Originally constructed in 1696 as a hunting lodge, Schonbrunn Palace later became the official Hapsburg summer residence. Under the supervision of Maria Theresa (the only female Hapsburg ruler), Schonbrunn evolved into an expansive paradise with ornate rooms and vast elaborate gardens comparable to King Louis XIV of France’s palace at Versailles. A tour will lead you through apartments belonging to Maria Theresa as well as Emperor Franz Joseph, his wife Elisabeth, and Archduke Franz Karl. Other highlights include the Blue Staircase, the Mirror Room and the Hall of Ceremonies. Also plan to spend at least an hour in the gardens, which are connected by shaded promenades that extend diagonally from the Gloriette, a stunning Roman-style arch overlooking a vast pool. Located within the grounds is Tiergarten, the oldest zoo in the world.
Travelers say the grounds are beautiful, the tour is insightful and the zoo is entertaining for the whole family, but many warn about how crowded this attraction gets. Many suggest visiting first thing in the morning to avoid the congested atmosphere.
Occupying a large portion of Hietzing (13th District) southwest of the Innere Stadt, Schonbrunn Palace is open daily at 8:30 a.m. (closing times vary depending on the season). Admission ranges from around 14 to 20 euros (about $16 to $23) for adults and about 10 to 12 euros ($11 to $14) for children, depending on what type of tour you select and whether you’ll be using a guide. You’ll have to pay a few euros extra to explore certain areas of the gardens. For more information, visit the palace’s website.