The Hofburg Palace, a journey into Imperial Austria's past

When you think of Vienna, the famous Habsburg family immediately springs to mind, with world-famous figures such as Sissi the Empress. To understand the history of Austria, and also its romanticism, you need to retrace the steps of this glorious past. There's nothing like a visit to the Hofburg, or Imperial Palace, where the Habsburg family lived for over 600 years. Today, one wing of the former royal residence houses the headquarters of the Austrian Federal Presidency, while another houses the national library. However, the historic complex still houses the imperial flats and official rooms, which can still be visited. It's the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in imperial Austria and walk on the ground once frequented by royalty. But that's not all: the palace is also home to a prestigious institution: the Spanish Riding School. Founded in the 16th century under the Austrian Empire, it is the oldest riding school still in operation! The riding arena, used for training and galas, and the architecture of the building fascinate visitors as much as the dressage work on display.

The Hofburg, the former imperial residence.

- © ecstk22 / Shutterstock
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In the footsteps of Sissi the Empress...

For many years,this architectural complex was the home of Austrian royalty, particularly the Habsburg dynasty. It now houses the Federal Presidency of the Republic of Austria. Located in the heart of Vienna's historic centre, it is one of the most visited places in the city. It houses the museum dedicated to Sissi the Empress and the Imperial Apartments.

Le célèbre palais Hofburg.

- © Maykova Galina / Shutterstock

The living rooms of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife, Empress Elisabeth, nicknamed Sissi, are accessible after climbing the imposing grand staircase. Each room, furnished according to the plans of the time, shows their authentic living environment. The tour continues at the Sissi Museum, an exhibition devoted entirely to the personality of the sovereign, who was tragically assassinated in 1898.

Nearly 300 objects that once belonged to Sissi are on display, testifying to the great importance the empress attached to her looks: luxurious clothes, gloves and fans, as well as beauty recipes are all on show.

The Imperial Apartments in the Hofburg Palace.

- © marcobrivio.photography / Shutterstock

The ticket also includes a visit to the Court's silver collection, which dates back to the 15th century and features a variety of everyday objects and handcrafted items: silver, porcelain and crystal dinner services, as well as one-metre square napkins with complex folding techniques that are still kept secret to this day. Also on display is a duck press invented by the Maison Christophe in Paris, designed to squeeze the meat juice that the Empress ate.

Attend a training session at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna

The history of the school

The term " Spanish" may seem surprising in the heart of Austria. It is due to the origin of the Lipizzaner horses for which the school is famous. Nowadays, these horses, characterised by their light grey coats, come from the Piber stud farm in the west of Austria.

Horse-drawn carriages outside Vienna's historic Spanish riding school.

- © makasana photo / Shutterstock

The dressage methods used by the school have been in use since the 18th century. Originally, they were used to train horses to build muscle mass and prepare them for combat. Over time, this training has served as the basis for modern dressage.

Even today, dressage traditions have been preserved. The stallions arrive at the school at the age of four and stay there until they are 10, to perfect their skills in the various figures required.

A horse from the Spanish Riding School.

- © Igor Tichonow / Shutterstock

For a long time, performances were reserved exclusively for guests of the Austrian Imperial Court. In fact, the establishment was only opened to the public in 1918, in order to finance its existence. You can now attend the morning training session, which gives you an idea of the special training methods used by the Royal Cavalry.

How the training works

The show takes place in several stages: the stallions that have recently arrived at the school are first trained in basic movements. Two methods are shown: the 'Remontenschule', which teaches the horse to walk straight and respond to the rider's commands, and the 'Campagneschule', which consists of increasing the stride of each step and making lateral movements.

In a second phase, the more experienced horses perform more complex movements, such as the pirouette (the animal turns on itself), or the piaffe (trotting on the spot).

The highlight of the show comes at the end: eight riders simultaneously perform some particularly complex figures, such as the "levade", or rearing the horse. This highly technical part of the show lasts around 20 minutes.

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Practical information for the Hofburg Palace

🚌 How do I get to the Hofburg Palace?

  • Underground: take lines U1 or U3 and stop at "Stephansplatz".
  • Tram: lines 1, 2, 71, D or U2Z stop at "Burgring" station.

👛 Hofburg Palace prices

Combined ticket for the Imperial Apartments and the Sissi Museum:

  • Full price: €17.5
  • Under 18s: €11
  • Under 6s: free
  • Vienna City Card: €16.5

Click here to book your ticket online!

Spanish Riding School:

The introductory price to attend a training session is €16, but prices vary depending on the show and the seat chosen. Click here to find out more and book your place!

⏰ Hofburg Palace opening times

Imperial Apartments:

  • September to June: 10am - 5.30pm
  • July to August: 10am - 6pm

Sissi Museum :

  • daily from 9.30am to 5pm

The Spanish Riding School :

  • daily from 9am to 4pm

Find all the information on the website.

👨‍🦽 Accessibility

Parking spaces are available in the courtyard and toilets are reserved for people with reduced mobility.

by Faustine PEREZ
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