Imperial Palace (Hofburg)
The Hofburg Imperial Palace, otherwise known as the Winter Palace, is situated in the historic centre of Vienna. From the gates of the palace, you can look down on the city as the palace lies on a steep hillside. Some of the most powerful people in the history of Austria, including many of the rulers of the Austrian Empire had lived in the palace. Today, Hofburg is the official residence of the President of Austria as well as a major tourist attraction.
The palace comprises six museums, a chapel, the national library, the famous Winter Riding School, a greenhouse containing many famous plant and fruit species, and a park. The grounds of the palace are vast and you need a lot of time if you want to see all of the attractions. The exact date of Hofburg's construction is unknown, however, the earliest written references date back to 1279. Many architects have worked on the palace as it was being expanded over the centuries, but the most famous architect who completed the work was the Italian architect-engineer Filiberto Luchese, who designed the front gates and the front half of the palace. From 1438, the palace was home to the Kings of Austria and Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.
The oldest section of the palace is the chapel, which dates back to the 13th Century and holds many interesting relics including the Reichskleinodien
, otherwise known as the Imperial Insignia of the Holy Roman Empire and that of the Empire of Austria. Other parts of the palace, Kunsthistorisches Museum
or Museum of Fine Arts in particular, hold some beautiful artefacts from the past. This section exhibits ancient art, a compilation of armour and a collection of the historic, musical instruments.
The Winter Riding School is where you can admire the famous Lipizzaner stallions, which are trained in the Spanish Riding School. The design of the riding school, built between 1729 and 1735, is attributed to Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach. Two galleries encircle the training ground, which is illuminated by two beautiful massive chandeliers.There is also a butterfly aviary in the greenhouses which dates back to 1901.
Over the years, architects have tried to keep to the original structure intact, however, significant changes had to be introduced after the fire which had started on the night of November 26, 1992, had caused severe damages especially to the Redoutensäle
on Joseph Square. A part of the roof as well as the entire, upper floor burned down completely. The renovation, which cost millions of Euros was completed in 1997 and now Hofburg features new wall and ceiling paintings by Joseph Mikl.
The building is massive, covering over 2,300 square metres of land and comprising 2,600 rooms in 18 wings. Around 5,000 people live and work in the palace today, taking care of the lagacy of this great place. Tours and temporary exhibitions are available every day in a variety of languages. Private tours are also possible. The most popular tour is the Silver Spoon Tour which takes you even to the Emperor’s throne. Opening times of the palace depend on the season; in the summer, the museums and the palace are open from 9am to 5.30pm. In the winter, Hofburg closes at 5pm.
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