Imperial Palace, Vienna Hofburg
The Imperial Castle, the Hofburg, in the inner city was for more than six centuries the seat of the ruler of Austria. From here the Habsburgs ruled until the end of the First World War in 1918. European history was written in this seat of power, from here Empress Maria Theresa carried out her policies and bewailed the military defeats against Prussia's Frederick the Great.
Imperial Palace Map
Address: Michaelerplatz 1, A-1010 Vienna, Austria
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Schweizerhof or Schweizertrakt is the name commonly given to the part of the Hofburg known as Alte Burg (Old Castle). There is evidence that it has been here since 1279. Ferdinand I had the buildings reconstructed in the style of a Renaissance castle between about 1547 and 1552. The massive Schweizertor (Swiss Gate) dates from this period. All the emperors resided in the Burg from Ferdinand I's time until 1916.
The present chapel castle at the Hofburg was constructed on the orders of Emperor Ferdinand III between 1447 and 1449. In the 17th and 18th C. there were alterations and additions in the Baroque style. More changes were made in the 19th C. when the interior was reconverted to the Gothic style in 1802. Maria Theresa had the old wooden altars replaced by marble ones, but the present High Altar dates from 1802. The tabernacle contains Ferdinand II's miraculous cross; according to legend it inspired him with courage during the Wars of Religion. The Burgkapelle is now a much-favored and distinguished setting for weddings. The cynics say that the 13 500-year-old wooden statues of the "Helpers in time of need" - the was removed to make space for the pulpit - are in the right place in a church used in marriages. The boys' choir was originally founded to sing in the Burgkapelle used by the Imperial Court.The Vienna Boys' Choir developed from this and together with members of the State Opera Choir sing at Sunday Mass and on religious holidays (9.15am except July-mid.-Sept.; pre-booking essential, tel. 5 33 99 27).
The Inner Courtyard of the Hofburg was used by the Emperor Maximilian II as a tilt yard as early as 1545. Later it was the site of tourneys, festivities and executions. In 1846 a monument was erected to the memory of Emperor Francis II. On its plinth may be read a line from his will: "My life is for my peoples".
In 1558 Emperor Ferdinand I ordered the construction of a Renaissance palace, one of the most important Renaissance buildings in Vienna, for the particular use of his son Maximilian. When Maximilian became Emperor and moved into the Hofburg, Maximilian's palace was converted into Court mews. Since the time of Charles VI the stables for the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School have occupied the ground floor.
Following the example of his father, Maximilian II had a palace built between 1575 and 1577 for the particular use of his son. He was called Rudolf, hence the name Rudolfsburg. The upper floor was added in the 17th C. and the tower rebuilt. In the 18th C., however, the name was changed to Amalienburg when the Empress Wilhelmine Amalie lived here during her widowhood. The rooms were later used by the Empress Elizabeth and Tsar Alexander I were furnished as State Apartments.
The Leopoldinischertrakt is a range of Baroque buildings, constructed at the behest of Emperor Leopold I, Maria Theresa's grandfather, which connects the Schweizerhof and the Amalienburg. The buildings were erected between 1660 and 1680 and were occupied by Maria Theresa and her husband Francis Stephen of Lorraine. Their apartments together with those of Joseph II opposite them, now form part of the Presidential Chancellery. The Austrian President works in what was formerly Joseph II's study.
The Imperial Chancellery range in Vienna constitutes the northeast wing linking the Schweizerhof and the Amalienburg in the Hofburg complex. It was designed by Hildebrandt in 1723 and completed by J. E. Fischer von Erlach, who gave it the Baroque facade in 1730. Some of its rooms are set out as State Apartments.
Winter Riding School
The Winter Riding School, where the Spanish Riding School gives its equestrian displays, was the scene of numerous glittering events, especially during the Congress of Vienna in 1814 and 1815. This handsome white room was designed by J. E. Fischer von Erlach at the behest of Emperor Charles VI. The coffered ceiling spans an arena in which the horses exercise and which is 55m/175ft long and 18m/60ft wide. The gallery is borne on 46 pillars. The arena may be visited in July and August.
Address: Josefsplatz 1, Hofburg, A-1010 Wien, Austria
Always closed on: Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), 26th of October Holiday - Austria (Oct 26), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Day after Christmas, St Stephen's Day, Boxing Day (Dec 26), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), Ascension Thursday - Christian, Corpus Christi - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Photography prohibited. Open for performances.
Transit: Bus: 3A, 2A
The Michaeler range was the site of the Hofburg Theater until 1888. After its demolition Emperor Franz Joseph I went back to the old plan drawn up by J. E. Fischer von Erlach and ordered the construction of a range of buildings linking the Reichskanzleitrakt and the Winterreitschule. This was done between 1889 and 1893. The grandiose Michaelertor (Michael Gate) which is flanked by figures of Hercules leads into the domed chamber. The figures in the niches symbolize the mottoes of various rulers: "Constantia et Fortitudine" (With Constance and Fortitude - Emperor Charles VI), "Justitia et Clementia" (Justice and Mercy - Maria Theresa), "Virtuete et Exemplo" (By Might and Example - Joseph II) and "Viribus Unitus" (With all our Strength United - Franz Joseph I). In the hallway are the entrances to the Silver Room and to the State Apartments.
Hoftafel und Festsaaltrakt
In 1804 Francis I ordered the reconstruction of the oldest part of the Hofburg castle to provide a ceremonial suite in Classical style. The area of the chamber is 1,000sq.m/1,220 sq.yd. The magnificent coffered ceiling is supported on 24 Corinthian columns. It served as throne room and ballroom.It was here that the Habsburgs formally renounced their rights to the throne in the event of a morganatic marriage (i.e. a marriage to a partner of lower social status). Nowadays the chamber is part of the Hofburg Congress Center. Each year it provided the fitting setting for the Imperial Ball on New Year's Eve.
The Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square) in the Hofburg was originally the parade ground. After the erection of the two statues, one of Prince Eugene who defended the Turks and the other to Archduke Charles who won the Battle of Aspern, it was given the name Heldenplatz. Both statues are the work of Anton Fernkorn. In the square the fiakers await passengers who wish to take a guided tour of Vienna in a traditional manner.
The Outer Gate of the Hofburg palace was built exclusively by soldiers as in Roman times to plans drawn up by Peter Nobile. It was inaugurated in 1824 on the anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig at which Napoleon was at last defeated and converted into a memorial to heroes in 1933.
The ceremonial and everyday tableware of the Imperial Court is on display in the so-called "Silver Chamber" at the Hofburg.Among the treasures in the collection are 18th C. East Asian porcelain, the formal dinner service of the time of Franz Joseph, now used at State receptions, a silver traveling service of the Empress Elisabeth Christine, wife of Charles VI (Paris 1717/1718), three particularly fine 18th C. services of tableware in Sèvres porcelain, gift of the French Court, 18th C. cutlery (Vienna, Paris), the Milanese table center, nearly 10m/30ft long, made of meticulously carved and gilded bronze, the Meissen service (c. 1775), Viennese Empire service (early 19th C.). The most important service in the collection is the Ruby service for Imperial grand occasions, with settings for 140 guests. It is decorated with silver which was given a gold hue by heat treatment. It was made by a Parisian goldsmith in the early 19th C.. There are also smaller glass services (c. 1850) and plates decorated with pictures and flowers (1800-30), 19th C. tableware, vases decorated with historical scenes, the "English service" which Queen Victoria gave to the Emperor Franz Joseph and a Romantic period service in Neo-Gothic style (Vienna 1821-24).
The Treasuries feature a collection that began in the 14th century and has grown to include royal relics, sacred exhibits, and many other valuable pieces, making it well worth the visit.
The collection at the Ephesus Museum includes life-size statues, wooden, marble and bronze items, from archaeological excavations carried out at Ephesus and Samothrace.
For more than 250 years Austrian history was made at Ballhausplatz; today the seat of the Austrian government and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs is at Ballhausplatz 2.Austria's policies were not resolved in the ministry but at Ballhausplatz according to Robert Musil in his novel "The Man without Qualities".
Office of the Federal Chancellor
The Bundeskanzleramt (Office of the Federal Chancellor), formerly the Privy Court Chancellery, was erected in Vienna's Ballhausplatz between 1717 and 1719 to plans by Lucas von Hildebrandt. It was enlarged by Nikolaus Pacassi in 1766 and made even bigger when the State Archive Building was added in 1902. After damage in the war, restoration was completed in 1950. In the Privy Court Chancellery powerful chancellors such as Kaunitz under Maria Theresa, and Prince Metternich under Franz I and Ferdinand I determined the fate of the country. In 1814 and 1815 the Congress of Vienna met here for its deliberations after Napoleon's downfall. It was here, too, that the ultimatum to Serbia which led to the outbreak of the First World War was conceived and here, also, that Federal Chancellor Dolfuss was murdered in his office in 1934. In 1938 Federal Chancellor von Schuschnigg concluded in his famous farewell address with the words: "May God protect Austria". In 1940 Baldur von Schirach, Hitler's Governor in the Vienna District, moved into Ballhausplatz. The Federal Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been housed here once more since 1945.
Palace of the Lower Austrian Estates
The official seat of the Lower Austrian Provincial Government is in the "Palace of the Lower Austrian Estates". The Estates acquired the former "Liechtensteinisches Freihaus" in 1513. In the 16th C. the building was completely renovated, and in the 19th C. it was restored to its original plan. In 1986 St Pölten was designated as the provincial capital of Lower Austria, and a start made on constructing new government offices there, into which it is expected that the local authorities will move in 1996.The Renaissance rooms in which Beethoven, Liszt and Schubert performed and where Abraham a Sancta Clara wrote his account of the plague in 1679, were restored in 1953. If a booking is made in advance it is possible to view the Hall of the Knights, the Hall of the Aldermen, the Hall of the Prelates, the great Debating Chamber and the parlors. The great Debating Chamber, built c. 1570 in Renaissance style, boasts an elaborate coffered ceiling with a painting eulogizing "Austria" (1710, by Antonio Beduzzi): it was in this chamber that the founding of the Republic was approved in 1918.In the courtyard there is a 1571 tablet with an Imperial injunction that "nobody should venture to scuffle or fight or cause a disturbance in front of or within the chartered Landhaus". The decreed peace was, however, broken in 1848, when the Revolution actually started at the Landhaus.
The Volksgarten lies between the Hofburg and the Burgtheater. This, the second largest park in the city center, was opened in 1820 on the site of the fortifications which had been blown up by the French in 1809, and soon became a favorite spot with Viennese citizens out for a Sunday afternoon stroll. In the center of the gardens stands the Temple of Theseus, built in 1823 by Peter Nobile for Antonio Canvas's statue of Theseus and modeled on the Theseion in Athens. The order for this had originally been given by Napoleon I while he was in Vienna, but nothing came of it, for obvious political reasons, until Francis I stepped into the breach. Later, in 1890, the statue was removed from the Temple and placed in the staircase of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Notable monuments in the park include the Grillparzer Memorial with reliefs portraying scenes from six of his plays, and the memorial to the Empress Elisabeth.
The tropical Butterfly House is on the grounds of the Imperial palace. Hundreds of live, free-flying tropical butterflies live in a recreated natural rain forest environment.