In researching best things to do in Vienna I came across the Schonbrunn Palace. It is rumored to have beautiful architecture and a great garden behind it which is right up my alley. On the train from Budapest to Vienna I overheard a nearby conversation about what to do in Vienna. A local recommended the palace as well. So that confirmed it. A random Austrian man on the train suggested going to the Schonbrunn Palace and so did travel expert Rick Steves, my sources couldn’t get much better.
Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace is the most visited site in all of Austria and I can totally see why. It was the summer home of the Hapsburg family who ruled Austria (among many other areas) for nearly 800 years. There are quite a few tour options – guide, headset, park, zoo. We opted for the guided Grand Tour (€16.50) that took us around 40 rooms. For a couple of Euros more you get to see the fanciest part of palace where Maria Theresa Hapsburg lived and the most expensive room in the palace. Also the actual tour guide, as opposed to the hand held headset, was witty and able to answer my nerdy history questions. It was well worth the extra cash in my opinion.
Fun fact, the palace had wall decor from Qing Dynasty in China and others from the Mughals in India. I know that the normal person knows nothing about either of those empires, but hopefully some of my students out there remember both!
Also, Franz Ferdinand (the dude who was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Serbian nationalist back in 1914 and this event was the “spark” that drew all the alliances into World War 1) was a Hapsburg himself. He was the nephew of the last Austrian-Hungarian emperor. And obviously, or not so obviously for those non-history geeks out there, this all was part of the decline of the power of the Hapsburgs and the end of the empire as well. Austria-Hungary was on the losing side of WWI and was broken up by the infamous Treaty of Versailles. And the Schonbrunn Palace was built as a Hapsburg response to the fancy Versailles Palace in France. Kind of the “anything you can do, I can do but better” idea. Oh the irony of the Hapsburgs building a palace to show off to the French, and then completely losing their power due to a treaty made in France. This is movie quality stuff here people! And the grounds of the palace, well, they are like a scene from a movie too.