Explore this grand former imperial home, with galleries, museums and even live horse-riding performances.
The Hofburg Imperial Palace, the vast winter residence of the Habsburg Emperors has 18 residential wings, 2,600 rooms, two museums, an Imperial Library, a riding school, theatre and even a treasury. This is a location with something for everyone, and much more besides.
A fort was first built on this site 1275. Since then it's grown to be the seat of power for a duchy, a nation, an empire and a republic. Along the way each duke, king and emperor has added their own piece to the Hofburg Palace jigsaw puzzle, making it a truly unique construction.
The best place to start exploring this jumble is at the ornate entrance gateway on the Michaelerplatz. This leads you into the Imperial Apartments, which house two of the most popular parts of the Palace – the Silver Collection and the Sisi Museum. 'Sisi' was the nickname for Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who lived in these apartments in the 19th century until she was assassinated.
The Imperial Apartments themselves are huge, built to impress visiting dignitaries to the very heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On display is much of the emperor's lavish wealth, with endless rows of intricately worked gold and silverware, used for imperial banquets. Next door is the Treasury Museum, which houses an incredible collection of royal crowns, gowns and sceptres. Closely guarded here are the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire and Austria, as well as two legendary items – a unicorn's horn (which is in fact a narwhal tooth) and what is believed to be the Holy Grail.
For a musical interlude, head to the Imperial Chapel where the Vienna Boys’ Choir can be heard performing. To learn about the weapons used by Austrian soldiers and knights over the centuries, look for the collection of arms and armour. Or sit back and marvel at the precision horse-dancing on display at the Winter Riding School.
The Hofburg Imperial Palace is located in central Vienna. Parking is available nearby, but the best way of getting here is on public transport.