Hofburg Sights Walking Tour (Self Guided), Vienna

The Hofburg area has been the seat of Austrian government since 1279 for a sequence of empires and republics. Throughout centuries, it has been expanded to include various institutions, such as The Imperial Chapel, The Naturhistorisches Museum and Kunsthistorisches Museum, The Austrian National Library and more. The area is also home to the former imperial palace, which now forms part of the official residence of the Austrian President. Alongside the governmental and cultural buildings, Hofburg houses the Spanish Riding School and the Imperial Horse Stables, which is something animal lovers might find particularly entertaining.
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Hofburg Sights Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Hofburg Sights Walking Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hofburg
  • Michaelerplatz
  • Spanish Riding School
  • Vienna Hofburg-Orchestra
  • Hofburgkapelle
  • Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury)
  • Neue Burg
  • Ephesos Museum
  • Volksgarten
  • Naturhistorisches Museum
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Burggarten
  • Albertina Museum
  • Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

1) Hofburg (must see)

The Hofburg, for many centuries, was the official home of the Habsburg Empire. Each successive Emperor has added to the opulence of the place. The famous family used to make this their winter home. In more modern times, this is now the official home of the President of Austria. This place can trace its history all the way back to 1279, as the official seat of one government or another. The overall complex now includes official state rooms for the President, museums of various sorts that are all easily reached from here, and various living areas (called apartments by the locals). However, they are unlike most apartments anyone could ever imagine. There is also a chapel built into the complex, which is open to the public. If you come for Sunday Mass, you will also be able to listen to the famous Vienna Boys Choir, which performs here regularly.
Sight description based on wikipedia

2) Michaelerplatz (must see)

Michaelplatz is a very famous section of old Vienna. It is essentially the entrance into Hofburg. As you first enter the area, you will notice perhaps the most famous part of the place, which is the Michaelertor gate. It is designed in classic neo Baroque style.

The oldest building in this area is the Michaelerkirche. This used to be the official church of the Emperors for years. The center of the square is dominated by ancient Roman remains of a house. There are also some old Medieval walls to be seen here. The remnants of the old Burg Theatre are viewable too.

In stark contrast, the location also houses one of the most modern buildings in all of Vienna. It is called the Looshaus. During its building in 1911, it was considered an eye sore. Now though, the place is very famous. Its owner and designer loved the simple, yet elegant design of many of the world’s skyscrapers, and tried to incorporate that design into his building.

The Palais Herberstin sits across from the Looshaus. It was built in 1896, and replaced an older building that was famous for the young writers and artisans that used to be found there. That old café, called the Griensteidl, has been rebuilt in the structure, though much of the artisans have moved to the Café Central.
Spanish Riding School

3) Spanish Riding School (must see)

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna is famous the world over. Many of their troops actually perform in other countries. In fact, one of their largest fan populations lives in the U.S. The place is famous for the Lipizzaner horses which have been raised there. The facility provides instruction in the famous military tactics that the horses were famous for since the time of Napoleon. They are also a formal dressage school. The group offers public performances, which include the famous Winter Riding School, and also give classes to locals on occasion.

The location of the riding school is in a building that was erected in 1729 and has not changed terribly since that time. In fact, one can even still see the royal box that has been used by the likes of Charles VI.

The famous horses are moved for the months of July and August to a resting place in southern Austria – you may want to be aware of this if you are traveling to Vienna in the summer.

Why You Should Visit:
Even you aren't fond of horse shows, a guided tour (EG/DE) through the stabling and the riding arena with background information & details about their history and the complex breeding system is worth a visit anytime.

If you want to see the jumps, go for the actual show. If you like horses, it's great to see them train in the morning.
If you drop into the (not too expensive) on-site café for a coffee, drink or snack, you can go out to the terrace, adjacent to which there is a wooden enclosure in which you can see the horses and their riders practice before the show - and that actually won't cost anything.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-4pm (Jan-Feb); Mon-Sun: 9am-4pm (Mar-Dec)
Fridays, in case of an evening show: 9am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Vienna Hofburg-Orchestra

4) Vienna Hofburg-Orchestra

In a place where music has flourished for centuries and music houses abound, the Vienna Hofburg-Orchestra is a mere babe in arms. It was founded in 1971and its main goal is to cultivate the Viennese waltz and also the music of the opera. Its 36 musicians come from all over Vienna and are joined by 6 international as well as local vocal talents.

They can be found performing in the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna as well as the Wiener Konzerthaus and the Wiener Musikverein. Every year they also perform a New Years Eve concert at the Redouten Hall at the Palace. It features the music for Strauss, Kalman, Léhar, and of course Mozart. What an incredible way to start the New Year!

