Garden walks are free at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna’s top tourist destination

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 Schönbrunn Palace website has extensive details of the palace history, gardens and Hapsburg Monarchy.

Schonbrunn Palace front courtyard

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.

Schonbrunn Palace gardens and the Gloriette on the hill.

Schönbrunn Palace

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.

Schoenbrunn Parade Court

The eastern fountain in the Palace Parade Court represents the lands of Galicia and Lodomeria (present day southeastern Poland and western Ukraine) and Transylvania (Romania) acquired by the Habsburg Monarchy in 1772 with the partition of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.

We headed around the back to find the gardens, all the while admiring the detail found in nearly every aspect of design.


Schonbrunn Palace rear

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.

Neptune Fountain and the Gloriette on the hill.

Schonbrunn garden symmetry

Obelisk Fountain

Neptune Fountain

The centerpiece of Schönbrunn Gardens is Neptune Fountain with the Gloriette backdrop constructed in the 1770s by court architect Johann Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg.

Neptune Fountain – Schönbrunn Gardens

Neptune Fountain – Schönbrunn Gardens

Neptune Fountain – Schönbrunn Gardens

Neptune Fountain – Schönbrunn Gardens

Schönbrunn Gardens view of palace.

Garden paths were relatively free from visitors away from the crowds around Neptune Fountain and the Gloriette and the main wide carriage paths.

Roman Ruin – part of 1770s garden design

Schönbrunn Gardens paths leading off the main paths are a way to feel the palace grounds are all to yourself.

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.


About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. My wife and I visited the Schonbrunn palace in early December of 2013 and there was a Christmas market in the front courtyard. I have always been interested in the the historical background to World War I and thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the home of the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Josef. Unfortunately, we missed the palace gardens in their summer splendor. Thanks for the pictures.

  2. Take the U4 subway. The easiest way to just go to the gardens is to take the U4 subway to the stop Hietzing – this is the stops after the one named Schoenbrunn.

    Coming up to ground level you can see the trees lining the palace’s park. Walk around the right corner onto Hietzinger Hauptstrasse. The entrance to the gardens is opposite the ParkHotel Schoenbrunn (I believe just past the chocolate shop).

    This gets you into the gardens with far less walking, and puts you immediately near the Palm House ({Palmenhaus), the Botanical Gardens, and the Zoo, three highpoints of the Gardens.

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