Hofburg Palace#10 in Best Things To Do in Vienna
Unlike Vienna's other royal residences, Hofburg is like a city within a city. Sitting on the southwestern edge of the Innere Stadt, the 13th-century palace shelters several individual attractions, and if you want the full royal experience, you'll need to spend at least half a day here.
Experienced travelers say it's best to start in the middle of this massive complex and work your way out. The oldest parts surround the Swiss Court, named for the Swiss guards who used to patrol the area. And from there you'll find the Kaiserappartements (Imperial Apartments), more than 2,000 rooms where the royal family lived. Only a dozen or so are open to the public. Take some time to explore the Kaiserappartements' Sisi Museum, which offers insight into the life and death of Vienna's beloved Empress Elizabeth. Then swing by the Imperial Silver Collection or the butterfly house. (For more information about the Kaiserappartements, click here.)
Next on the itinerary: the Burgkapelle (Royal Chapel). Visit on a Sunday to hear the Vienna Boy's Choir singing during Mass, then go check out the Spanische Reitschule (Spanish Riding School) where sugary-white Lipizzaner horses are raised and trained. Tickets are rather pricey, but you can sit in the bleachers and watch performances and training sessions for free (For more information, check out the school's website).
Don't tire out yet – you should also take a few minutes to see the sprawling Heldenplatz (Heroes' Square), and the huge statues of Archduke Karl (who defeated Napoleon's troops at the Battle of Aspern-Essling in 1809) and Prince Eugene of Savoy (who defended Austria from an Ottoman invasion in 1683).
The Hofburg Palace is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5:30 or 6 p.m. depending on the season. Prices vary depending on which attractions you wish to see. Visit the palace's main website to plan your visit.
More Best Things To Do in Vienna
#1 St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom)
Towering above the streets of the Innere Stadt, this massive cathedral is the true centerpiece of Vienna. St. Stephen's has stood in this very spot since the early 12th century, but little remains of the original aside from the Riesentor (Giant's Gate) and the Heidentuerme (Towers of the Heathens). The Gothic structure standing today was built in the early 1300s and has survived the Turkish siege of 1683. It was here that mourners came to pay their respects to Amadeus Mozart in 1791. In 1805, Napoleon used St. Stephen's doors to post his farewell edict. And it weathered attacks from both German and Russian armies during World War II. Today, this stunning cathedral remains an active house of worship, a national icon and a top tourist attraction.
After you've toured the main section, head underground to the catacombs where many victims of the Great Plague of Vienna were laid to rest. Move on to the gruft, or vault, where numerous urns contain the remains of members of the Hapsburg royal family. Before you leave, you should climb the 343 steps to the top of the South Tower or use the elevator to reach the lookout terrace at the North Tower – you'll be treated to a spectacular view. Visitors call this one of those "must-visit" attractions in Europe, praising the gorgeous church and its surroundings.
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