Additionally, their concert season is from May until October. During this time, there are concerts given every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so there is ample opportunity to enjoy a performance while in Austria during these months. Sporadic performances will also be given during November and December, so be sure to check these out also. Could there be a more perfect place to hear the waltz played than in Vienna? Or perhaps catch a performance of “Die Fledermaus”, or “Die Hochzeit des Figaro” or “Die Zauberflöte”?
Sight description based on wikipedia

5) Hofburgkapelle (must see)

The Hofburgkapelle is a chapel that was essentially swallowed up by the Imperial castle. In fact at one point only the apse was visible externally. The chapel has been a part of church life in Vienna since at least 1424. While the castle around the chapel has been added to and ownership divided amongst various royalty, the chapel remained open for the use of all the peoples of Vienna.

Today, from September to April, the Vienna Boys Choir and members of the Vienna State Opera orchestra perform here at Sunday Mass. The music is absolutely phenomenal so be sure to book tickets as soon as travel dates are known. One can also stand outside the chapel in the narthex and here the choir if tickets were unavailable. The choir was originally 1492 to provide music for the liturgy. Although the choir has changed immensely over the centuries, it is enchanting to hear the boys sing with the incredible musicians as they were originally designed.

Inside the chapel are pillars that represent the Saints from around the time of Fredrick III who ruled throughout most of the 1800s. These pillars were refurbished in the 1970s to their original state. The chapel has been added to and redone so many times; it is nice to see parts of it being reverted back to its original splendor.
Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury)

6) Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury) (must see)

The Schatzkammer holds what is considered the greatest treasury collection in the world. It is located in the Hofburg complex, so it can be visited at the same time you visit other locations there. Most days, you can get in a good visit in about an hour and a half. The entrance is located at the Swiss Courtyard.

In that hour of time, you can tour the treasures of the Habsburg Empire, which reaches back over one thousand years. The items on display have a long history of movement over time: Napoleon's conquests, the decline of the Roman Empire, the Nazis, and the wars fought against Prussia. As such, over the years, the items on display have moved back and forth from Vienna to Nuremberg. The current structure of the complex has been in place since 1983.

Among the beautiful items here is a sword that was believed to belong to Charlemagne, the crown of the old Holy Roman Empire and even the legendary Agate Bowl, which for centuries was tied to the story of Arthur’s court and the legend of the Holy Grail.

Why You Should Visit:
Fantastic embroidery, religious relics, and pieces of royal jewelry, all in one place – and an incredible blend of Austrian history with just enough "wow" factor to keep you interested.

Get the audio guides – otherwise, you won't get much from the printed text underneath the objects or on the walls.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 9am-5:30p
Closed on Tuesdays
Sight description based on wikipedia
Neue Burg

7) Neue Burg (must see)

Neue Burg, or New Château, was an incredible addition to the Hofburg Imperial Palace. Its construction began toward the end of 19th century and concluded at the beginning of the 20th. The Neue Hofburg palace was the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Today it houses a number of museums (the Ephesos Museum, the Collection of Arms and Armour, the Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments, and the Museum of Ethnology) as well as some reading rooms of the national library. The Hofburg Congress Centre is also located here.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Ephesos Museum

8) Ephesos Museum (must see)

The Ephesos Museum is part of the larger Imperial Palace complex at Hofburg. Up until 1918, this whole location was still part of the palace and buildings that were the central home of the Habsburg Empire. Today there are many small exhibits that fill most of the spaces here. The notable exception is the large palace itself which is now the official home of the President.

The Ephesos display focuses on the Turkish city by that name and attempts to tell the history of that place from early times, through its importance in the Bible, through all the way to modern history.

Most of the items on display have been unearthed, through the years, during archeological expeditions conducted in the old city. The displays attempt to stay true to the actual locations where these artifacts were found. You can get a chance to see a Parthian Frieze here. The many displays will take you through the military history of the city. In addition, the many paintings on display here can better help one understand the nature of life under Roman rule.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am-6pm; Thu: 10am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

9) Volksgarten (must see)

The Volksgarten – or, roughly, "people's park" – is one of the most beautiful public outdoor places in all of Vienna. Located in the Innere Stadt, it was built over the top of the part of the city that was destroyed during the reign of Napoleon. The facility was finished and first opened to the general public in 1820.

Volksgarten's fame comes from the gardens located within, especially the rose section. There is also a very famous temple here, called the Theseus. It is a replica of the famous Greek version by that same name. Peter von Nobile built the monument in 1823 as a tribute to Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Much of the park as it is known today was built at a second addition to the place in 1857 when more of the city was turned over to this use. A famous coffeehouse was also located here for a while, which ultimately became a venue for concerts from the likes of Straub and Lanner, two very famous Austrian composers. Many concerts are performed in the park to this day.

Why You Should Visit:
A park to rival any with its rich tree canopy, rose gardens and benches placed throughout.
Very cozy and lovely place to sit down and have a rest or to have a little picnic.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-10pm (Apr-Oct); 7am-5:30pm (Nov-Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Naturhistorisches Museum

10) Naturhistorisches Museum (must see)

The Naturhistorisches Museum is part of the larger Wien complex of exhibits located all over the city of Vienna. The current facility has grown to over 90,000 square feet in size. In recent years, software has been developed to allow you to tour part of the place via a virtual tour.

