Former Imperial residence, today seat of the Federal President
If you look at the Hofburg Palace today, the former residence of the Habsburg emperors, you don’t really think: “Where is the rest of it?” But that’s just what Kaiser Franz Joseph apparently thought. He wanted to unify the unrepresentative and patchwork collection of buildings from 700 years into a great “Kaiserforum”. What we see today is just the torso of his grand concept: the south-east wing of the so-called “Neue Burg” (New Castle), today home to the Austrian National Library, is missing its mirror-image counterpart in front of the Burggarten, and the planned triumphal arches leading to the great museums are also absent.
“The Hofburg is not a particularly stately building, and rather cramped for such a powerful potentate.” The topographer Mathäus Merian in 1649 on the modest imperial castle. It would be another 200 years before Kaiser Franz Joseph tried to alter this impression.
Neither the power nor the wealth was available at the beginning of the 20th century to realise such an ambitious project. The Habsburg empire was in decline. After the murder of his wife Elisabeth Franz Joseph lost interest in the expansion, and passed the responsibility on to Franz Ferdinand. But in 1914 he too was murdered. The rest is history.
From the 13th century
onwards the Hofburg was the residence of the Habsburgs in Vienna and thus the political centre of an influential empire. Today it’s not that much different from imperial times: where once the monarchs held their audiences and formulated their laws the president and the secretaries of state of the Austrian republic now reside
And in other ways as well there’s still a lot happening in the former residence of the emperors
Students study in the beautiful rooms of the National Library, scientists meet at congresses, and those who love to dance turn in waltz-time in the magnificent halls. Visitors too can take a trip back in time to the world of the Habsburgs to marvel at their luxurious household in the Silberkammer, hear the Sängerknaben (The Vienna Boys’ Choir) at one of the Sunday concerts in the Hofburgkapelle (Hofburg Chapel), or to experience the private world of the royal couple Sisi and Franz Joseph in the Sisimuseum and the Kaiserappartments (Imperial Apartments).
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig