Main tourist attraction in Vienna
Oh, what a lovely well!” Kaiser Matthias is reputed to have exclaimed upon discovering a spring as he was hunting in 1619. The spring became a fountain, the hunting ground a park, and the hunting lodge the royal summer residence Schönbrunn Palace.
“Little Wolfgang jumped onto the Empress’s lap, and hugged and kissed her.”
Schönbrunn Palace was not only a political but also a cultural centre of the Habsburg empire. On 13th October 1762 the ambitious Leopold Mozart arranged for his children Wolfgang and Anna Maria to give a recital at the palace, to make his two “wunderkinder” known. The visit was a complete success.
The genesis of Schönbrunn Palace
It was Empress Maria Theresia who in 1743 had the idea of expanding the hunting lodge into a palatial residence for the summer months, and that it would remain until the end of the monarchy: for 150 years the Habsburgs lived here with their retinue of several hundred people. And there was certainly space: the 183-metre-long palace has 1,441 rooms, the park an area of 160 hectares, and the zoo 16 hectares. Schönbrunn Zoo, opened in 1752, is the world’s oldest. Still a very popular destination today, the zoo was a veritable trendsetter in the 19th century: when the Viceroy of Egypt gave Emperor Franz II a giraffe as a gift, the people of Vienna were abuzz with excitement: even the fine ladies of the city coiffured and clothed themselves “à la Giraffe”. Nowadays things are a little different: the fashion-conscious look to Paris for inspiration, while visitors to the zoo observe the lions from inside the old lion enclosures.
But back to the Schönbrunn Palace: imagine someone today wanting to paint it another colour – what a scandal! The UNESCO-protected “Schönbrunn yellow”! And yet the palace has been through a few coats of paint in its time: restoration work has uncovered that it was once blue, and, right back in the early days, pink! Believe it or not, the palace is still inhabited today, and not only by the ghosts of the aristocracy. As well as the Emperor’s private rooms there are also private apartments for “common” people. Nevertheless the greater part of Schönbrunn Palace is a museum, serving to make the immense splendour, once reserved for the privileged few, accessible to all.
Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig