If you’re anything like me, you’ve never heard of Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens, colloquially known as the Summer Palace. But trust me, you should definitely know about it and it should be on the top of your to do list the next time you’re in Austria.
On my Top Deck tour of Europe (which you can read about here) we only got to spend one night in Vienna, Austria. Even worse, we only got to spend a measly hour at the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens. Initially, this was fine with me. I mean, a garden is a garden right? I realized how wrong I was very quickly after we arrived and began exploring, and I came to the startling conclusion that I had nowhere near enough time to really explore the gardens. In fact, I think I only got to experience around 10% of what was on offer.
Before I take you on a virtual journey through the gardens, let me give you a mini history lesson on the palace and gardens.
The Schönbrunn Palace was the main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers throughout the 18th century up to 1918. Featuring 1,441 rooms, the palace and gardens contains 300 years of history documenting the changing social and cultural values of the Habsburg Empire and rulers. Due to this, it is considered the most important architectural, cultural and historical monuments in Austria, so it should come as no surprise that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Neptune Fountain
Located at the foot of Gloriette Hill, the Neptune Fountain is one of the most obvious and significant features of the gardens, and if you are limited on time, I highly recommend making a beeline for this location. The fountain was commissioned by Maria Theresa and features Roman deities including Neptune, Thetis and Triton.
The Great Parterre
The Great Parterre are stereotypical French Gardens that extend from the back of the palace to Gloriette Hill. There perfect symmetry make them absolutely gorgeous. The garden is lines by 32 statues of Roman deities and virtues.
An orangerie is basically an extravagant glasshouse designed specifically to house orange trees to protect them during the winter months. The orangerie in the palace gardens is located at the top of Gloriette Hill and has since been renovated into a café with one hell of a view.
The Tiergarten Schonbrunn
Otherwise known as the Vienna Zoo, the Tiergarten is actually the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world. While historically, the zoo was purely for the entertainment of the emperor, it is now committed to animal conservation.
Before you get too excited, the ‘Roman ruins’ located within the gardens are actually fake and were built by an architect in the 18th century to celebrate and house the ‘heroic’ history of the Roman Empire.
The Palm House
This is one of the places I wish I’d had the time to visit and explore in depth. The Palm House is a large greenhouse that contains 4,500 plants, both local and foreign, and is actually the largest botanical exhibit of its kind in the world.
The palace itself is an obvious feature. It’s buttery yellow walls standout against the blue sky and lush green gardens. The palace was not open to the public on the day that I went (and my understanding is that you can’t go in unless you are on a tour, but don’t quote me on that) so we only explored the gardens. However, if you want to see what it looks like inside the palace without leaving the comfort of your couch, you can take part in a virtual tour online.
Location: Hietzing, Vienna, Austria
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