There are very few places in Europe that reflect such a wealth of a monarchy like Schönbrunn castle. It’s competition would probably only be Versailles in France. I’ve visited both and they are equally majestic, lavish and way too huge for a single royal family.
As we walked up to the castle it started raining. We got the tickets for the full tour inside the main building and all other attractions on the site ( called the Grand Tour, EUR 16,40 ). We thought we’ll probably only visit this place once in a lifetime so we decided to make the best out of it. Neither one of us expected such an enormous palace, especially Thane who was still baffled by Vienna’s extravagant architecture since the previous day.
We got to see 40 lavishly decorated rooms from the royal era and learn about the history. Originally this land was used as hunting grounds and had a much smaller summer residence for the royal Habsburg family. It covers an area of 500 acres in total. Then at one point the ‘modest’ summer house got ridiculously enlarged during the reign of Maria Theresa. The lavishness expanded to a house with 1441 rooms!
There are several landmarks built during the reign of Maria Theresa to commemorate her and Joseph II love and their reign such as the obelisk and beautiful Gloriette building on top of which on gets the best perspective of Schoenbrunn and Vienna itself. The royal pair had 16 children out of which 10 survived into adulthood. We calculated she must have been pregnant for about 25 years. Well, in those days, there was no electricity and no smartphones so I guess they had some time to kill. For those who do not know, Maria Antoinette, the future queen of France who would end up headless during the French revolution, was her daughter among many other Marias.
There is more to see that one could imagine at first and it took our whole morning to see the highlights included in our ticket. The tour of the rooms was spectacular as well as the stories that went with it. Then we walked some of the gardens that are normally closed to the public, saw the Roman ruin, Neptune’s fountain and ridiculously decorated obelisk, Gloriette building with a roof view of Vienna and a very confusing maze.
The rest of the grounds is public and we saw people jogging around without minding the tourists. There is a zoo as well, the oldest one in Europe and a public pool. If you ever pass by Vienna and decide to see Schönbrunn, I’d suggest roam the rooms of the palace, walk through the free part of the park and admire the Gloriette from outside. It is more affordable and you get a similar experience. Some of the garden areas were less interesting and the least one being the maze where the consoling prize is that you’ve found your way to a tree in the middle.
With Schönbrunn we left Vienna and headed to Sicily!