The location is known worldwide, as it is one of the most important collections of items of natural history to be found anywhere. The project started over 250 years ago and now features over 20,000,000 pieces of interest.

The central building is an old palace structure that constitutes the original museum. It opened in 1869 under the name of the Imperial Natural Museum. Today, many of the original displays have been relocated into other parts of the overall Wien Museum of Vienna.

You will find some very rare items here as well. For instance, the Venus of Willendorf is an object that is over twenty-five thousand years old. There is also a dinosaur skeleton displayed on the floors that is over two hundred and fifty million years old. In all, you will be able to casually walk through 39 different sections of the museum.

Why You Should Visit:
Incredible because of the upgrading of many exhibits, which brilliantly combine the old (showcases of artifacts from the late 1880s in their original cases) with the new (an amazing exhibit room of meteorites with interactive cases or an exhibit on our planet which is incredibly interesting and educational).
Almost everything is in English as well as in German. The museum has also gone out of its way to cater to kids, so a great place for the family.

It is strongly recommended to take an audio guide and learn more about the most important collection items.
If you are a student, make sure to bring your student card to capitalize on the discount they offer.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Mon: 9am-6:30pm; Wed: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Kunsthistorisches Museum

11) Kunsthistorisches Museum (must see)

The very name of the place means “Museum of Art History.” Many locals just call it the KHM. The place was founded in 1891, and was designed at the same time as the Maria-Theresien Platz. Construction of the building lasted for 19 years. It is one of the most impressive art collections in all of Europe. Emperor Franz Joseph the First of Austria was responsible for the construction. It was designed mainly to hold the impressive art collection of the Hapsburgs.

The central structure on Rinstrasse Street is the home of the picture gallery, and is very impressive indeed. You will also find the European coin collection here. The display of Egyptian Antiquities is stored in this main location, as well as one of Europe’s best collections of Roman and Greek historical art.

Recently, the Museum of Ethnology has become part of the KHM, as well as the Theater Museum on Lobkowitz. This occurred in January of 2001. So, you will have to visit a couple of locations to get through all the holdings.
Sight description based on wikipedia

12) Burggarten (must see)

The Burggarten is located in Vienna’s 1st district. It was originally a garden on the grounds of the Hofburg Palace. The space was originally partially occupied by a wall that surrounded the palace and the city to protect against invaders. However, it did little to stop Napoleon’s advance upon the city and as he left portions of the wall were destroyed.

In the space where the wall had been, a beautiful formal garden in the English tradition was created on the palace grounds. After the fall of the Habsburg dynasty, the garden was opened for public enjoyment.

Several statues are on the garden grounds, but the most famous one is the Mozart Denkmal that was moved there in the early 1950s. Also be sure to see the fountain statue of Hercules that was placed in the pond in the 1940s.

Another popular feature is the butterfly garden (Schmettlerlinghaus) which was added in 1901. Tropical butterflies and bats live in a tropical paradise here. It is educational as well as beautiful; one can see the butterfly eggs, caterpillars, cocoons and butterflies all in one building. The free-flying butterflies are spectacular and sure to please everyone.

Why You Should Visit:
Cool, cozy little place to park off and enjoy the sun after a long walk in the Old City.

Combine with a refreshment stop at the fabulous Palmenhaus café overlooking the garden!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-10pm (Apr-Oct); 7am-5:30pm (Nov-Mar)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Albertina Museum

13) Albertina Museum (must see)

Albertina Museum's claim to fame centers on its very large collection of old master prints and drawings. In fact, there are over 65,000 drawings in storage here. Apart from the graphics collection, the museum has recently acquired on permanent loan two significant collections of Impressionist and early 20th-century art, some of which will be on permanent display. The museum also houses temporary exhibitions.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful building with a fantastic selection of artworks and art styles. Easy to get in with an online ticket (no waiting time).
The open balcony area on the top floor is an excellent place for picture taking, as it faces many of the city's historical buildings.

Make sure you have at least 2.5 hours on your hands to check everything.
The audio guide is for all the exhibitions, so it is worth spending some extra for it.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Tue: 9am-6pm; Wed, Fri: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

14) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (must see)

The Austrian National Library is the single biggest institution of its kind in all of Austria. Currently located in the Hofburg Palace, it houses over 7 million items in its collection, including many very old books, globes, maps, and musical scripts. The library also houses one of the world’s largest collections of autographs.

The State Hall located in the building is probably the most stunning part of a trip to this place. It was designed and commissioned by Emperor Charles VI. It was intended to be the location for his court library. The project was completed in 1726, and the ceiling frescoes were finished by 1730.

Today, the State Hall contains over 200,000 items for display, among which books from the period of 1520 until 1850. Prince Eugene of Savoy’s collection of antique books is also now on display in this location.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most picturesque libraries in the world, and reminiscent of 'Beauty and the Beast' with its Baroque style.

It is best to go there early in the morning or lunchtime so you don't have a lot of visitors obstructing your photographs.
Unlike some other historic libraries, you’re allowed to wander around taking photos without paying for a permit (just turn off your flash).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

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