and are an enticing area for children and parents to explore.
The Palm House

The Palm House is yet another major attraction in the palace grounds. It was commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1880 as a worthy setting for the extensive Habsburg plant collections that had been gathered from around the world. The largest glasshouse in continental Europe has three separate climate zones and is home to around 4,500 Mediterranean, tropical and subtropical plants. Not only an attraction for plant-lovers, the three adjoining pavilions, with their unique and impressive iron construction, provide a feature that can be seen from afar. 45,000 glass panes were incorporated to make this historic building feel light and airy.
 
The Palm house.
©WienTourismus/Willfried Gredler-Oxenbauer
The Palm House in the Schönbrunn Palace grounds boasts fascinating architecture and lush plants.

Gloriette

Located on the hill in the palace gardens, with views of the palace, is the Gloriette, which roughly translates as ‘Temple of Honour’. The building was originally intended as a war memorial, so it is adorned with a clearly-visible imperial eagle. For Maria Theresa, building the Gloriette was a demonstration of her power. Whenever she visited the 20-metre-high viewing platform with her guests, she could see all Vienna spread out at her feet.
 
The Gloriette.
© Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur-und Betriebsges. m.b.H; Foto: Alexander Eugen Koller
The Gloriette monument was originally erected as a war memorial and is the visual end point at the southern end of the palace gardens.

Schönbrunn Zoo

Schönbrunn Zoo is the oldest zoo in the world. It was founded in 1752 by Maria Theresa's husband Franz I Stephan and is part of the Schönbrunn Palace UNESCO World Heritage site. It combines imperial flair, conservation and modern animal husbandry to create its own very special charm. Covering an area of 17 hectares, the zoo is home to over 700 species, some of which are highly endangered.  Visit the animal enclosures to travel through a diverse range of animal habitats from the Arctic, the African savannah and tropical rain forests to native forest and water landscapes. Today, Schönbrunn Zoo is more than just a popular recreational area, it is also an educational centre and a powerful ally in the field of nature conservation and species protection. Measures to protect and preserve animal species can only be funded if they are supported by the general public.
 
Schönbrunn Zoo is an inspiring way to visit the animal world and raise awareness of conservation.

Högl has designed a collection that combines femininity, elegance and sophisticated charm – ideal for a sightseeing tour of Sisi and Franz’s ornate apartments. The ‘Vienna Edition’ pays tribute to their homeland’s high levels of craftsmanship. Gold, metallic-effect decorative elements elevate this classic shoe to a genuine work of art.
 
If you’re planning a stroll through the palace gardens followed by a trip to the zoo, then the new platform slip-ons from Högl are the perfect choice. Boasting clean lines and an uncluttered look, they are also chic and unbelievably comfortable. For autumn temperatures, we recommend MODERNA stretch ankle boots, which hug the leg like stockings and go perfectly with skirts, dresses and trousers.
 
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