On our way back from Malta to Finland we happened to have an 8 hour layover at Vienna airport. Even though we were tired from traveling for several weeks, we decided against staying at the airport and to venture into the city instead. I lived in Austria for most of my life and even Mihir had seen most of Vienna, but one thing had eluded us: Schönbrunn Palace!
We figured 8 hours was plenty of time to head from Schwechat Airport down to the palace, do a little tour, and come back. And in fact, we were right! If you have a long layover in Vienna and want to do something worthwhile, follow in our footsteps. Alternatively you could also do a regular day trip to Schönbrunn Palace and enjoy one of the most beautiful gardens Europe has to offer!
When to Visit Schönbrunn Palace
Now, if you only want to visit the palace and couldn’t care less about the gardens, for God’s sake.. come in winter! The palace is overrun with tourists in the summer which makes it a bit hard to take in all the history. On the other hand, if you want to visit the gardens (and they are beautiful), we recommend that you come in spring, summer, or early autumn (as long as there is still foliage on the trees).
How to Visit Schönbrunn Palace
Getting to Schönbrunn Palace is relatively easy. After all, it has its own stop on the U-Bahn network, named “Schloss Schönbrunn”. It is served by the U4 (green) line, and you will most likely have to travel in the westbound direction. If you are coming from the airport like us, you’ll first need to get to the city center.
Because we didn’t want to waste any time, we decided to take the City Airport Train (CAT) as it is the quickest (most frequent) and most direct way of getting into the city. A return ticket costs 19€ (11€ single) and the journey takes about 16 minutes. This also allowed us to add a 24h city transport ticket for 7.6€ a person.
At the central station you can then change for the U1 (red) line until Karlsplatz (1 stop) where you change for U4 (green). The journey on the green line will take about 10 minutes. Once you get off the U-Bahn, you either follow the crowd of tourists, or simply cross the street, turn right and follow the street until you reach the castle (5-10 minutes on foot). Alternatively, you can take bus 10A from the metro station. While you are walking you will pass some informative posters which tell you a little bit about the Habsburg monarchy and the people who used to live in Schönbrunn Palace. You then reach the main entrance.
Tickets for Schönbrunn Palace
If you value your time, buy your ticket for Schönbrunn Palace in advance! We had no idea how crazy we were for visiting Schönbrunn on a holiday morning without pre-purchased tickets. We first stood in line to buy the Classic Pass. After nearly 30 minutes we still could barely see the ticket counter ahead of us and decided to switch to the line for the ticket machines. This line moved significantly faster. Unfortunately the only tickets available at the machine are the Imperial Tour and the Grand Tour. Also keep in mind that here you can only pay with card. Unwilling to stand in the counter line for hours, we opted to just buy a ticket for the Grand Tour.
When you buy a ticket it will have an entrance time printed on it. This is meant to distribute the amount of visitors evenly throughout the day. In our case we had to wait about 45 minutes before we could enter the palace. And this is on top of the time we spent waiting in the queue!
Long story short, buy your tickets in advance online.
Exploring Schönbrunn Castle
We first took some time to enjoy the beautiful and spacious palace yard. Whatever you think of horse carriages, they just complement the scenery so perfectly. We took a couple of snapshots and then decided to take a seat at the cafe. Not only did we have a cup of coffee, but we also stuffed ourselves on traditional Austrian strudel. Albeit expensive, they were delicious!
After we finally got to enter the castle, we were instantly amazed. Naturally we had expected the palace to be beautiful, but some of the rooms are just unreal. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside, so you’ll have to bear with my descriptions.
Some of the rooms were used by the royal family as living quarters, while others were used purely for representative matters. These were witness to uncountable feasts and ceremonies and decorated with the most ornate furniture and accessories.
Our absolute favorite room is also the center piece of the palace, the imperial ball room. With 10 by 40 meters there was plenty of space for couples to dance the night away. The walls are covered with gigantic crystal mirrors which reflect all the golden accessories in the room and give it a very warm feeling. Oh, to have lived at the royal court..
One of the palace’s main attractions are the gardens. And let me tell you, they are spectacular! And best of all, most of the gardens can be explored for free! They opened to the public in 1779 and have been popular with the Viennese ever since. Bring your walking shoes, because the gardens stretch for an incredible 1.2 kilometers.
Although the general admissions to the gardens is free, some parts of it require tickets, such as the orangery, the palm house, or of course the zoo.
As the sun was burning down on us, we decided to skip some of the gardens and went directly for the maze. I must admit, I’m a sucker for mazes and I will hunt down each and every one of them. Perhaps one day I’ll win the Triwizard Tournament?
Admission to the maze is 5.5€ (but included in some of the package deals) and it won’t take you too long to get through it. We enjoyed it because the hedges were rather high and it was a bit of a challenge to get to the center. Mihir beat me to it, by the way.
All in all we had a fantastic day and we’re confident in recommending visiting Schönbrunn Palace during a long layover at Schwechat Airport. We returned to the airport well within time and felt happy about not having wasted our time at the terminal.
Now, what do you think? Would you recommend visiting Schönbrunn Palace during a long layover? Or have you done it as a day trip? What was your favorite room? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!