Vienna is Imperial
A trip around Vienna‘s magnificent Ringstrasse boulevard is always a special sightseeing experience whether you are on foot or taking a ride in a traditional fiacre. The magnificent boulevard is lined with parks and breathtaking buildings. If the Viennese say that they are going to the Burg then they mean the Burgtheater and not the adjacent Hofburg. For more than 600 years the complex was the official residence of the Habsburg emperors. Today the impressive buildings contain important museums and important state rooms. But Vienna wouldn’t be Vienna if the horse-drawn fiacres didn’t park directly in front of the offices of the Austrian President, or the National Library wasn’t home to one of the most impressive Baroque rooms anywhere in the world. Visitors to the Burgkapelle can listen to performances by the Vienna Boys’ Choir on Sundays, or watch the graceful movements of the Lipizzaner horses in the Spanish Riding School. The horsemanship of the Spanish Riding School is also on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Sisi Museum provides insights into the private life of perhaps the most famous monarch. Just a few tram stops away the Belvedere Palace – the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy – sits on an elevated site. It is home to the world’s largest collection of Klimt paintings including his most famous work, The Kiss.
Lovers of imperial art are also drawn to Vienna’s best-known palace. At Schönbrunn the imperial family had 1,441 rooms to choose from, some of which are open to visitors. The Schlosspark contains a number of architectural masterpieces such as the Palm House and the zoo, which has already been crowned Europe’s best five times. It is hardly surprising when you consider that the visitors now stand in the old lion cages while the animals themselves live in their modern enclosures – the essence of the original Baroque design has been skillfully preserved with characteristic Viennese charm.
The oldest zoo in the world, which is particularly successful at breeding elephants and pandas, was built in 1752 by Maria Theresia’s husband, Emperor Franz I. Stephan of Lorraine. The two of them were so devoted to each other that they even chose to share their final resting place. Their impressive double sarcophagus can be seen at the Habsburg burial crypt in the Kapuzinergruft.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is at the religious heart of the city and the giant Pummerin bell features on television as it rings in the New Year. There are also celebrations throughout the ball season – the words "Alles Walzer" signal to the assembled guests that it is time to join the dance at the Redoutensaal of the Hofburg or one of the countless palaces. The Viennese also uphold the good old days in their daily lives, enjoying a breakfast fit for an Emperor complete with delicious Kaisersemmel bread rolls, or treating themselves to a Kaiserschmarrn dessert.
Facts and figures „Imperial”
- 27 castles. (Source: Book "Auf den Spuren von Prunk & Pomp" by Christina Rademacher)
- 2 former imperial palaces (Schönbrunn and Hofburg)
- 1,441 rooms in Schönbrunn Palace. (Source: www.schoenbrunn.at)
- 163 palaces. (Source: www.viennatouristguide.at)
- Schönbrunn Zoo oldest surviving zoo in the world (since 1752). (Source: www.zoovienna.at)
- The Vienna Ringstrasse is 5.3 km long. (Source: Freytag & Berndt)
- Imperial Burial Vault: burial site for 149 Habsburgs (incl. 12 emperors, 19 empresses and queens). (Source: www.kapuzinergruft.com)
- 280 imperial parks and gardens. (Source: Book "Parks und Gärten in Wien" by Peter Autengruber)
- Spanish Riding School: the only institution in the world to nurture classical riding in the Renaissance tradition of the "High School" for 450 years. The horsemanship of the Spanish Riding School was placed on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2015. (Source: www.srs.at)