Amongst the greatest palaces of Europe, only Schonbrunn Palace rivals the French Versailles. This former summer residence of the Habsburgs is huge with 1441 rooms, and now it’s open to the public.
The Royal Apartments with beautiful chandeliered rooms are where the Habsburgs lived and loved each day. Empress Maria Theresa had all the rooms decorated in a grand “let-them-eat-cake” Rococo style with tons of hand-carved wood with ornate gold-leaf gilding. Thick walls hid the servants as they ran around stoking the ceramic stoves from the back and attending to other behind-the-scenes matters of daily life. When World War II bombs rained down on Vienna, thankfully, this palace took only one direct hit. The bomb which was a dud, crashed through three floors – including the sumptuous central ballroom. Apart from the 40 rooms that are now open to the public to see, the rest of the 1400 rooms are rented out to the families of civil servants.
Schonbrunn’s magnificent palace gardens are meant to shut out the rest of the world, unlike the gardens of Versailles in France. Despite this, Schonbrunn’s park was opened to the public in 1779 while the Habsburg monarchy was in full swing. The small side gardens are the most elaborate. The Kammergarten on the left side was a fancy private garden exclusively for the Habsburg family. The Sisi Gardens on the right side was Empress Sisi’s favorite place to relax and enjoy the smell of nature.
At the end of the main garden space in Schonbrunn is the Gloriette. It is a purely decorative monument celebrating an obscure Austrian military victory. The Gloriette offers a great city view.
We also spent time trying to find our way through one of several garden hedge mazes. We also spent some fun time in the kinder park, because we’re just big kids, of course.
Video from our visit: