The Must-See Palace in Vienna: Hofburg

My first stop on my second day in Vienna was the Hofburg Palace. I’d purchased a combined ticket, the Sisi Ticket, for entrance to both the Schonbrunn and the Hofburg prior to flying overseas so I was good to go. Because it was off-season, though, the lines weren’t very long so I’m not sure pre-paying saved me a lot of time, but I’d still suggest it because when you’re traveling, any time saved is precious, right?

The Hofburg was built in the 13th century and has been the center of government operations since at least 1279. Originally built for the Habsburg dynasty as their winter home, it now is the official residence and working place of the president of Austria. The word “Hofburg” means “castle of the court,” which make sense because it was originally built to only house a few Duke’s of Austria, but as the Habsburgs’ power became greater around Europe, they expanded the palace and it now includes various residences, the imperial library and the Burgtheatre, among other buildings.

After a failed attempt to see the cafe ceiling in the Kunsthistoriches, I went over the Hofburg, grabbed a free headset (in English, thank you), and started my tour of the Imperial Apartments, the Imperial Silver Collection, and the Sisi Museum. Empress Elisabeth, aka Sisi, was beloved by both Austria and Hungary, and is generally referred to as the Princess Diana of the region.

There Imperial Silver Collection was the first part of the Hofburg that you’re guided through and if I would’ve listened to every explanation of every piece in that collection, I would’ve been there for four hours. I looked around, took a few pictures, and listened to a few numbers as I was prompted but there just too much. I’m not sure why any dynastic family needs this many plates but it was ridiculous. Here is just some of the royal collection.

See? I think it’s just a bit over the top, no?

Next was the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum, about the life of Empress Elisabeth. She was 16 when she became the Empress of Austria and began living in the Hofburg apartments. Not bad for a sixteen year old. She had hair down to her ankles which servants brushed for her for a few hours every morning while her teacher read philosophy books to her. She spoke perfect Hungarian. And much to dismay of many members of the Austrian court, she exercised every single day to keep her 100 pound, 5 foot 8 inches frame in perfect shape.

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The apartments were exquisite, much like that of the Schonbrunn or Versailles. Photos were frowned upon but I shot a few without my flash so as not to harm any of the 13th century finishes.

The picture on the far left shows Sisi’s workout equipment. The photo second from the left shows the restoration of one of the rooms in action! I thought that was super cool to see the preservationists right there in front of me.

Unfortunately the crown jewels exhibit was closed that day and I didn’t have the time to go back again before I left, but I probably knew what I was missing, having seen a number of crown jewel collections before (moderately sized shiny stones in gaudy gold crown settings). But if you’re in Vienna, I’d say a trip to the winter residence of the Habsburg’s is just as necessary as a trip to their summer residence.

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