The Beautiful Sights and Experiences in Hofburg, Vienna

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When I was still brainstorming for a trip to Vienna, I thought that Schonbrunn Palace and the Imperial Palace, also known as Hofburg, would offer similar experiences. But after thoroughly exploring both places, I realize that they don’t. Both the Schonbrunn Palace and the Imperial Palace were once residences of the Habsburg Family, but they offer completely different experiences — amazing ones you’d love to have!

The Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence, is a place where, as a traveler, I can wander and take in the pleasant, picturesque views and behold magnificent halls. In contrast, the Imperial Palace, the winter residence, stands out as a place to discover new things and immerse oneself in Vienna’s rich culture and tradition. With all that I’ve discovered, I can recommend visiting Hofburg as much as I recommend Schonbrunn. They’re places where you can witness the beauty of Vienna.

A well-rounded visit to Vienna would only be complete once you’ve visited both. Allow me to show you how amazing Hofburg is!

While I’m making this point, it doesn’t mean your trip should be limited to these two palaces. You see, Vienna is packed with architectural wonders, little gems, wander-worthy streets (e.g., Ringstrasse), and viewpoints offering panoramic city views. It’s all about choosing what captures your interest the most.

Have you heard about another must-see palace in Vienna? It’s the Belvedere Palace, home to the famous artworks of Gustav Klimt. Don’t overlook the city’s museums either. They might just outshine the breathtaking beauty and fascinating finds in the city’s palaces. Believe it or not, they even look like museums set within palaces! Notable ones include the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Museum of Military History.

Summary: Worth Visiting or Not?

Palaces in countries like France, Spain, and Italy might strike one as more grandiose. Yet, Hofburg did not disappoint when it came to architectural splendor and the thrill of new discoveries. It met my expectations.

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Neue Burg, Imperial Treasury, Austrian National Library, Weltmuseum Wien — Beautiful things to discover inside Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Neue Burg, Imperial Treasury, Austrian National Library, Weltmuseum Wien — Beautiful things to discover inside Hofburg
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While Hofburg isn’t as big as Schönbrunn, it seems that almost every place in this palace has something to behold or fantasize about. From the facade of the Neue Burg to the dome of Saint Michael wing and to the crowns in the Royal Treasury, I was glad to be able to explore Hofburg. 

Like, if you will also be wandering outside, the most intriguing part of Hofburg you shouldn’t miss is the balcony of the Neue Burg. It was there that Adolf Hitler proclaimed the Annexation of Austria into the Nazi’s Regime. Interestingly, it is only the first of the many stories that you’re gonna unfold once you arrive in Hofburg.

Dating back to the 13th century, Hofburg is worth visiting for its undoubtedly rich history and unparalleled experience in getting a glimpse of the opulent lives of the Habsburg family. Come inside and you’ll learn about Princes Sisi, Franz Joseph I, Maria Theresa, Holy Roman Empire, and so much more. You can also experience the living tradition that spans over 400 years. Witness the fascinating exhibits that the Habsburgs have gathered from around the globe.

There’s so much to see that anyone who will visit might need to allocate half a day (3 to 4 hours) to see only the highlights of this place

Experiences & Attractions

Hofburg continues to function as a government office today, just as it did during the Habsburg rule. The Austrian president’s office is situated in the Leopoldine Wing of the palace.

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Hofburg’s stunning architecture, Vienna, Austria
Hofburg’s stunning architecture
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What’s interesting is that it also accommodates numerous organizations. Some of these provide travelers with a meaningful visit to Vienna. Some of Austria’s most prominent museums are also located within Hofburg. Among the attractions in Hofburg, there are seven that I believe are essential to see. I’ve listed them below, arranged from the most captivating to those that are still worth a visit.

#1 Imperial Treasury

If there’s one part of Hofburg that could fill everyone — not only wanderers — with wonder, it would be the Imperial Treasury. This is the place in Hofburg where you can see the priceless and most important treasures of the Habsburg Empire — absolutely magnificent items. These include both secular and religious ones, such as the Austrian imperial crown, the jewels from the Order of the Golden Fleece, the agate bowl, and allegedly one of the nails that pierced Jesus to the cross.

