You may remember that I’ve written about Vienna’s Schonbrunn palace once before, in an article with an exceptionally witty title and lots of photos but very little information. Never fear, as your lingering questions of a year ago are now to be answered!
Originally a Royal Hunting Ground and later a Royal Summer Palace, the Schloss Schonbrunn stands today as a monument to the life of the Hapsburg Dynasty and along with the surrounding gardens a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Schonbrunn is Vienna’s most popular destination for tourists, with 2.6 million showing up to 2010. Add to that regular number a popular Christmas market held in the entrance courtyard of Schonbrunn (acclaimed even by the hard-hearted Anthony Bourdain, one might add), and numbers/crowds get even larger.
To be honest, the Palace itself is lavish and beautiful and it bores me quite a lot. With the exception of one small room dedicated to and decorated with hand-drawn ink pictures from the Emperor Franz Stephan and his children (which I lingered in for far longer than I anticipated) the rest of the palace only held my attention for just a little while. Even worse, no photography is allowed inside!
A much better use of time in Vienna, to my mind, is to wander up the hillside behind Schonbrunn Palace to the Gloriette arch and sit on the grassy slope or at the windows of the coffee house inside the Gloriette itself. At once presenting fantastic views of Schonbronn and the city of Vienna while feeling removed from the crowds of both, I can (and have, and hopefully will again!) spend hours here writing and reading and photojournalistically creeping on tourists when they step into the perfect frame.
I would happily visit Schonbrunn again, as a place to wander through the world’s oldest zoo and past fountains and statues and everything else Imperial-esque that one could hope for in a royal palace. The next time, my third visit as it would be, I’d just make sure to miss the palace itself.
I have visited Schonbrunn Palace twice, once while traveling independently and once while photographing a tour while working with GetYourGuide. Schloss Schonbrunn is open from 8:30 to 17:00 year round, with extended hours in the warmer months. The gardens stay open from 6:30 till at least 18:30, and again longer during the summer. Note that the bag check closes when the palace itself does, and it can be quite a hassle to get your stuff back once they’re closed!
The palace is extremely easy to get to (the U4 stop ‘Schonbrunn’ is just down the road) and the price of admission (starting at 11.50 Euro) includes a free audio guide. With the Vienna 72hr card you get a one Euro discount so if you already plan on buying one for other museum discounts it can save you a bit more here (and your metro/tram ride will be included as well). If you’d prefer to go with a live guided tour, though, check out GetYourGuide for one option that includes a bus tour through the city en route to the palace.