New Year's Eve Concerts: Hofburg Palace

How To Handle Hofburg Palace In 7 Smart Steps

Before you start wondering about the name of that palace in Vienna, there are two different Imperial palaces: Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palace. In fact, this post will answer your questions about Hofburg Palace and map out the entire palace compound.

First and foremost, the Wiener Hofburg is as vast as it is old. For more than 600 years, the Habsburg Emperors ruled at the Imperial Palace. Today, Hofburg spreads across more than 30 buildings, 2,600 rooms, and squares, equalling 34 soccer fields in size! Don’t panic, though. Instead, cover off those things that appeal to you: medieval, renaissance and baroque, art, and social places and events. To facilitate your sightseeing access my Imperial Palace Map below. 

When Was Hofburg Imperial Palace Built?

Hofburg in Wien: rooftop detailImperial Palace Vienna. Surprisingly for many, Hofburg’s oldest part, the Alte Burg, dates back to the 13th century and King Ottokar Przemysl. Just after the original building was finished the Habsburgs started to reign (1278). From 1452, the Habsburgs officially reigned as the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. But why does the Alte Burg not look that old?

As a matter of fact, after defeating the Ottomans (1683) the Habsburgs gave the dull, fortress-like façade of the old castle a baroque makeover. Since then, millions of visitors have enjoyed views of graceful sculptures, ionic pilasters, stucco flowers and a power-demonstrating golden crown and escutcheon.

Imperial Palace Vienna: Swiss Gate (Schweizer Tor)On the courtyard’s Eastern side you will find the Swiss Gate (Schweizertor), Swiss Wing and Chapel of the Court Music Band. They date from the 13th to 16th century and look like the perfect modules of Medieval and Renaissance castles. Why ‘Swiss’ Gate? That attribute comes from the Swiss Guard, who protected the Hofburg under Empress Maria Theresia.

On the photo, you can see the Schweizertor’s ornaments and escutcheon from the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Habsburg Lion in front. If you like to hear the Vienna Boys Choir do attend the Sunday morning service at the Chapel. This is a traditional and inexpensive way to experience the choir boys live.

How To Tour Hofburg Palace

Hofburg's Inner courtyardImperial Palace Vienna. Can’t get enough of Schönbrunn Palace and Imperial glamour? In fact, touring the Imperial Apartments and the Sissi Museum allow for another dive into life at the Habsburg Court.

As for the individuals, Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Sissi take centre stage during these tours. While not being a big fan of the Sissy myth, I loved the Sissi museum even more. Most importantly, it demystified the persona and life of the Empress through showing the individual behind. Clearly, if you visit together with any romantic women and girls at your side, you will utterly enjoy the Sissi museum.

In case you are into glitz and jewelry, don’t miss the Silverware Collection and the Imperial Treasury for an update on Habsburg tableware and gems. In particular, the Milan Centrepiece and the Old French Centrepiece unfold several meters of lush golden chandeliers, angel figurines, and flower and fruit bowls. Other highlights include the finely etched glass collection of Lobmeyr, and the azure-blue English Minton dessert service. 

Hours of Guided Tours

Every day at 2.00 pm, you can participate in a guided one-hour-tour through the Sissi Museum and Imperial Apartments. As for tour fees, adults pay EUR 18 per tour ticket.

Opening Hours

Conveniently, the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum and the Silver Collection are open daily, 365 days a year. From September to June you can visit between 9.00 am and 5.30 pm. During July and August you can get in between 9.00 am and 6.00 pm. Your last chance to enter is one hour before closure.

Is Hofburg Palace Free?

Imperial Palace Vienna: Michaeler GateActually, not quite, unless you choose to just stroll across the courtyards outside. As of 2019, the entrance fee for the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum and the Silver Collection is EUR 15,00  inc. audio guide for adults (EUR 18,00 with guide), and EUR 9,00 for children aged 6 to 18 years inc. audio guide, (EUR 10,50 with guide).

To avoid queuing for tickets, consider covering the Hofburg tickets with a VIENNA PASS.

Vienna Unwrapped symbolMy tips: Whether you listen to an audio guide or real tour guide about life at the Imperial Court you will learn much about the Viennese: including utmost respect for authorities and rules, a love for titles and for ballroom dancing.

Hofburg For Fans of Renaissance and Baroque Architecture

Imperial Palace Vienna: Leopoldinian WingSince it blends Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles the Imperial Palace is a delicacy for historic architecture fans. Just take the Leopoldinian Wing as an example, which connects Alte Burg with Amalienburg. Its simple cream façade with brown window frames represents the essence of Viennese architecture. If you look closely, you can see the window decorations of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

In contrast, the Reichskanzleitrakt (Imperial Chancery wing) opposite Amalienburg tells a different story. From top to bottom, Herculean baroque sculptures, thrombone blowing angels, ionic pilasters and a bombastic golden crown powerfully demonstrate Habsburg’s former glory.

What regularly fascinates me at Hofburg is the layout of the Vienna Court Chapel beyond the Swiss Gate: About three times as tall as it’s wide the rather intimate space opens up an enormous Gothic vault. As you look upwards you get caught by the most elaborate ‘swallow’s nest’ of baroque oratories and balconies spread across three levels. If you are lucky you can experience the Vienna Boys Choir at a Sunday Mass there, early booking recommended.

