Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Schönbrunn Palace

When most Austrians want to build a hunting lodge, they generally build a small shack somewhere up in the mountains. If you're lucky, it will have a well where you can draw water, and some of them will even have a wood-burning stove. When an emperor decides to build a hunting lodge, he tends to go a little overboard. The Schönbrunn Palace is not your typical Austrian place to stay.

The trouble is with the the Schönbrunn Palace, no matter how nice your Austrian hotel is, it will look distinctly shabby after you visit this exhibition of magnificence. There is a reason this palace is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it is also Austria's top tourist destination.

It started off as a place for the holy Roman emperors to stay in the summer. In typical Imperial style, the holy Roman Emperor of the time, Maximilian II, booted off the previous owner and took over his mansion. He ordered a large section of the area fence, and he used it as a hunting area. Over the centuries, orangeries, gardens, and mazes were added to the palace grounds. No self-respecting Emperor would be without some sort of Roman decoration, and the Roman ruin was created in 1778.

When you choose to go there, as I am confident you will when you visit Vienna, join a tour to learn more about the palace. There are also concerts throughout the year featuring the music of Mozart and his contemporaries. It's open all year round usually between 8:30 AM and 5:30 PM, although it closes a little earlier in winter and stays open a little later in summer.

We found that spring was the best time to visit the gardens, as most of the flowers and trees were blooming at that time. The scent was absolutely incredible, although if you suffer from hay fever that might sound like torture. Try to get there early, as the crowd will build up towards the middle of the day, and take a look at its website before you visit to check what is going on. In addition, the latest pricing information will be on that site.

To get from your hotel to the palace, it's usually best to take the underground, so look for Schönbrunn Station. Alternatively, you can take bus 10A and ask for the Schönbrunn Palace. Trams also offer a good way to get there, and the 10 and 58 will drop you straight in front of the palace.