A few kilometres west of the Vienna city centre is the location of Schönbrunn Palace, the most visited attraction in Vienna and Austria. To be able to describe all the luxury, glamour, grandeur and attractions of this palace, one would need several books. Therefore, this article will focus only on the luxurious interior of this architectural, cultural, and historical masterpiece.
The first impression of every visitor of this palace is: It is big! The palace consists of a vast complex of buildings and an imperial garden, and its impressive size can be compared to the territory of the Principality of Monaco. It has 1441 rooms, but only less than three percent of them are open to the public. A big part of the remaining rooms is divided into apartments, which are now rented. Therefore, the palace is not empty and is still inhabited as always.
The style of the palace is a harmonious blend of different influences ranging from Baroque to Rococo, but Biedermeier and Wilhelminian styles are vastly represented in the interior as well. The interior of the castle served primarily as the residence of the imperial family. However, the palace was built to represent the powerful Habsburg Monarchy. Hence, countless celebrations and ceremonies that symbolized and strengthened the prestige of the empire took place in the palace.
From mentioned 1441 rooms, forty of them can be visited either as a part of an organised tour or a self-guided equivalent. This sneak peek into the palace is more than enough to get the sense of magnificence of this masterpiece of architecture. The tour takes the visitors through richly decorated rooms, living and sleeping quarters of the imperial family and the saloons of the palace.
The left wing of the palace is reserved for the quarters of Emperor Francis Joseph, the longest reigning Emperor of Austria, and his famous wife, Elisabeth or Sisi. The visitors can see his bedroom with a humble iron soldier’s bed, where the Emperor used to sleep, and where he also died after almost 70 years of ruling. There is also a billiard room, with a large billiard table from the Biedermeier period. This space was used as the waiting room for the Emperor's visitors, who could play billiard while waiting for the audience. Four white-gold rooms, whose white walls and ceilings are decorated with golden stucco, served as the gym of Empress Elisabeth.
On the ground floor, among others, are the private apartments of the imperial family, or so-called "Berglzimmer". The apartments are decorated with colourful landscape paintings populated by exotic animals and birds. Other highlights of the palace are: Marie Antoinette's room, the room where Napoleon stayed, and Maria Theresa's private salon, paneled with precious rosewood and decorated with 260 Indian and Persian miniatures.
Another interesting attraction is the Mirror Room. It is fitted with huge crystal mirrors that reflect each other and make the room look bigger. Presumably, the first concert of a six-year-old prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart took place here in front of Empress Maria Theresa and the court.
The Great Gallery is the centerpiece located in the middle of the palace. With a total of 420 m², the Great Gallery was used mainly for festive receptions, balls and as a boardroom. In 1961, the famous meeting between the US President John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev took place in this room.
Besides those mentioned rooms, there are many more, and each room has its own interesting story. Visiting Schönbrunn Palace, Austria's most popular attraction, should be accompanied by exploring its living quarters and state saloons because it will show you how grandiose and luxury was the life of the Austrian ruling dynasty.
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