About Schönbrunn Palace
Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn) in Vienna was in the possession of the Habsburg Dynasty from the sixteenth century to 1918, when it passed into the hands of the Austrian Republic. Originally known as Katterburg, it was renamed as Schönbrunn in approximately 1642.
History of Schönbrunn Palace
The land on which Schönbrunn Palace sits was purchased by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II in 1569 and used as a hunting lodge and recreational venue before the buildings were destroyed as part of the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683.
Reconstruction of Schönbrunn Palace began in 1696 under the orders of Emperor Leopold I and designed by architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach in a Baroque style. At this time, Schönbrunn Palace was intended to be a hunting lodge rather than a residence and thus it remained until Emperor Charles VI, who had acquired the palace in 1728, gifted it to his daughter, Maria Theresa.
Maria Theresa transformed Schönbrunn, both in terms of architecture and the palace’s stature. She spearheaded the renovation and extension of Schönbrunn, turning it into a palatial residence designed by architect Nikolaus Pacassi and made it a focal point of Austrian political and social life. Maria Theresa’s death in 1780 marked a further period of neglect of Schönbrunn Palace, which was occupied twice by Napoleon in 1805 and 1809.
Schönbrunn Palace did undergo some renovation during the 19th century, including the removal of much of its Rococo façade and the repainting of its exterior to a colour known as “Schönbrunn Yellow”.
Schönbrunn Palace today
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Schönbrunn Palace and its magnificent gardens are one of the most popular historic tourist destinations in Vienna and visitors can avail themselves of various themed guided tours or make use of free audio guides.
The palace is a popular destination and gets very busy: book tickets online in advance, or expect to wait an hour or so for a tour departure time if you buy them on the day – you can still visit the gardens during this time, and in fact they’re free year round so it’s worth visiting for them alone!
Getting to Schönbrunn Palace
The palace is on the western edge of Vienna – get the U-bahn to the Schönbrunn or Hietzing stop. Trams 10, 49, 52 and 60 also stop outside at the Schloss Schönbrunn stop. It’s a good hour and a half’s walk from the centre of the city, so not an undertaking for the faint-hearted.