Built in the 13th century and expanded in the centuries since, the Hofburg Palace has housed some of the most powerful people in European and Austrian history, including monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Hofburg Palace was the principal imperial winter residence, as Schönbrunn Palace was their summer residence.
Phone: +43 1 5 337 570
Price: Adults: € 12.00 Children and teens under 19: free / Combined ticket «Treasures of the Habsburgs»: Adults: € 18 (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Neue Burg & Treasury)
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday: 10 a.m. — 6 p.m.
Bus: 57A, N25, N38, N60, N66 (Burgring); 1A (Habsburgergasse); 2A (Albertinaplatz)
Tram: 1, 2, 71, D, VRT (Burgring)
Subway: U3 (Herrengasse)
The Hofburg area has been the documented seat of government since 1279 for various empires and republics.
The Hofburg has been expanded over the centuries to include various residences the Imperial Chapel (Hofkapelle or Burgkapelle), the Naturhistorisches Museum and Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Austrian National Library (Hofbibliothek), the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer), the Burgtheater, the Spanish Riding School (Hofreitschule), the Imperial Horse Stables (Stallburg and Hofstallungen), and the Hofburg Congress Center.
The Hofburg faces the Heldenplatz ordered under the reign of Emperor Francis Joseph, as part of what was to become a Kaiserforum that was never completed.
Numerous architects have executed work at the Hofburg as it expanded, notably the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese (the Leopoldischiner Trakt), Lodovico Burnacini and Martino and Domenico Carlone, the Baroque architects Lukas von Hildebrandt and Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach (the Reichschancelry Wing and the Winter Riding School), Johann Fischer von Erlach (the library), and the architects of the grandiose Neue Burg built between 1881 and 1913.
History of Hofburg Palace
The Hofburg in Vienna is the former imperial residence. From 1438 to 1583 and from 1612 to 1806, it was the seat of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, thereafter the seat of the Emperor of Austria until 1918. Today it is the official seat of the Austrian Federal President.
The oldest sections originate from the 13th century and were primarily constructed by the last of the Babenbergers or by Ottakar II of Bohemia. Previously the castle of the Austrian rulers had been located on the square called «Am Hof,» which is near the Schottenstift.
These oldest sections of the castle form a square, surrounding what corresponds somewhat to today’s Swiss Court (Schweizerhof). There situated are a gothic chapel (Burgkapelle), from the 15th century, and the treasury (Schatzkammer), which holds, among other objects, the Imperial Insignia of the Holy Roman Empire (Reichskleinodien) and that of the Empire of Austria.
The Imperial Music Chapel (Hofmusikkapelle) is also located in this area. This Swiss Court was built during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand I in the style of the Renaissance. Its famous red-black Swiss Gate (Schweizertor) displays the many titles of Emperor Ferdinand I and the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The lower section of this wing once accommodated the imperial kitchen.
Although not physically connected to the rest of the complex, the Imperial Stables of the Hofburg Palace were originally built as a residence for the then crown prince Maximilian II.
It is said that Ferdinand I did not wish to house his son under his roof, being that Maximilian had veered towards Protestantism.
This structure later accommodated the art collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, the art-inclined brother of Emperor Ferdinand III. This collection forms the core of the later Kunsthistorisches Museum from 1889.
Only later were the Imperial Stables used to house the imperial horses, and even today it is still used by the Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule).
Across from the Swiss Gate is the Amalienburg, named after Amalie Wilhelmine, the widow of Joseph I.
However, this wing had already been in use for more than a century, constructed as the Viennese residence of Emperor Rudolph II in the style of the late Renaissance.
Of note is the small tower with its dome and the astronomical clock on its façade.
The connection between the Amalienburg and the Swiss Court is the Leopold Wing which was first erected in the 1660s under Emperor Leopold I.
The architect was Filiberto Lucchese, but after the Siege of 1683 by the Turks, the wing was rebuilt by Giovanni Pietro Tencala with an additional floor installed.
Through its architecture, this wing still bears a connection to the Late Renaissance. It is in this wing that the offices of the Federal President are located. The lower section of this wing as well as that of the Amalienburg served as the enormous wine cellar for the Hofburg.