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Austrian Imperial Crown, jewels from the Order of the Golden Fleece, Unicorn Horn Scepter, Agate Bowl (Allegedly Holy Grail) — Imperial Treasury in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Austrian Imperial Crown, jewels from the Order of the Golden Fleece, Unicorn Horn Scepter, Agate Bowl (Allegedly Holy Grail) — Imperial Treasury
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What more is to expect + tips for your visit

Overall, the Imperial Treasury has 20 rooms filled with historical splendor, and as you visit each, it’ll surely feel like more than a privilege to see such important pieces of relics.

Another artifact that I believe you’d be fascinated to see when you visit the Imperial Treasury in Hofburg is the so-called ‘unicorn horn scepter.’ Contrary to the myth, it wasn’t made from a unicorn horn. In fact, the scepter was crafted from the tusks of a narwhal, which were considered rare and difficult to obtain during that time.

Precious robe of the emperor, another imperial crown, Charlemagne book, potence — more important treasures in the Imperial Treasury, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Precious robe of the emperor, another imperial crown, Charlemagne book, potence — more important treasures in the Imperial Treasury

If you want to visit the Imperial Treasury, it is situated in the Swiss Wing of Hofburg. Entry to the Imperial Treasury isn’t free, but it isn’t that expensive either. There’s a dedicated ticket to visit the Imperial Treasury.

But if you want to save money, you might like to try a combo ticket that includes the Kunsthistorisches Museum. This museum is another attraction in Vienna adjacent to Hofburg. I highly recommend it for ancient art lovers. If you have a Vienna Pass, you don’t have to worry about getting a separate ticket to the Imperial Treasury.

For practical information on visiting the Imperial Treasury, kindly check its official website in the resources section.

#2 Sisi Museum

Hofburg is also rich with intriguing stories, especially with the Sisi Museum housed in it. Sisi, or Empress Elisabeth, is one of the beloved figures in Austrian and Hungarian history, known for her free spirit and beauty. Just one glance at her painting in Hofburg makes it easy to understand why she’s the apple of so many people’s eyes.

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Portraits and statues of Empress Elisabeth inside Sisi Museum, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Portraits and statues of Empress Elisabeth inside Sisi Museum
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Insights about Empress Sisi + What to expect in the museum + tips for your visit

Id you’d ask me, I love Sisi for her love of travel, individuality, and independence! Sounds like my kind of dream wife. LOL. Anyhow, her free spirit often clashed with the expectations of court life, which made her life as royalty a bit challenging. You know, a free-spirited person doesn’t like so many rules, and formal court life has many.

Her life is very interesting, and overall, I think that her museum is a must-see during a visit to Hofburg. In the Sisi Museum, you will discover much about her life: from her dressing style to her travels to the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and beyond.

Interestingly, the tour of the museum begins with her tragic death. At the very beginning, you’ll see her death mask, which, I think, was put there to show that she was beautiful even in the last days of her life. As you go further into the exhibits, you’ll find items and films giving insights into the “historical myth of Sisi.” Yes, more intriguing stuff about Sisi!

The gown, letters, couch, and other things owned by Empress Elisabeth inside Sisi Museum, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
The gown, letters, couch, and other things owned by Empress Elisabeth inside Sisi Museum

Wondering where the Sisi Museum in Hofburg is? It’s located in the Stephan Apartments of the palace. It is recommended to book your Sisi Museum tickets in advance so you may save time and avoid long queues.

You don’t have to worry about buying tickets if you have a Vienna Pass. It covers admission to the Sisi Museum. I linked the official website of the Sisi Museum in the resources section for ticket information. Actually, it’s better if you join a tour when visiting the Sisi Museum. Not only will there be no waiting time, but most importantly, there’ll be a tour guide giving deeper insights into the life of this iconic empress.

