Vienna, Austria



Sights in Vienna

The Hofburg

The Hofburg- The Hofburg was the winter residence of the Habsburg Emperors from 1278 until 1918.  Today, it is not just one sight, but rather a series of buildings and squares that contain many of the top sights in Vienna.  Easily a full day can be spent at the Hofburg.  Below is a description of the important sights located in the Hofburg. 


Starting on the main ring road of Vienna, enter the Hofburg through Heroes Gate passing the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  To your right is the New Burg which houses the Archeology and Ethnology Museums.  Opposite the New Burg is the large Heroes Square.  This large park like square has several statues celebrating Austria's heroes.  Also, on the square is the office of the Austrian President.

Continuing through the next gate you enter the inner courtyard.  Here you find a statue of the Emperor Franz, who proclaimed the Austrian Empire in 1804.  In this courtyard is the entrance to the royal apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph and his Bavarian wife, Elisabeth (Sisi).  This very famous couple is well known amongst travelers from around the world and you will see images of Sisi (and her long hair) in many shops around the city.


With your back to the statue of Emperor Franz you pass through an arched opening and enter the Swiss Courtyard.  This is the core of the complex and here you will find the Treasury, which contains the countries beloved jewels including the Imperial Crown and Cross that date back to 950.  Also in the courtyard is the Hofburg Chapel which is where the famous Viennese Boys' Choir performs each Sunday morning, except in July and August.  Advanced reservations are necessary.


Continuing through this courtyard you come to Joseph's Square where you will find the impressive National Library.  The State Hall of the Library is about 230 feet long, 40 feet wide and 60 feet high and was built in the early 1700s.  The beautiful frescos on the ceiling and dome are quite impressive.  The library houses about 200,000 books printed between 1501 and 1850.  Also on Joseph's Square is the entrance to the Spanish Riding School.  You can easily get tickets to the morning training sessions, but you will not see the classical art of riding during these sessions.  For a full performance it is mandatory to get tickets well in advance.


Opposite the library entrance and to the left you exit this square and pass the Lipizzaner Museum and come to St. Michael's Square.  To your left is St. Michael's Wing which was added to the complex in the 1890s.  Going through the main entrance would bring you back to the inner courtyard.  In the center of the square are ruins from the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  These ruins were discovered in the 1990s and are lit up at night.


Behind the New Burg (mentioned above) is the Burggarten.  This large garden is well established as a beautiful retreat from the city traffic.  Here you will find the Mozart Memorial.  Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27th, 1756.  His birth name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.  His father, Leopold Mozart, also a musician, taught him how to play the organ and the violin.  By the time he was five years old, Amadeus had already written his first composition!

A year later, in 1762, Mozart traveled to Vienna to play for Empress Maria Theresa in the beautiful hall of mirrors at Schönbrunn Palace.  After the concert, he jumped into the Empress’ lap and hugged and kissed her.  Overnight the child prodigy became the talk of Vienna and his famous reputation only grew from there.  A charming painting at Schönbrunn Palace portrays his enthusiastic kiss. 

At the age of 35, Mozart became ill with a fever and died December 5th, 1791.  He was in the process of writing the "Requiem."  In his short 35 years, he composed an amazing 626 works.


Starting again on the main ring street, just across from the Heroes Gate is the Hofburg Museum Complex.  This is the main museum area of Vienna.  Between the two large buildings is one of the most important monuments in the city, that of Maria Theresia.  Maria Theresia is one of the most popular historic people from the Habsburg Empire.  The empire was at its largest size when she took the throne in 1740, which meant a lot of enemies.  Having bore 16 children she was a very motherly ruler.  She introduced mandatory schooling and abolished torture.  She also practiced the concept of marrying her children into other empires as a way of keeping peace.  One of her daughters, Marie Antoinette, became the queen of France. 


On either side of Maria Theresia's Monument are Art History and National History Museums.  The Art History or Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the world's five largest art galleries.  Further beyond this are the former royal stables which have been converted to more museums including the Museum of Modern Art (European modern art), the Kunsthalle (international modern art), the Leopold Museum (Egon Schiele and other Austrian painters) and several smaller museums.

Please visit our pages about Other Top Sights of Vienna, a Ringstrasse Tour and Schönbrunn Palace.

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