Schönbrunn Palace was the summer residence of the Habsburg Monarchy and royal family for over 300 years. The present day palace has been a state-owned museum since the 1950s and is Vienna’s top tourist attraction with 3.8 million visitors in 2017. The idea of shuffling along through room after room with a palace tour on a hot summer day was not the way we wanted to start our first full day of three weeks in Europe.
Hanging out in Schönbrunn Gardens seemed like the better idea. The gardens are open to the public from 6:30am to 9:00pm May 7 to Aug 12. Gardens open at 6:30am year round, while evening hours are reduced outside of the main spring and summer months.
The palace design seen today was primarily built in the mid-1700s during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. This is also the period when the extensive gardens were designed.
The palace is impressive in size and the large open parade courtyard in front of the palace is one where you can imagine a procession of carriages arriving through the gates and riding up past the fountains to the front doors.
Our first impression at Schonbrunn was a line of tour buses dropping off tourists by the hundreds in the parking lot across the street.
We headed around the back to find the gardens, all the while admiring the detail found in nearly every aspect of design.
The temperature was hot at about 30C/86F and the sun bright. Kelley did not want to walk the steps up to the Palace balcony. I wanted to admire the garden symmetry.
The centerpiece of Schönbrunn Gardens is Neptune Fountain with the Gloriette backdrop constructed in the 1770s by court architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg.
Garden paths were relatively free from visitors away from the crowds around Neptune Fountain and the Gloriette and the main wide carriage paths.
A palace tour costs 14.20eur for a 40-minute 22 room tour and 17.50eur for a 40 room 50-min tour. There are additional ticket options for more extensive tours. There are 1,441 rooms in the palace, so you are visiting just some of the highlights of this palace museum.
Schönbrunn Palace is accessible via U-bahn from city center train stations. A tourist with limited time in the city may choose to remain in the Innere Stadt, but head out to Schönbrunn when the weather is dry and sunny in summer and there are free admission fantastic gardens to walk around for a taste of Viennese royal surroundings open to the public.