Schoenbrunn (which means "beautiful fountain,") is the summer palace of the Habsburgs. In the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa, mother of sixteen kids, really expanded the palace and gardens, created the lavish gilded interiors, and built a theater, where her many children sang and danced. There's lots to see, so plan to spend the day.
Schoenbrunn (which means "beautiful fountain,") is the summer palace of the Habsburgs. In the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa, mother of sixteen kids, really expanded the palace and gardens, created the lavish gilded interiors, and built a theater, where her many children sang and danced. Later emperors thought the palace was too big, but long-lived Emperor Franz Joseph was a big fan of Schoenbrunn. He was born in the palace, took up residence as emperor, and kept the same apartments until his death - Schoenbrunn was home. There's lots to see, so plan to spend the day.
Schloss Schoenbrunn Experience (Schloss Schoenbrunn erleben) - This hands-on museum for kids is a great introduction to Schoenbrunn, to find out how the imperial children lived. Try on court clothing (it wasn't easy to get dressed in the morning), learn how to bow and hold your fan properly, check out hair-styles and hygiene, and get a whiff of favorite dishes. For kids 5 and up. Friday, Sat. and Sun. 10:00am - 5:00pm, and daily in the summer. The museum is located to the right, after you come in through the main entrance.
Tour of the Palace - Take the 35 min. tour of Franz Joseph's and Elisabeth's apartments and state rooms. In the family dining room, nine course meals were served to the family with gold cutlery and elegant plates, but hard-working Franz Joseph liked to eat in a hurry, and the Empress Elisabeth liked to diet, so they wolfed their food in less than an hour. Check out Elisabeth's dressing room covered with cosmetic bottles (it took three hours just to fix her long hair), and the Grand Ballroom with white and gold walls, chandeliers sparkling. You'll also see portraits of Maria Theresa's 11 daughters - one of her most famous was Antonia (Marie Antoinette).
Demonstration bakery - At the Cafe-Restaurant Residenz, every hour there are demonstrations of making apple strudel (a Viennese tradition) with samples afterwards. Explanations are in English and German, and the strudel is quite tasty.
Puppet theater (Marionettentheater Schloss Schoenbrunn)
- Take in a puppet show of famous operas, such as The Magic Flute, with special children's performances. Click here
for the schedule.
- From the palace head straight on out to the Neptune Fountain, a lively big creation with Neptune, plus four rearing horses, and sea creatures. Water rushes and gushes under bigger than life creatures, Neptune stands at the top, waving his triton
- From the fountain, zig zag up the path to the Gloriette (this is a great place to picnic
). At the top, you'll have a wonderful view of the palace gardens, colorfully planted, Vienna and the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods) in the distance.
- Close to the Neptune Fountain are the mazes. Wander through a hedge maze, higher than your head. When you reach the center, there's a platform in a tree, where you can climb up and look down over the made. Smaller mazes are a "dance glockenspiel," math maze" (solve the math to get to the center), mirror maze, water-squirting maze, finger mazes (trace patterns on the granite), and stepping stones that squirt water at your feet (fun on a hot day).
Tiergarten - The Tiergarten is charming zoo (which started as Maria Theresa's menagerie), with polar bears, Siberian tigers, penguins, cheetahs and hippos, but the Tirolergarten is unique.
In the Tirolergarten, you can see animals from the Austrian alps - horned sheep, owls, cows, horses, goats. Wander through traditional style houses, see the kid's and parent's rooms, stables inside the house. Sample traditional Emmnethaler cheese and apple juice.
Panorama tram - An easy way to get around the Schlosspark is to take the Panorama tram. There are 9 stops, the main palace entrance, the Tirolergarten, Gloriette, etc. and you can get on and off. A complete round trip takes about an hour.
Horse drawn carriage - Pretend you're the imperial family, perhaps one of the children of Maria Theresa, riding around the palace gardens.
Public swimming pool (Schoenbrunnerbad) - There's a public swimming pool on the grounds, bring your swim suits. Lots of grassy areas and two big pools. Open every day in the summer months.
Roman ruins and obelisk - Close to the swimming pool are Roman ruins and a fountain topped by an obelisk. There's plenty of shady paths and benches. Bring a picnic.