#3 Hofburg Imperial Apartments

As you may now be aware, the Sisi Museum is housed in what were once the Imperial Apartments. This is why, when you visit Hofburg, you can see the Imperial Apartments located just beside the Sisi Museum. Since they are located in the same building, it makes perfect sense to include both in your plans of places to see in Hofburg during your trip.

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Different parts of the Imperial Apartments inside Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Different parts of the Imperial Apartments
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What to expect + tips

Actually, even if they were located apart, I believe that the Imperial Apartments should be on everyone’s itinerary when they visit Hofburg. They served as the residence and office of the imperial family for six centuries. By going inside each room, you’ll gain insight into the imperial lifestyle and everyday court life of the Habsburgs.

What could be particularly interesting, especially for wanderers like me, is that the Imperial Apartments were restored according to their historical models. The furniture and items inside the rooms, as well as the architecture, are preserved to their authentic appearance. Wandering inside the Imperial Apartments, it’s hard not to feel that you’re being transported back in time. The rooms are overflowing with opulence, evident from the golden baroque embellishments all over the place.

Beautiful interiors of the Imperial Apartments, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Beautiful interiors of the Imperial Apartments

My favorite part of the Imperial Apartments is the Berglroom, painted with trompe l’oeil landscape murals, depicting a tropical paradise. The artistry is amazing. If you are also visiting Schönbrunn Palace, you’ll see more rooms like this. Overall, there are 20 rooms you’ll be exploring, and the fun starts with the red carpeted Emperor’s Staircase, which is also the entryway to the Sisi Museum. 

The emperor's staircase (the entrance to Imperial Apartments and Sisi Museum) inside Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
The emperor’s staircase (the entrance to Imperial Apartments and Sisi Museum)

Entry to the Imperial Apartments is covered by the Day Ticket for the Sisi Museum, allowing you to explore the areas within 75 minutes with an audio guide. Admission to the Imperial Apartments is also covered by the Vienna Pass. You can learn more from the official website of Hofburg, linked in the resources section of this post. If you are traveling in a group, I recommend getting an exclusive tour of Hofburg, the Sisi Museum, and the Imperial Apartments for a more insightful visit.

#4 Spanish Riding School Vienna

If you are looking for a unique experience and a living tradition in Vienna, the Spanish Riding School is a must-see. This institution, housed in Hofburg, is dedicated to the preservation of classical dressage and the training of Lipizzaner horses. Dating back to 1572, it has been cultivating the art of the “haute école” or high school movements for an impressively long four centuries. In 2015, it was recognized as one of Vienna’s UNESCO intangible cultural heritages.

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Interiors of the Spanish Riding School in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Interiors of the Spanish Riding School
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What to expect + best way to experience

Today, the institution shares their passion with travelers by offering regular and special performances. However, the performance is like a slow dance of the horses — you can see them slowly galloping while making formations. Honestly, it could be boring for some people. It does not provide the same thrill and dopamine rush as watching an equestrian battle or play. 

Performance and tour of the Spanish Riding School in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Performance and tour of the Spanish Riding School

Nevertheless, their performance is nothing short of amazing, particularly to those who have a deep appreciation for training horses. The crowd can be seen clapping their hands in rhythm during the show. Joining in can make your time more enjoyable!

In the beginning, when I was still planning a visit to Hofburg, I was unsure if the Spanish Riding School was worth it. But I realized it is a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. This is particularly true for people like me who come from other parts of the world with a totally different culture. 

Lipizzan Horses of the Spanish Riding School in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Lipizzan Horses of the Spanish Riding School

There are two ways you can discover or experience the Spanish Riding School. The first is by watching the performance of the Lipizzans. The second is by joining a tour behind the scenes of the Spanish Riding School. The tour welcomes you to the Stallburg, where you’ll be exploring the Winter Riding School, which has stunning Baroque architecture, and the Summer Riding School, which houses the world’s largest oval horse walker. You’ll also be meeting the graceful horses in the historical stables of the Lipizzaner stallions. It’s a unique experience to try.

