A visit to the Imperial Hofburg Palace Apartments and the Sisi Museum is one of the top things to do in Vienna City. One of the largest palace complexes in the world the Imperial Hofburg Palace houses several outstanding museums, the Spanish Riding School, National Library, Imperial treasury and the Heldenplatz. The 13th-century Hofburg Palace once the residence of the Habsburg emperors today serves as the seat of the President of Austria.
The grandeur of the palace is evident from its facade and the exterior embellishments. We entered into the palace grounds through the remarkable neo-Baroque Michael’s Gate opposite the St Michael Church in Michaelerplatz. The inside and outside of the entrance are decorated with numerous larger than life-size sculptures.
Tickets and Open Times
The Sisi Museum, Imperial Apartments, and the Imperial Silver Collection can be visited with a single ticket. The Sisi Museum, Imperial Apartments, and the Imperial Silver Collection is open daily from 9.00 am – 5.30 pm from September to June and 9.00 am – 6.00 pm from July to August. There are guided tours for Imperial Apartments, and the Imperial Silver Collection for children on weekends and holidays from 10:30 – 14:30. The ticket office closes an hour early to the museum closing time which needs to be taken care when planning your visit.
Imperial Silver Collection (Silberkammer)
The imperial silver collection was open to the public in 1923 and displays different items from the dining culture of the Habsburgs. The exhibits include silver cutlery, porcelain collection, ornate table centerpieces and copper vessels. The first room in the museum displayed imperial silver cutlery, porcelain and glass items arranged in oak display cases. The large set of the imperial silver cutlery is still said to be used in the state banquets.
One of the interesting fact we learned here was that the Vienna court table silver from an earlier period is not available today as most of it was melted by the end of 18th century to produce coins during Napoleonic Wars.
The huge collection of silverware is a testimony to the fact that Viennese court dined off silver and gold plates and the porcelain which was used initially only to serve soup and desserts were not used for dining until the nineteenth century.
The table centerpieces were particularly very impressive with ornate elaborate designs. The gilded table decorations served as stands for the desserts and sweets.
The collections also have several dinner sets presented by Empress Elisabeth to Emperor Franz Joseph for his hunting lodge or the specially made dinner set used by Empress Elisabeth onboard her personal yacht when traveling.
One of the breathtaking exhibits was the 30m long ‘Milan Centerpiece’ made of gilded bronze which is said to be commissioned for the coronation of Emperor Ferdinand as King of Lombardy-Venetia in 1838 decorated with elegant tendrils and mirrors installed with an idea to reflect the light of candles from the candelabra.
One of the stunning exhibits which we saw almost at the end of the collection was the Milton Dessert Service. A porcelain dessert service comprising of 116 pieces, 69 pieces of which was gifted by Queen Victoria to Emperor Franz Joseph which interestingly was never used due to its fragility but sits in the collection for the admiration of the visitors.
Next on the tour was the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum. The imperial apartment which served as the winter residence of the Habsburgs today houses museums and government offices and only a part of it which housed the apartments of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth are open to the public. You get a glimpse of the grandeur of the Habsburgs as you ascend the imposing Emperor’s Staircase it is the same stairs used by the Emperor to gain access to his apartments. The Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum are wheelchair and stroller accessible, there are lifts to take you to the upper floors.
After walking past rooms which provided some info on the history and family of the Habsburg we were at the most awaited and interesting part of the museum the Sisi Museum.
The Sisi Museum displays around 300 objects, personal possessions of Empress Elizabeth including her items of clothing, fans and gloves, traveling case, and the original death certificate. One of the room also displays the copy of the ballgown wore by Empress Elizabeth for her farewell to Vienna original being held in the Kunsthistorsches Museum. An interesting feature of the gown is the Arabic inscription which translates to ‘Oh my lord, what a beauteous dream’, the room also displays her famous ruby jewelry set and a replica of the diamond stars wore in the popular portrait painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
The audio guide and the items displayed at the museum walked us through the life of Empress Elizabeth from 1854 when she traveled to Vienna and moved into the imperial apartments of Hofburg after marrying her cousin Emperor Franz Joseph to her tragic end in 1898 when she was heading to Montreux from Geneva in Switzerland, an Italian anarchist stabbed her to death.
