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Visiting royals in Vienna

The gardens of Schönbrunn Palace.
The gardens of Schönbrunn Palace.

Back in the heyday of majestic palaces, they were sprawling retreats of refinery out in the countryside. Today, they are often surrounded by suburbs. Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria is a perfect example of this.

Schönbrunn Palace
Jeannette Marxen

Schönbrunn Palace was the summer home to the Hapsburg* dynasty. First begin in Switzerland in the Middle Ages; the Hapsburgs would go on the rule Austro-Hungary, Spain and other regions throughout Europe. It was not until the late 1500s that the Hapsburgs took ownership of the land that would become known as Schönbrunn. For the first century, it remained primarily a hunting refuge. Buildings were built, renovated, destroyed and rebuilt. By the late 1600s, plans for a great hunting lodge were created and construction began on the foundations of a previous building that had been destroyed by the Turks. It wasn't until the 1720s when Empress Maria Theresa was gifted the area by her father, that Schönbrunn became an important seat of power. She expanded the unfinished palace and set about creating beautiful gardens that would surround the outside. Inside, the palace was filled with ornate furniture, gold leaf, detailed wooden carvings and colorful ceiling murals.

Since the 1960s, Schönbrunn Palace has been a popular stop for tourists visiting the capital city of Vienna. The palace is easy to get to; thanks to the U-bahn metro that has a station a few blocks away. There are two main types of tours depending on how long you have to visit. The Imperial Tour takes visitors through 22 state rooms, including the apartments of Emperor Franz Joseph as well as some of the public audience rooms. The Grand Tour doubles the amount of state rooms you will visit. You also get to visit the apartments of Empress Maria Theresa and her large family of 16 children. On this tour you will be able to see the rooms where Marie Antoinette, Maria Theresa's youngest daughter, spent her childhood. Regardless of the tour chosen, make sure to spend time in the gardens. Laid out with large intersecting pathways, the main feature of the garden is the Neptune Fountain. If nothing else, a visit to the fountain provides beautiful views of the back of the palace.

*Throughout the historical record the royal dynasty is referred to as either the Hapsburgs or the Habsburgs.  Both are acceptable and refer to the same dynasty. 

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