#5 Silver Collection

The dining room is one of the parts of Hofburg that you’ll visit during a tour of the Imperial Apartments. Here, you’ll get an idea of what courtly dining in Hofburg looked like centuries ago. Imagine how extravagant a dinner of the Habsburg family was: from the shining set of spoons and forks to the glittering crystalline glasses. There’s one for each kind of drink. But did you know that it can look even more opulent during celebrations and special events? Visit the Silver Collection for a better picture!

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Stunning Dining Tableware of the Habsburg Family exhibited inside the Silver Collection, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Stunning Dining Tableware of the Habsburg Family exhibited inside the Silver Collection
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What to expect (notable exhibits)

I believe all the unimaginably glamorous courtly flatware and silverware are here. Interestingly, the dining utensils here are also historical. Some date back to the days of Maximilian I and Frederick III. As of this writing, the Silver Collection in Hofburg is under renovations. I’m not exactly sure when it’ll be accessible to the public. You may check the official website of the Silver Collection for announcements.

Milan Centerpiece and French Centerpiece inside Silver Collection, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Milan Centerpiece and French Centerpiece inside Silver Collection

When it reopens and you have plans to visit the Silver Collection, there are two exhibits that I bet you won’t want to miss. These are the Milan Centerpiece and the Old French Centerpiece, which were commissioned to mark the coronation of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria as King of Lombardy and Venetia. Intricately made with gilded bronze, they seem like they were made for a god. I think they are the most elaborate ensemble in the Silver Collection.

#6 Weltmuseum Wien

Little did I know that stepping into Hofburg could feel like a journey around the globe. That was until I discovered the Weltmuseum. It’s the museum located on the southern wing of the Neue Burg in Heldenplatz. To me, it’s one of the most amazing attractions one can find inside Hofburg.

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Entrance and lobby of the Weltmuseum Wien in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Entrance and lobby of the Weltmuseum Wien
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What to expect + tips for your visit

Some people say it is one of the leading ethnographic museums in the world, housing collections from non-European cultures. Well, after learning about its permanent exhibitions, I think I can’t disagree! There’s something from Ethiopia, the Himalayas, Japan, Brazil, the Americas, and so much more.

Many of the exhibits that you’ll find here can be attributed to the Habsburg archdukes, who collected the artifacts during their journeys. The highlights of the collection include artifacts from the renowned seafarer James Cook and a globally celebrated Mexican feather headdress. In a way, this museum gave me an insight into how connected the Habsburg Empire was to the world even at a time when travel wasn’t yet convenient.

Exhibits from Japan, India, Africa, and Americas inside Weltmuseum Wien, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Exhibits from Japan, India, Africa, and Americas inside Weltmuseum Wien

Overall, there are 14 rooms for permanent exhibitions and a few more for temporary exhibitions. Among the exhibits inside the Weltmuseum Wien, it’s the “Japan Comes to Europe” that I find so fascinating. The exhibits here were from the World’s Fair in Vienna in 1873, and you can find samurai armors, Shinto statues, and miniatures of traditional buildings in Japan. Imagine — half the world apart from Japan, and Vienna has these artifacts. Amazing.

Artworks, shoes, statues, and weapons from other cultures inside Weltmuseum Wien, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Artworks, shoes, statues, and weapons from other cultures inside Weltmuseum Wien

You might also like the “South Seas” section of the museum. The items here remind me of the Disney movie, Moana. While many don’t consider the Weltmuseum as a highlight of Hofburg, I think it’s worth visiting as it’ll definitely make your visit to Vienna unique. Well, of course, it’s all because of the rare and amazing discoveries from all over the world here.

If you want to visit, the Weltmuseum Wien has a separate entry ticket. But if you already have a Vienna Pass, you don’t have to worry about buying a separate entry ticket. For more information like the opening hours, audio guide fee, digital tours, and more, please check the official website of the Weltmuseum Wien, which I linked in the resources section of this post.

