Hofburg Sights Walking Tour, Vienna (Self Guided)

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: 15
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 km
Author: leticia

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 Giftshop

13) Albertina Giftshop

What to buy here: Museum memorabilia. Vienna has some of the most interesting and well curated museums in the world so it is no surprise to learn that their gift stores are full of great designs. At the Architekturzentrum you will find an unusual yet useful gift, portable porta-folios designed as a kind of excursion kit for tourists with a penchant for architecture. With detailed descriptions of building data and maps they are the perfect gift for any architeture enthusiast, priced at €9.90 at Museumsplatz 1 in Museum Quarter. With a variety of products for people and their homes, the Schauraum of the Museum of Applied Art at Siebensterngasse 33 is literally full of treasure. With vases and other tableware in various colours by austriandesign.at, a brand founded by Karin Merkl, as well as teasets by the local Saxen and Tonfisk by Tony Alfström you can be sure that everything you buy is made in Vienna to perfection. Finally the giftstore at the Albertina in the centre of Vienna at Albertinaplatz 1 is full of trinkets, books, posters, postcards and many other convenient portable items which will make perfect gifts for people interested in the history of art.

Business hours: Mon – Sun 10am – 6pm, Wednesday 10am - 9pm
Albertina Museum

14) 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

15) 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

Walking Tours in Vienna, Austria

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

Create Your Own Walk in Vienna

Creating your own self-guided walk in Vienna is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
City Orientation Walking Tour II

City Orientation Walking Tour II

The capital of the once mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire, today's Vienna is still much revered for its great historic and cultural past, as well as present. The biggest city in Austria with the second largest population of German speakers in the world (after Berlin), Vienna has no shortage of international guests coming each year to visit its imperial palaces, numerous museums and other art...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 km
Old Town Museums Tour

Old Town Museums Tour

Thanks to its glorious past, Vienna is home to almost one hundred museums. This wonderful city offers a wide range of local history and culture museums exhibiting Vienna’s unique history and culture. This tour will guide you to most famous museums located in the Old Town of Vienna.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 km
Museums in Vienna's North

Museums in Vienna's North

Everyone would agree that Vienna is home to a vast range of world-renowned museums. Their impressive works of art, interesting exhibitions and unique collections captivate visitors. Taking this walking tour, you will become familiar with Vienna’s most famous museums located in the Northern Districts of the city.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.1 km
Old Town East Walking Tour

Old Town East Walking Tour

The Innere Stadt, first district of Vienna, is part of the World Heritage Site Historic Centre of the city. Originally the inner city was divided into four quarters, which were designated after important town gates. Take this tour to explore the beautiful landmarks, art galleries and shops in the East area of the Innere Stadt.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km
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Nightlife Walking Tour

Vienna has a reputation for history, classical music and elegance, but don't forget about its hot nightlife. The city is full of trendy bars, cafes, disco and clubs, where you can spend a fantastic evening dancing the night away. You can't visit Vienna without stopping at some of the following after-hours hot spots.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 km
Landstraße Attractions Walking Tour

Landstraße Attractions Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Vienna for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Vienna has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Vienna's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Vienna PASS, Vienna City Card, or Vienna Card. A city pass combines all or multiple Vienna's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Vienna hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth, Hotel Royal, DO&CO Hotel Vienna.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Vienna, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Vienna typically costs somewhere between US$20 and US$100 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to admire Vienna's best-known landmarks in comfort from the open top of the bus listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able to get on and off at any of the stops along the route. The tickets are valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours.

- Pedal your way around Vienna on a 3-hour bike tour to see the city's most spectacular highlights stopping at some of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning interesting facts about the attractions along the way from a knowledgeable group leader.

- Follow an expert guide on a 2.5-hour walking tour of classic Vienna to see the city's greatest landmarks such as the Imperial Palace, Sacher cafe, and St Stephen's Cathedral, plus a number of hidden gems only the locals know about!

- Travel back in time for a glimpse of what the life of the Austrian monarchs was like on a 2-hour tour of their fabulous summer residence and the matching beauty baroque gardens. Feel yourself like a royal, if only for a few hours!

- Follow the trail of Graham Greene's “The Third Man” novel made into a movie in 1949 by Orson Welles, depicting post-WWII spy-ridden Vienna. Explore this fascinating city as it was more than 60 years ago.

- Give yourself away to the sounds of music on a memorable Mozart-filled evening in Vienna attending a combo of the world-renowned Vienna Mozart Orchestra concert and a lavish 3-course dinner at the elegant Bristol restaurant visited, back in the day, by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and other historic figures.

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Vienna, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Salzburg, Melk Abbey and Danube Valley, Wachau Valley, Mauthausen, or Vienna Woods and Mayerling. For as little as circa US$60+ to US$160+ per person you will get a chance to discover the highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites - harmonious blend of natural and cultural beauty manifested in Austria's medieval towns and countryside, visit Mozart's birthplace and original filming locations of "The Sound of Music" movie, admire picturesque Danube valley with ancient castles, grand monasteries and cute little villages, explore historic locations bearing sometimes grim memories of the past (e.g. the horrors perpetuated by the Nazis) and pay tribute to the Holocaust victims at one of the largest Nazi labor camps during World War II, take a boat trip along the Danube or down to the largest subterranean lake in Europe, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Vienna and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or private vehicle to the destination of your choice and back again.