Classified as world cultural heritage by Unesco, Schönbrunn, which means "beautiful fountain", was a baroque-style hunting lodge built in the 17th century, and is a major attraction in Vienna. The old hunting territory, of 0.8 square miles, today a park, is besides a large natural protected reserve of 10 square miles. Transformed into a summer residence a century later, it became the castle as now known in the world, with its "imperial yellow" facade. Its 40 rooms bear witness to the splendour of this past, with the Chinese cabinet on an ebony parquet floor, the porcelain room (actually painted wood, apart from the candle-holder and the chandelier), and decorations in rosewood from South America, without forgetting the great gallery, 148 feet long and 40 feet wide lit by more than a thousand candles. The famous Viennese balls continued to take place until recently, but have been interrupted so as not to damage the period paintings on the roof. The "Adjuvants' room", reconstructed in 2004, shows traditional Hungarian costumes, with grey-feathered hats and red jackets, in memory of the privileged status of this country during the imperial times.
An interactive museum in the eastern wing invites children to delve into the old way of daily life, through role-playing games. In the old park for vehicles, the Coach Museum, which contains 90 imperial vehicles, completes the visit. Do not miss the "Milanese carriage" used for the crowning of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth, together with Elizabeth's hearse, pulled by eight black horses at her funeral. There are also carriages for children, snow sleighs and, on the first floor, sketches of cars and paintings of the Empress's horses.
In the extension of the French-style princely garden, the visitor can discover two mazes (the Classical one and the New one), and the zoological garden, one of the oldest zoological gardens in the world, with more than 300 species. If you have the energy, you could take the staircase or winding path of the hill leading to La Gloriette, a triple triumphal arch. The twenty minute walk is rewarded by a broad panorama of the site and the city. The pavilion, which became a restaurant, displays magnificent decorations on the theme of hunting.
Schönbrunn Palace is a major attraction in Vienna© SKB / BILDAGENTUR ZOLLES KG / Christian Hofer
The old hunting estate, which covers an area of almost 500 acres, is now a park, and is located next to a nature reserve that stretches over 6,000 acres.© Wajan / 123RF
The palace's 40 rooms, the Chinese salon with its ebony parquet, and the porcelain room hint at the splendour of its past.© Aleksandr Ugorenkov / 123RF
The long, princely formal garden contains two mazes (the Classic maze and the New maze), as well as a zoological garden.© SKB / Alexander Eugen Koller
Vienna's famous balls continued to take place here until recently, but have now been moved elsewhere to avoid damaging the period paintings on the ceiling.© S. Borisov / 123RF