Schönbrunn offers a glimpse into the fascinating, nostalgic history of imperial Austria. The Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens were the summer home of the Habsburg dynasty from the 18th century to 1918. Today, they are a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as the country’s most visited attraction.
The stunning Baroque palace and the magnificent gardens reflect the interests and tastes of the Habsburgs who poured their wealth into the arts. Schönbrunn is ideal for couples and families looking for a picturesque location to spend a idyllic afternoon.
It is free to walk around the park but, to visit the palace or the zoo, visitors need to book tickets in advance through the official website. There are various tours and packages available. There are also regular classical concerts at Schönbrunn which feature music from the great Austrian composers such as Mozart, Strauss, and Schubert.
The Park at Schönbrunn Palace
The large gardens have been open to the public since 1779 and the site of the world’s first ever zoo. The park is roughly 1.2 kilometers from east to west and one kilometer from north to south making it the ideal size for romantic strolls.
From the palace, you can walk onto a wide pathway called the Great Parterre. The path divides into eight sections of immaculate, symmetrical gardens called the Crown Prince Garden.
From the Gloriette which you can access through a sloping lawn, you can enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the palace and Vienna. Beyond this, there are myriad smaller gardens, fountains, monuments, flowers, and statues. There is also a challenging hedge maze (which is great fun for couples as well as kids).
The Schönbrunn gardens and palace have been used for filming many films and TV productions over the years. Some of the most iconic examples include the James Bond film The Living Daylights and A Breath of Scandal which stars Sophia Loren.
The World’s Oldest Zoo
Schönbrunn Zoo was built in 1752 and is still recognized as one of the world’s best. The zoo has provided a haven for numerous endangered species and was the site of the first ever elephant birth in Europe (in 1906) and the first elephant artificial insemination (in 2013).
Today the zoo has over 500 species of animals including pandas, elephants, tigers, and orangutans. The conditions for the animals are world-class and the zoo provides a fantastic day out for all.
The zoo was originally founded by Emperor Franz I Stephan who was a nature enthusiast. The zoo’s fortunes have been up and down; over its long history it has survived the Napoleonic Wars, the break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, two world wars, and a period of rapid modernization.
There have been moments of near collapse but today the zoo is in better condition than ever. The zoo has been modernized and more than 2.2 million visitors pass through its gates each year. There is a fee to enter.
Don’t Miss Schönbrunn Palace
If you go to Schönbrunn Gardens, don’t miss out on the incredible palace. Schönbrunn Palace tickets are not free but it is well worth it (you need to book online in advance as it is so popular).
Schönbrunn Palace is one of Europe's most beautiful Baroque structures and its extravagant interiors are in the Rococo style. It was originally built in 1569 but has had many extensions and improvements throughout the centuries. It now has 1,441 rooms, 45 of which can be visited.
A tour around the decadent palace reveals its rich history as well as its exquisite features. Mozart composed music in the mirrored hall, Maria Theresa held secret conferences, Emperor Charles I signed his renunciation of government (end of the monarchy), Napoleon had meetings in the Lacque Room and John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev met in the Great Gallery in 1961.
How to Get to Schönbrunn
Getting to Schönbrunn is easy. There are easily accessible parking facilities if you are going by car and you can take the A4 motorway if coming from the airport, or the A1 or A2 if coming from elsewhere.
You can also go by…
- Subway: Take the U4 and get off at Schönbrunn
- Tram: Take the number 10 or 60 and get off at Schönbrunn
- Bus: Take the 10A and get off at Schönbrunn