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Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn

By Sabrina

What are the Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn?

Schönbrunn is an outstanding Viennese castle designed by the architects Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Nicolaus Pacassi. It is known to be one of the best-preserved Baroque buildings in Europe. Schönbrunn castle is especially important because it housed the monarchs of Austria, the Habsburg family, from the 18th century until the year 1918.

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Another important thing to mention is that the zoo in the gardens, which was founded in 1752, is the world’s oldest zoo. The gardens and the palace combined form something called a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which different art forms are combined to create a unified “total work.”

Text: Palace and Gardens of Schonbrunn, Austria. Images; above, the palace, below, the Gloriette, one of the outbuildings.

Why are the Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn a UNESCO World Heritage site?

According to UNESCO, “The Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn are an especially well-preserved example of the Baroque Princely residential ensemble, which constitute an outstanding example of Gesamtkunstwerk, a masterly fusion of many art forms.” The gardens form an “organic extension” of the palace.

UNESCO adds that it is “a potent material symbol of the power and influence of the House of Habsburg over a long period of European history.”

A distant view of the whole castle, looking absolutely vast: just a few stories tall but very wide.

What can you expect on a visit to Schönbrunn castle and its gardens?

Visiting Schönbrunn castle and the gardens is an amazing experience for young and old. The castle itself is incredibly impressive; you can already see its grandeur when arriving from the parking lot. The yard in front of the Palace was beautifully designed and is now used as the beginning of many tours and activities.

The castle itself has been transformed into a museum, where you can choose from a number of different tour options. There is also a children’s museum on the grounds, as well as a museum dedicated to the royal carriages of the Habsburg family.

Apart from distinguished restaurants and cafes, Schönbrunn is also still famous for its massive zoo in the backyard. With roughly two million visitors per year in a 17-hectare area, it is one of the most important tourist attractions in Vienna. It is the oldest zoo still operating in the world.

The gardens outside the zoo are just as spectacular, with masterfully designed fountains and many great installations and smaller buildings in the garden. If you walk up the hill, the Gloriette is a fabulous building to visit. It was built as a temple of glory, but also as a scenic terrace. Nowadays it is used as a café.

A monumental portico, with a room several stories tall in the middle with three huge arched glass windows. On the left and right of it a series of outdoor arches and columns.

Is Schönbrunn worth visiting?

In my opinion, Schönbrunn Palace and the gardens are something you need to visit when you are in Vienna. I suggest putting an entire day aside for the visit. The museum takes up roughly two hours: you can walk through the imperial apartments with an audio guide. The gardens and the Gloriette will also take 1-2 hours to visit. Lastly, the famous zoo can take up to half a day.

Not only is this an amazing place to learn about the interesting history of Austria, but the whole site is incredibly aesthetically pleasing. Children will love the zoo and the children’s museum because the entire setup is designed as a learning experience. Schönbrunn is worth visiting for young and old.

A range of guided tours are available to the palace or that include the palace along with other sights in Vienna.

What sorts of travelers would like Schönbrunn Palace?

I could not imagine anyone not enjoying Schönbrunn Palace. Since there are so many different things to do on the palace grounds, almost everyone can find something that interests them. The castle and the gardens are family-friendly, so children will enjoy the visit as well.

Especially travelers interested in culture, history, architecture, art, or decorative arts will appreciate the Schönbrunn Palace. Adventure travelers might not appreciate it as much, because the Palace is quite tame and there is nothing crazy adventurous to do there.

Large monumental portico with a huge room in the center with large windows, and porticoes extending out on either side.
The Gloriette.

Tips for visiting Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens

The palace and the museum are quite busy, especially during the high season. It makes a lot of sense to buy the tickets in advance and book a time slot; otherwise, you might spend half the day standing in line.

Book this guided tour with skip-the-line-tickets before your visit.

Everyone interested in visiting more museums in Vienna will find the Combined Sisi Ticket, offered at the palace, helpful, because it also guarantees access to other Sisi-related museums in the city. The museums included on the ticket complement each other since they all revolve mostly around the famous Empress Sisi and her life in Vienna. A combined ticket with the zoo is available as well.

If you are only looking at visiting the gardens and seeing the castle from outside, no ticket is necessary. The walk up to the Gloriette is free as well, so this is a great tip for budget travelers.

Culinary enthusiasts who are looking to try some authentic Viennese dishes will love the restaurant on the site as well as the café in the Gloriette. In both establishments, you can try regional dishes, such as Apfelstrudel and the famous Viennese Sacher cake.

The best time to visit Schönbrunn castle is in December since it is also home to an incredibly charming Christmas market. There is a beautifully decorated tree in the front yard and many small chalets will be built outside the castle. You can buy regional arts and crafts, try authentic dishes and buy Christmas ornaments. On New Year’s Day, the famous New Year’s concert by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is held at Schönbrunn.

Especially in spring and early summer, the gardens are filled with so many small flowers and lush green plants. This is a great time to see the castle and the gardens. However, it can get quite crowded inside the castle and in the zoo at that time. The gardens usually do not get very crowded because they are so big. If you want them to yourself, I suggest going early in the morning when there might only be a few joggers there.

For walking up to the Gloriette, bringing good shoes is key. Also, the zoo is located on a hill, so it might be handy to wear comfortable shoes.

The Grand Tour inside the palace takes in 40 magnificent period rooms, including the apartments of Empress Sisi and her husband Franz Joseph as well as furniture from the famous Empress Maria Theresia. The Imperial Tour will only give you access to the apartments of Sisi and Franz, whereas the special Maria Theresia Tour will only focus on her belongings.

Visiting Schönbrunn castle and gardens can easily be combined with a city trip to the Historic Center of Vienna, also a UNESCO site. There are many beautiful sights in the city center that complement the experience well. The Hofburg as well as the Spanish riding school are interesting museums that greatly fit in the bigger picture of the Imperial period of Vienna.

The Vienna Flexi-pass and the Vienna Pass both include Schonbrunn Palace. Either would be worth it if you are planning to see other sights in Vienna too.

If you are interested in art, I suggest the National Museum of Art History in Vienna or the Albertina museum. St. Stephens Cathedral and the Karlskirche are great monuments to visit in Vienna. If you are looking for something fun to do after visiting the castle, I suggest the Vienna Prater. It is an amusement park with old-time amusements, including a landmark giant wheel dating from 1897. It has great historical value as well.

Compare hotels in Vienna or near Schonbrunn.

Front view of Schonbrunn palace seen from a distance to fit such a large structure into the picture.

Where are Schönbrunn castle and gardens?

Schönbrunn castle is located right outside the center of Vienna, in the district called Hietzing. It is too far from the center to walk there, so using public transport is recommended. The Underground U4 services the Schönbrunn station, and you can easily reach the city center or the Central train station (Wien Hauptbahnhof) from there. Buses and trams stop at Schönbrunn station as well. It takes about 10 minutes to reach Schönbrunn coming from Vienna city center.

There are two big parking lots right outside the castle, so it can also be easily reached by car. Parking is not too expensive, ranging from €4 for an hour to a maximum of €40 per day. It takes roughly 20 mins coming from Vienna city center.

For more information about Schönbrunn castle and gardens, its opening hours, and admission fees, see its official website.

Text and photos are provided by Sabrina of Shades of Summr. Sabrina is a Netherlands-based travel blogger and passionate content creator. Her blog Shades of Summr focuses on Slow and Luxury Travel experiences around the world.

Have you been to Schonbrunn Palace? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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