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Pomp and circumstance in Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace is one of Europe's most impressive Baroque palaces and one of the top attractions in Vienna. The palace was built at the end of the 17th century as a summer residence for the emperors of the Habsburg Empire. Marie Antoinette, Napoleon and Empress Elizabeth (better known as Sisi) have all lived at Schloss Schönbrunn at some point. You can easily spend a day here: take the Grand Tour and then enjoy a walk through the labyrinth.

The original building on this location was a hunting lodge built by Emperor Maximilian in 1559. After the Turks destroyed the lodge in 1683, Leopold I thought it was time to build a new palace. He commissioned Austrian architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to design one. Between 1745 and 1760 architect Nicolaus Pacassi expanded the building, and guided by Empress Maria Theresia he created a graceful interior in a rococo style.

The richly decorated interior

Rooms full of gold

A tour of the palace gives a beautiful impression of the tastes, interests and aspirations of the various emperors and empresses who have lived here over the centuries. The palace boasts 1,441 rooms and the Grand Tour will visit 40 of these rooms. One of the highlights is the imposing Grosse Gallery. This room filled with mirrors, gold leaf and frescoes was once the setting for banquets and receptions. Another famous room is the Salon der Kaiserin (the Empress’ Salon): this room was completely renovated in 1854 in a neo-rococo style and contains 3 portraits of Empress Elizabeth. Another special feature is the clock in front of the mirror; on the back it shows the time in mirror image allowing the Empress to glance at the time via the mirror while she was in the salon.

Schönbrunn Palace beautifully lit

Wandering through the maze

The huge gardens that surround the palace are almost as popular as the lavish interior. The palace gardens are divided into several sections but the real attraction is the maze. The original maze, created between 1698 and 1740, had sadly fallen into disrepair. A new maze was designed in 1998, closely resembling the historical model and full of fun attractions for young and old. For example, there is a gigantic Kaleidoscope through which visitors can view themselves from every conceivable angle. Those who enjoy a tough math challenge will love to solve the arithmetic riddle: the figures on the tiles tell you how many steps to take and at the end of the game you should end up exactly in the centre.

The gardens of Schönbrunn Palace
The Christmas market in front of the palace

Photo credits

  • The Christmas market in front of the palace: Hannah Swithinbank, Flickr