Not everyone can live in a big yellow palace. The Schönbrunn Palace has 1441 rooms once used for the summer residence of the Habsburgs. One can tour 22 rooms on the Imperial Tour or 40 rooms on the Grand Palace Tour, or you can
look stare at the grandeur of the palace from afar and take the horse and buggy tour or the train tour of acres of grounds. Or you can sit and people watch in the indoor/outdoor cafe with a cuppa/beer/wine and piece of apfelstrudel or chololate torte cake. The choices are endless and the grounds of the Schönbrunn are very busy.
In 1569, the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II, purchased grounds from the Klosterneuburg monastery, where a former owner had erected a mansion called Katterburg. The emperor ordered the area fenced and put pheasants, ducks, deer, and boar there in order to serve as the court’s recreational hunting grounds. In a smaller separate area he added the exotic birds such as turkeys and peacocks.
From 1638 to 1643, Eleonora Gonzaga, the widow of Ferdinand II, made the grounds her residence after her husband’s death. She added a palace to the Katterburg mansion and started the orangery calling the grounds, Schönbrunn, or beautiful spring.
During the 18th century, Schönbrunn represented the splendor of the Habsburg Empire with the ample baroque gardens and their buildings. The original palace building had been expanded and modified, since it was built, to suit the tastes and the requirements of the successive rulers. In 1740, Maria Theresa chose Schönbrunn as her permanent residence and a new phase began in the palace. Urgent repairs were made to the dilapidated buildings. In the third phase, work began on the embellishment of the gardens. Maria Theresa’s passion was the orangery, the longest in the world, where she cultivated exotic plants and also held festive events and performances. The zoo, built by Maria Theresa’s husband, in 1752, for the entertainment and the education of the court, is the oldest in the world. Also, included in the gardens were the Gloriette, the Neptune Fountain, the “Roman Ruins,” and the Obelisk. The Schönbrunn Park was opened to the public in 1779, part of Maria Theresa’s reform policy, making the garden a celebration from autocracy into a real democracy.
No significant changes have been made to the structures themselves since the work on the facade commissioned by Franz I at the beginning of the 19th century. The park layout is original and original techniques are still used to trim the trees and bushes. The Great Palm House, erected in 1880, is an iron framed structure divided into three sections, using technology developed in England. Enjoy!
PS, To get there take the U-4 train on a 15 minute ride out to Schönbrunn Palace. From the train follow the Schloss Schönbrunn signs, a 15 minute walk.