Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial family, is one of Europe's most impressive Baroque palace complexes. The land had been in the possession of the Habsburgs since 1569, when the wife of Emperor Ferdinand II. had a summer residence built there in 1642, which she called "Schönbrunn". The palace and garden complex built here from 1696, after the Turkish occupation, was redesigned from the ground up by Maria Theresia after 1743. For most of the year, the Habsburgs resided in the countless chambers that a large imperial family needed in addition to the formal state rooms.

Emperor Franz Joseph, who later married the enchanting Sisi and reigned from 1848 to 1916, was born here in 1830. The monarch spent his last years entirely in the palace, which became the property of the new Republic of Austria only two years after his death. Today, the palace is part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage due to its historic importance, its unique grounds and its splendid furnishings.

The rooms, shown to the public on guided tours, are mostly decorated in Rococo style. Most of the walls and ceilings are covered with white-lacquered surfaces with ornamentation covered with gold leaf.

Bohemian crystal chandeliers and white porcelain tile stoves are also part of the harmonious design. The living quarters and offices used by Emperor Francis Joseph are simple and very unpretentious; by contrast, the state rooms and guestrooms are much more lavish. In 1772, six-year-old child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a concert in the Hall of Mirrors.

In the Round Chinese Room, Maria Theresa held secret conferences with her Chancellor, Prince Kaunitz. Napoleon met with his generals in the Vieux Laque Room. In the Blue Chinese Salon, Emperor Charles I signed his abdication of the crown in 1918, marking the end of 640 years of Habsburg dominion in Austria and the demise of the monarchy.

The Room of Millions, paneled with rosewood and decorated from floor to ceiling with priceless Indian and Persian miniatures, is probably the most magnificent Rococo room anywhere in the world. The Congress of Vienna danced in the Grand Gallery in 1814-15; today, the Austrian government gives state receptions there when important heads of state come to Austria for official visits.

U4: Schönbrunn U4, Tram 10, 58, 60: Hietzing

Find information about the imperial family Habsburg on "The World of Habsburgs"

Panorama: Schönbrunn

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