Imperial Palace Vienna: State Hall, Austrian National LibraryProbably the most visited part of the Hofburg is the Austrian National Library, a key piece of European baroque architecture. As a matter of fact, the main library hall is rated the most beautiful in the world. It is so uplifting to do your research there!

Among other things, you will find the legendary library of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Just next to marble sculptures and mighty columns those books rest on gold-plated wooden shelves under a sumptuous baroque fresco.

Imperial Palace Vienna: Lipizzaner StallionsEqually important, the Hofburg’s other baroque gem is the Spanish Riding School. In its vast baroque winter riding hall, the world famous Lipizzaner stallions dance under sparkling chandeliers, baroque stucco and an arcade of columns. You can also learn about their training habits during a guided tour through the stables.

Forming part of the Inner Courtyard, the Amalienburg boasts a Renaissance façade covering updated interiors. In the 19th century, Empress Sissi and Francis Joseph introduced rococo and classicistic styles when they lived there. While you can visit a few rooms the Office of the Austrian Federal Chancellery and some Ministries occupies the majority of the space today.

Vienna Unwrapped symbolMy tip: To discover the Imperial Palace and other key attractions in depth, the VIENNA PASS city card can save you money. It covers entrance fees for the Imperial Apartments, Sissi Museum, Silver Collection, Imperial Treasury and Imperial Burial Vault.

Imperial Palace For Art Fans

Imperial Palace Vienna: WeltmuseumImperial Palace Vienna. Actually, Vienna’s finest artwork lodges in five magnificent buildings that are part of the Hofburg. The Neue Burg, an imposing 19th-century neo classicistic crescent on Heldenplatz square, houses the Museum of Ethnography. Don’t miss the 20 large sculptures on the lower level: They personify Austria’s colourful history, from a Marcomanni, Roman legionnaire and Franconian Count to a medieval crusader, a Viennese citizen during the Siege of the Turks to a Tyrolean freedom fighter from the 19th century.

If you like classcial music, consider visiting the Collection of Antique Musical Instruments at Neue Burg. Significantly, that is the THE collection of renaissance musical instruments in the world. By the way, you will also find Anton Karas’ zither there, which he used to play in the legendary film The Third Man.

Just opposite Ringstrasse boulevard, even the Vienna Art Museum (aka Kunsthistorisches Museum) and the Museum of Natural History technically belong to the Hofburg complex. If you have time, go for them since they house the most important art and natural history collections of Vienna.

Imperial Palace Vienna: MuseumsquartierTo experience the contrast of old and new, visit the baroque Imperial Stables right next, a huge complex which houses various museums and art collections of Museumsquartier, for example the Leopold Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK).

Behind the Neue Burg, you will find the Burggarten and Palmenhaus. Behind the Palmenhaus is the Albertina. The museum is one of my favourites because of its exquisite and colourful classicistic interiors, its graphic collection and great temporary exhibitions.

Socialising At The Imperial Palace Vienna

Attending a Ball At Hofburg

Imperial Palace Vienna: rooftop hallImperial Palace Vienna. No tour through Hofburg can beat the experience of a local ball. Each year, the Redouten Ballrooms and the Spanish Riding School stage some of the best Vienna balls. Among them are as the Rudolfina Redoute, the Ball of the Legal Professionals (Juristenball), the Hofburg Ball of Viennese Business, and the New Year’s Eve Ball (Hofburg Silvesterball). This photo shows the modern rooftop foyer housing a huge globe used as a secret conference room. The Habsburgs traditionally used those locations for their own festive balls and equestrian caroussels and ballets. The other great thing about those balls: apart from Hofburg Silvesterball they are hugely popular with the locals.

Picnic, Drinks And Music In Burggarten and Palmenhaus

Imperial Palace Vienna: PalmenhausImperial Palace Vienna. Come summer and the grass of shady Burggarten is scattered with groups of chatty friends, flirting couples and urban nature geeks. Burggarten is a rare and delightful picnic place in the city centre. The adjacent Palmenhaus, the former Imperial orangerie, is best for coffee, drinks, hanging out in a deck chair in the garden bar, and for listening to occasional live DJ music.

Socialising At Volksgarten

Imperial Palace Vienna. In addition to Burggarten, Volksgarten is another Hofburg garden, just opposite the Neue Burg and Heldenplatz. Many local ladies love it for its roses, while the urban crowd flocks to legendary Volksgarten Pavillon for drinks, barbecues and techno sounds. Highly recommended for fans of 50ies retro chic.

Imperial Palace Vienna Map

Imperial Palace Vienna map

Hotels Near Hofburg In Vienna

Thanks to Hofburg’s dimensions, it is easy to find a hotel or Bed and Breakfast nearby. There are around two dozen hotels at a distance of just 0.3 miles from the Palace. Here a a few tips of hotels and B and B’s close to Hofburg.

explore Schonbrunn Palace – History, Tours, Facts and Secrets

if you have an extra half day, visit Hermesvilla, Empress Sissi’s little known hideaway palace
find out about the best Vienna Tours – 5 Ways To See Tourist Places In Vienna
go to Vienna Travel Planning – Trip Planning And Travel Consulting by Vienna Unwrapped

back to Vienna Sightseeing Top 10, And Four Extra Tips
get more ideas of What To Do In Vienna
back to Vienna Unwrapped homepage

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