Monday, May 23, 2016

Vienna: The Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace is the former home of the Austrian Royal Family. The oldest part of the building dates from the 16th century. There are several different parts of the palace that can be visited. The Chapel is home to the Vienna Boys Choir . To see them perform you need special tickets and these should be procured in advance.

The Hofburg is open every day and the cost of admission is 12.90 Euros with audio guide. For another 3 Euros, you can take a guided tour.


The Royal Apartments are dedicated to the memory of Emperor Franz Josef and his wife, the Empress Elizabeth "Sisi". Their portraits by the famed artist Franz Xavier Winterhalter are in the Grand Salon. Sisi is gorgeous in a white ball gown with stars in her hair and Franz Josef is dressed in a red and white military uniform. 

Another Winterhalter portrait of Sisi in located in the Emperor's study which is informal with her very long hair hanging loose and this is said to be the emperor's favorite picture of his wife. Since she spent a great deal of time away from him, it must have been cold comfort. 

We had a headphone tour of the apartments which was quite interesting. As you begin the tour there is a large genealogy chart so that you can try to figure out who some of the people are. The rooms are of impressive size and the decorations are luxurious but there is an underlying sadness here for a time that has past and will never return.

One of the early rooms has lots of informal childhood pictures that give a pretty good idea of the kind of life the imperial children led. Some of their toys have been preserved. In Sisi's room, her exercise equipment is still there waiting for her and we learned that she perhaps was one of the early anorexics. She was obsessed with keeping her figure and almost never ate. This caused problems at dinner parties where guests were not allowed to eat after the empress or emperor had finished, guests soon learned to eat before they came to a dinner party at the palace.

We got to walk through their personal rooms as well as the formal rooms and the dining room was especially attractive, set up for a small family dinner.


To really have any understanding of the immense wealth of the Hofburg family you need to walk through the Imperial Silver and China Collection. This can be done on a combination ticket with the Imperial Apartments and it is also included on the headphone tour. Case after case of the most phenomenal Meissen, Sevres, a completely gilt set by the Vienna Porcelain, a dessert set by Minton, an Imari set, and a set of dishes in a pattern called Miramare which Maximilian had commissioned for his ill-fated court in Mexico will overwhelm your senses.

A whole wall is dedicated to copper dessert molds, a room full of exquisite table linens, cases of silver and gold service pieces and the magnificent Milan table piece, which is huge. There is the Sevres porcelain that was a gift to Empress Maria Theresa from Louis XV and the outstanding Vermeil set which has service for 140 people. 

On a more normal note an entire pantry filled with blue transferware and pink lusterware which was beautiful, practical and much more to my taste. It's easy to get glutted here on the sheer extravagance of it all. Who would have thought that you could say "enough of the gold already"?

The photos used in this article are not my own, I can't seem to locate mine but rest assured I have visited this location. 

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