Throughout the years Hofburg Palace in Vienna has been home to some of the most powerful people in Austrian history including the Habsburg dynasty who used it as their main winter residence (Schönbrunn Palace was their preferred summer home). Today, the palace serves as official residence of the President of Austria and is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Since 1279 the Hofburg area has been the seat of government for a variety of empires and republics. Hofburg Palace has been expanded throughout the years to include various residences, museums, a chapel, the Imperial Library, the treasury (Schatzkammer), the national theater and even a riding school and horse stables. The palace faces Vienna’s historical Heldenplatz plaza which features an amazing statue of Archduke Charles of Austria.
The oldest sections of the palace date back all the way to the 13th century and form a square somewhat surrounding what is today’s Swiss Court (Schweizerhof) and is home to an amazing 15th century gothic chapel, the Imperial Music Chapel as well as the Schatzkammer (imperial treasury). The Swiss Court section was build for Emperor Ferdinand I and was created using a Renaissance design style with it famous red-black Swiss Gate which displays the many titles of Ferdinand I as well as the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The Imperial Stables, although not physically connected to the rest of the palace, originally were built as a residence for the crown prince Maximilian II. Rumor is that Ferdinand I didn’t want his son living under his roof due to Maximilian II veering towards Protestantism. The structure later was home to the art collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, Brother of Emperor Ferdinand III. Originally added as a free-standing structure in 1735, the Imperial Library, now called the Prunksaal, contains the book collection of Prince Eugene, statues of emperors created by Paul Strudel as well as a massive ceiling fresco by Daniel Gran making the Prunksaal one of the palace’s most significant displays of art.
The amazingly decorated Imperial Apartments located in the Imperial Chancellery Wing and the Amalia Residence contained the apartments of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth and are open to the public. Since 1994 the Sisi Museum has been located in the Stephan apartments named after Archduke Stephan Viktor. The Sisi Museum houses a variety of personal items that once belonged to Elisabeth and display them in a manner that illustrates the Empress’ personality. In 2009, after welcoming 3 million visitors in its five years of existence, the Sisi Museum was temporarily closed for renovation and partial remodeling. The display was expanded to include even more amazing exhibits including Elisabeth’s reconstructed Hungarian coronation dress, the black coat used to cover her after the assassination, mourning jewelry and much more. Tickets to the Imperial Apartments will run you about $14 for adults, $12 for students and seniors and about $8 for children 6-18. Entrance to the Sisi Museum will cost you about $30 for adults, $27 for students and seniors and about $18 for children 6-18.