Empress Elisabeth is said to have grown up in a carefree childhood enjoying the outdoor life and traveling and the constraints of courtly life could not make her happier. Then several unfortunate incidents like losing the eldest child at age of 2, persistent health issues and then the suicide of her only son all made her even more reclusive and she kept herself away from Vienna traveling most of the times.
The Empress of Austria and the Queen of Hungary, Elisabeth gained popularity as a beautiful but unhappy empress who suffered a tragic end and numerous monuments were erected to commemorate her, one of them was the Klotz Statue displayed in the museum here, a life-size figure, a copy which graced the study of Emperor in the Schonbrunn Palace. It was gifted by her son-in-law Archduke Franz Salvator.
The visit to the Sisi Museum definitely left a lasting impression on our minds with the intriguing and mysterious story of the beloved Sisi. Her story reminds us of the reclusive Fairytale King Ludwig II who built the famous Neuschwanstein Castle who surprisingly is also from Bavaria (Empress Elisabeth was the daughter of a Bavarian Duke). The tour next continued onto the rooms of the imperial apartment occupied by Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth.
Imperial Palace Apartments
The Imperial Palace Apartments comprises of staterooms and private suites. The suite occupied by Emperor Franz Joseph consisted of the Audience Chamber where the emperor received people who sought an audience with him, Study, Bedroom and Salons.
Empress Elisabeth occupied the main floor of the Amalia wing next to emperor’s apartments. Of all the rooms of empress suite, the most interesting was the Dressing & Exercise Room for it offered even more insight into the likes of Elisabeth.
Elisabeth is said to have spent most of her time in the Dressing Room/Exercise Room. It is said that Elisabeth’s hairdressing would take hours and while her hairdresser worked on the tresses, Elizabeth used these hours to learn languages. Over her lifetime she learned seven foreign languages. The room is decorated with portraits of personalities from her Bavarian and Habsburg families and her favorite poet Heinrich Heine. The room also had exercise equipment wall bars, high bar and the rings in the frame of the door used by Elisabeth for gymnastic exercises.
Another was the Bergl Rooms named after the artist Johann Bergl who decorated the walls of rooms up to the ceilings with rich mural paintings depicting the beautiful landscape of flora and fauna.
Also, the Red Salon decorated with fine tapestries from Paris dating to the 18th century is something not to miss. At the end of the apartments is the lavish dining room arranged in a way it should have been laid for Emperor’s dinner with immediate family. The table is sumptuously decorated with ornate centerpieces, silver plates and fine porcelains for soups and desserts.
At the end of the tour is a souvenir shop which had a wide range of items from magnets, collector boxes, tea powder boxes, books, chocolates, decorative items and much more all with the image of the beautiful Sisi.
We exited the apartments from Ballhausplatz which next to the office of Austrian Federal President which was jam-packed for the day’s events for the Austrian National Day.
If you have more time to explore do not miss to take a tour of the Spanish Riding School, where visitors have an opportunity to watch the Lipizzan horses performing their daily exercises in the beautiful Baroque riding hall. And the Imperial Treasury that displays an amazing collection of crown jewels and precious stones.
The Heldenplatz is a square in front of the Hofburg Palace and houses several outstanding museums in the Neue Burg an imposing colonnaded neo-baroque building. The four museums housed in the building are Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer (Imperial Hunting Museum and Armory), Ephesos-Museum (collection of antiquities), The Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente (Collection of Historic Musical Instruments) and the Weltmuseum (an Ethnology museum).
Across the street from Heldenplatz is the Museumquartier which also houses some of the outstanding museums of the city along with numerous cafes and restaurants which makes it a great meeting place.
Have you visited the Hofburg Palace Apartments and the Sisi Museum? What has been your favorite part of the museum?
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