Vienna: The Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace is a gorgeous confection of buildings in central Vienna.  There are several ways to access it from across the city, although the main and most imposing entrance is the domed neoclassical/baroque one below, on Michaelerplatz.  The dome is known as the Michaelerkuppel, taking its name from the lovely little church opposite, dedicated to St Michael. Overall, it’s a warren of courtyards, with each new view revealing something special.

The site was the home of the Habsburg monarchs for almost 600 years, until the end of the monarchy in 1918.  The complex remains the seat of Austrian government today.

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Our first view was via the stunning Josefplatz, which also houses the Augustinerkirche (the original court church), mini palaces which now host concerts, and the famed National Bibliothek (library). We had a peek at the latter, and stunning doesn’t cover it.

The complex also houses the Imperial Treasury (more on this later) and the famed Spanish Riding School.  We chose to focus on exploring the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum, both of which are included with the Vienna Pass.

Sisi, or to give her her full name Empress Elisabeth, was the daughter of Duke Max of Bavaria. Born in 1837, she moved to Vienna as a 16-year-old to marry Emperor Franz Joseph, Austria’s longest serving emperor. Her story is a compelling and tragic one, as she appeared to rail against the confines of royal life, and suffer with her mental and physical health before the couple’s son committed suicide. Sadly no pictures allowed of the 300 or so objects which were impactfully displayed to illustrate her story from girlhood to her assassination in 1898 in Geneva. Her rooms here, and in Schonbrunn, were gorgeously displayed, and show a fixation with her health and fitness. Her personal writings and poetry made her world come alive.  She was known for her waspish waist and her desire to remain trim. As a fan of Vienna’s coffee houses, I’m not quite sure how she managed that.

Sisi’s husband, Franz Joseph, was the focus of the Kaiser’s apartments. Like many palaces, there’s a focus on gradual access to royalty with audience chambers and public display as important as the more private spaces on show.

Have you visited the Hofburg, or is it on your wishlist?  If you’d like to get yourself in the mood, have a look at the sumptuously-decorated rooms via the palace website’s virtual tour.

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