Much has been written about the palace residence, designed by Johann von Erlach between 1696 and 1712. It boasts over 1000 rooms, but the grounds also reflect the grandeur of the royalty who once made Schönbrunn their home.
The parterre, or ornamental gardens, is laid out in a symmetrical pattern leading from the back of the palace. Tourists can walk the wide paths lined with tall hedges and statuary of Greek and Roman gods. At the far end of the gardens, the enormous Neptune fountain shows the Roman god riding in a shell chariot drawn by seahorses, surrounded by other mythological creatures.
Off to one side of the gardens an entrance cut into the hedges leads to the first well house on the property. The building is square with arched openings in front and back. A statue of Egeria, the Roman goddess of fountains, stands inside, holding a vase under her arm that flows with spring water. The waters, discovered by Emperor Mathias, gave the area its name Schöner Brunnen or “fair springs”.
Historical Architecture of Park Buildings
The Carriage Museum was once the riding school on the palace property; the building now holds coaches, sedan chairs and sleighs once used by the imperial family.
The Orangery at Schönbrunn and the one at Versailles are the two largest in the world. In 1754, plans for the building began under Franz I Stephan. It would be a place to keep citrus trees and other plants during the cold months of the year. As it turned out, the Orangery became the scene for many palace parties and celebrations.
The Gloriette is the most outstanding building in the park. This summerhouse with viewing terrace was constructed in 1775. It sits high on a hilltop overlooking the palace and grounds. The colonnade was designed by Ferdinand Helzendorf consists of a central section and two side wings. The flat roof serves as a viewing platform. An eagle, sitting on a globe, crowns the roof of the building.
Columns for the structure came from the Renaissance palace of Neugebaude that was never completed. Marie Theresa ordered them to be brought to Schönbrunn and used in the Gloriette. Partially destroyed by a bomb during WW II, the Gloriette was completely restored in 1995-1996.
Tourists who undertake the climb up the steep hill to the Gloriette have a pleasant surprise when they arrive at the top. There’s no St. Bernard with a flask waiting to revive the adventurer, but inside the colonnade an elegant café, serves beverages, lunch, and pastries. The regal architectural details of the dining room and the magnificent view are as much a treat as the items.
Traditional Holiday Markets
During two seasons of the year, the palace grounds take on a holiday atmosphere. In winter, the Christmas market displays traditional Austrian decorations and small gifts made by local artisans. In spring, the Easter market is held on the grounds and vendors again market their wares for tourists and locals.
A visit to Schönbrunn isn’t complete until the tourist has experienced the beauty of the Baroque gardens, the fountains, statuary and unique buildings.