Imperial Chancellory Wing
An additional father-son collaborative project resulted in the Winter Riding School across from the Stallburg (and where the first Austrian parliament sat in 1848) and in the Imperial Chancellory Wing (Reichskanzleitrakt) across from the Leopold Wing.
The latter was originally planned by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt and accommodated, in addition to the Aulic Council (Reichshofrat), the offices of the Imperial Vice Chancellor (Reichsvizekanzler), who was the de facto prime minister of the Holy Roman Empire since the position of Imperial Arch-Chancellor (Reichserzkanzler)—which the Imperial Vice Chancellor represented—had always been filled by the Archbishop of Mainz since the Middle Ages.
After the end of the Holy Roman Empire, this wing housed the apartments of the Duke of Reichstadt (Napoleon II) and later those of Emperor Francis Joseph I.
Austrian National Library
Originally a free-standing structure, the Imperial Library was housed on the other side of the complex. Charles VI founded the library, which is now called the Prunksaal, cared for by the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek).
Its construction was begun by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and finished by his son Joseph Emanuel in 1735.
This magnificent hall contains the book collection of Prince Eugene, an enormous ceiling fresco by Daniel Gran, and statues of emperors by Paul Strudel making this part of the Hofburg its most significant in artistic terms. The exterior decoration with Attika figures was executed by Lorenzo Mattielli in 1726.
He placed a statue of Pallas Athene riding on a quadriga above the main entrance. On the left portion of the roof, he situated Atlas, supporting the celestial globe, flanked by Astronomy and Astrology, and on the opposite side, Gaia with the terrestrial globe, flanked by allegories of Geometry and Geography.
Built right before the adjacent Imperial Library, on the south-east side of Joseph Square, lies the Baroque Augustinian Wing so identified for its proximity to the Augustinian Church and Monastery, and, as the Hofburg Palace expanded, it became part of it.
The Archduke Albrecht Palace home of the Albertina Museum, is also considered part of the Hofburg Palace because of its structural connections to the Augustinian Monastery.
Besides, in early years of the 19th century members of the Habsburg Family lived in the building, such as Archduke Albrecht and, later, his nephew, Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen.
The Augustinian Church was used by the Habsburgs as their court church and also for weddings. This is where Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth, alias Sisi, were married.
Behind the Loreto side chapel is located the Hearts' Crypt, a semicircular-shaped annexe separated by an iron door, where 54 hearts of House of Habsburg members are kept in silver urns.
Maria Theresia had a 17th-century opera house converted into the beautiful dance and concert halls now known as the Redoutensaele. The original plans were drawn up by, while the external facades are the work of Nicolò Pacassi and The Redoutensaele soon became the setting for a cultivated style of entertainment.
The name is derived from the French word «redoute», meaning an elegant masked ball, and such balls were also held there.
Johann Strauss served as musical director to the court for the balls, and the audience was treated to music by Joseph Haydn, Nicolo Paganini and Franz Liszt. The premiere of Beethoven’s 8th Symphony took place there in 1814.
The well known saying «The Congress dances» derives from the balls held in the Redoutensaele in the framework of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15. Over the centuries, various modification have been made the balls in line with changing tastes.
On 27 November 1992 the whole wing with the Redoutensaele was seriously damaged by fire. The reconstruction and restorage work performed lasted five years. While the Kleiner Redoutensaal was faithfully restored, for the interior of the Grosser Redoutensaal a design competition was held, which was won by the Austrian artist Josef Mikl.
He created a number of oil paintings based on literary quotations taken from Ferdinand Raimund, Johann Nepomuk Nestroy, Elias Canetti and Karl Kraus. The Redoutensaele reopened in 1998 in the framework of the first Austrian presidency of the EU and became since then part of the Hofburg Congress Center.
The contemporary Hofburg
Restoration of the roof of the Redoutensaal following the fire in 1992 proved an opportunity to convert the original loft space into a new amenity called the Dachfoyer. The architect Manred Wehdorn designed a modern interior, completed with a striking spherical structure for secure conferences.
The panoramic window provides breathtaking views of the Michael Cupola. Beside the Dachfoyer, Manfred Wehdorn also turned the former courtyard between the Festival Hall and the southwest wing of the Swiss courtyard to the modern Hofburg Gallery and beneath the Hofburg Forum in 2006.