#7 Austrian National Library

True to its name, Hofburg (Imperial Palace) is a symbol of the wealth of the Habsburg empire. The imposing architecture of Hofburg’s exteriors gives that impression as soon as you arrive at the palace. But did you know that it is also the center of cultural and historical knowledge of the empire? That is because the largest library in the country, the Austrian National Library, is located in Hofburg. It represents the continuity and diversity of the Austrian identity, as well as the preservation of knowledge and culture.

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Bookshelves and books inside Austrian National Library, Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Bookshelves and books inside Austrian National Library
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What to expect + tips for your visit

While there are innumerable books, intriguing manuscripts, and amazing maps in this library, the real reason (in my opinion) why the Austrian National Library is another must-see in Hofburg is its breathtaking architecture.

The Austrian National Library is Europe’s largest Baroque library and one of the most beautiful that you will ever behold. From the decorated wooden shelves to the frescoes on the dome above the Grand Hall, the Austrian National Library showcases beautiful imperial heritage.

Stunning interiors of Austrian National Library in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Stunning interiors of Austrian National Library

By the looks of the library alone, you could be inspired to read, discover, and learn something inside! Amazingly, the library also has four museums and eight collections that showcase the diverse and fascinating aspects of Austrian culture and history. Just perfect for that inspiration for new learning.

The museums include the Globe Museum, the Papyrus Museum, the Esperanto Museum, and the Literature Museum. The collections cover various fields and topics, such as music, maps, manuscripts, portraits, posters, and newspapers. As a traveler, I think you would not want to miss the Globe Museum. It has a bonus, though. You can also see globes of the moon and other planets.

Globe, statues, and more beautiful architectural features of Austrian National Library in Hofburg, Vienna, Austria
Globe, statues, and more beautiful architectural features of Austrian National Library

When you visit the Globe Museum, try checking out the two Venetian Baroque Globes. One for the earth and one for the sky, each with a diameter of more than one meter. They are the most exquisite.

Do you want to visit? The library and its museums are not covered by the Vienna Pass. You have to buy dedicated or combination tickets if you want to go inside the Austrian National Library. For the tickets and visiting information, please check the official website linked in the resources section.

Photo Inspiration

Let me give you more ideas of what you can expect from the seven attractions I mentioned. Below are some photos of each attraction and exteriors of the palace. Happy virtual wandering!

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Resources

So, those are the amazing experiences and activities you can look forward to when visiting Hofburg in Vienna. It’s a place you shouldn’t miss, don’t you think? If you’re planning a trip to Hofburg, I can assist you with your preparations. I’ve listed the official websites of the attractions and parts of Hofburg that I mentioned earlier. These sites provide information on visiting hours, ticket details, and answers to common questions.

Vienna needs a few days for a well-rounded trip. If you’re still searching for accommodations, I can guide you to the best hotel deals in the city. This link will take you to my go-to hotel search and booking platform, which includes a handy map feature to help you find the most convenient lodging. Please note, this is an affiliate link. This means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you when you book a hotel through it. Your support helps us create more guides that could be beneficial to you in the future. Thank you for your support!

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Beyond the Hofburg Palace and the museums I’ve mentioned, Vienna offers a wealth of attractions where you can marvel at stunning architecture and immerse yourself in rich cultural experiences. And the best part? You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy them! Take, for instance, the awe-inspiring churches: Stephansdom — the largest church in Vienna, Karlskirche — a church with unique appearance, and Peterskirche — one of the grand baroque churches in the city.

Once you’ve explored the Old Town, consider going beyond to sights like the Danube Tower, which offers some of the city’s most breathtaking views. To add a touch of Romanticism and nature to your Vienna journey, consider a day trip. Don’t miss Melk Abbey and the castles in Lower Austria, such as Liechtenstein Castle, Kreuzenstein Castle, and Laxenburg Castle Park. And Salzburg, an Austrian city that seems plucked straight from a fairy tale, is also within reach for a day trip from Vienna.

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