Visiting the Hofburg Palace:
a) The palace complex one of the largest in the world incorporating over 700 years of architectural influences ranging from Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque to Rococco and Classicism.
b) The Hofburg occupies a vast area of 59 acres, comprising 18 groups of buildings, 19 courtyards, over 2000 rooms along with its many squares and gardens making it a ‘city-within-a-city’.
c) What to see:
i) The Imperial Apartments
: Guests can explore the private and official chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth who resided here with their children and the court. Their apartment comprises of 24 rooms including audience rooms, studies, living rooms and residential suites.
ii) Sisi Museum
: The ‘Sisi Museum’ in the Imperial apartments in the Imperial Palace offers a fascinating insight into the life of the legendary Empress Elisabeth from her coronation to her tragic assassination. The museum displays numerous personal items that once belonged to the Empress like her portraits, clothing items, beauty preparations, her wash set, her games case, her medicine case, her travelling chest, her parasols, gloves, the black coat that was used to cover her after her death and even her original death certificate.
iii) The Imperial Silver Collection
: at the Hofburg provides an insight into the court dining culture of the ex-rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – the Hapsburgs. Gold and silver-ware, valuable porcelain and crystal glasses, magnificent centerpieces including the 30 meter long ‘Milan centerpiece’ created for the coronation of Emperor Ferdinand I, gold plated ‘Vermeil service’ – an extensive showpiece service for 140 people panoramic plates, glazed earthenware and simple kitchenware made from copper are on display.
iv) Art History Museum
: was built in 1891 A.D. is the largest art museum in Austria. The lavishly decorated interiors of marble, stucco ornamentations and gold leaf house an extensive art collection. Notable works in the picture gallery includes paintings by masters like ‘Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo, Rubens, Deigo Velazquez, Holbein, Rembrandt, Tintoretto, Albrecht Durer, Jan Van Eyck, Pieter Breughel the elder and Lorenzo Lotto’. The collections include ‘Greek and Roman antiquities, Egyptian and near eastern collection, sculpture and decorative arts, arms and armor, ancient musical instruments and a coins cabinet’.
v) Imperial Treasury
: at Hofburg palace is housed in 21 rooms and displays a rare collection of secular and ecclesiastical treasures collected over a thousand years. The entrance is through the ‘Swiss court’ and the secular collection includes ‘The Imperial Regalia - Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, the Holy Lance and the Imperial Sword, The Austrian Crown Jewels, The Burgundian Treasury, Order of the Golden Fleece, original insignia of the Kingdom of Bohemia, the ceremonial sword of Emperor Maximilian I, The Ainkhum sword, valuable gems like a vessel made from 2680 carat Emerald, Hyacinth ‘La Bella – garnet stone the size of a goose egg and artifacts of Napoleon II.The Ecclesiastical collection
: contains – ‘the largest carved Agate bowl dating to the 4th century, A Narwhal Tusk, a piece of wood from Jesus Christ’s Manger, a tooth from John the Baptist, a piece of the table cloth used at the Last Supper, the nail used to pin the hand of Jesus to the cross, Thorns from the Crown Jesus wore on the cross, devotional images and altars.
vi) Imperial Court Chapel
: is located in the oldest part of the Hofburg complex. Renowned for its Vienna Boys Choir perform High Mass in the Chapel of the Imperial Palace on Sundays and religious holidays. The choir remains in worldwide demand.
: is a museum of graphic arts renowned for its impressive collection of 65000 drawings and about 1 million old master prints besides having modern graphic works, photographs and architectural drawings. The Alberina was initially a palace built in 1744 A.D. and it is named after Duke Albert (son-in-law of Empress Maria Theresa) who resided in this palace and founded the museum and its collection in 1768 A.D. The elegant ‘Staterooms’ once occupied by Archduchess Marie Christine, the favorite daughter of Empress Maria Theresa are also well worth a visit.
ix) Austrian National Library, State Hall
: established in 1368 A.D. was previously known as the ‘Imperial Court Library’ and is located in ‘Neue Berg wing’ in the Hofburg Palace. It was renamed Austrian National Library in 1920 A.D. after the fall of the Habsburg monarchy. This is the largest library in Austria and the library complex includes four museums as well as multiple collections and archives with more than 12 million items including manuscripts and rare books, maps collection, world’s only public globe museum, papyrus collection and papyrus museum, planned languages and Esperanto museum making it a unique treasure trove of knowledge under one roof.‘Prunksaal – The State Hall’
: is the central structure of the old Imperial library and one of the most impressive and beautiful library halls in the world is 80 meters long, 20 meters high crowned by a dome that is magnificently decorated by frescoes.Vienna has recently celebrated 650 years of Austrian National Library.
x) Spanish Riding School:
is one of the most prestigious classical riding academies in the world, a one of its kind institution where ‘Haute Ecole – classic equestrian skills’ have been preserved and are still practiced in its original form. The riding school is located inside the Hofburg and was commissioned by Emperor Charles VI. This sunlight flooded hall mainly white with some beige and light grey colors was completed in 1735 A.D. Once the exclusive preserve of the Habsburg royalty and nobility, it is now open to the public to witness the training and performance by the stallions. The school got its name from the Spanish horses of the ‘Lippizan’ breed which are used exclusively at this school. Popular with tourists, visitors can admire riding skills of the highest order here.
xi) The Imperial Butterfly House (Schmetterlinghaus)
: is located between Neue Berg wing of the Hofburg and the Albertina. A waterfall, a small pond and several bridges create a picturesque backdrop in front of which hundreds of free flying tropical butterflies. Illustrated charts provide information about these wonderful insects and provide an overview of the life-cycle of a butterfly.