Baroque and Rococo blend in this Grand Palace.
Schönbrunn is Vienna's most popular sight and even just to see the glorious Schlosspark gardens it is well worth the 20 minute trip from the city centre. Entrance to the park is free. For a visit to the interior of Schönbrunn Palace you do need a ticket. With nearly 2.5 million visitors counted last year it will, most likely, be busy. The best way to avoid queues is to arrive early morning or late afternoon. Alternatively, buy your ticket in the Hofburg or online (www.schoenbrunn.at/en/besucherinfo/tickets-tours.html) to avoid queueing up all together. For an extensive visit, both indoors and out, allow about three hours.
Touring the Palace: The shorter (Imperial) tour includes 22 rooms but ends in the Ceremonial Chamber leaving out the best. On the longer (Grand) tour, the Millions Room (generally considered to be the most Rococo room in the world) is the highlight. Its walls are panelled in Brazilian rosewood and decorated with incredibly ornate gilt frames. These contain hundreds of 17th century Indo-Persian miniatures, painted on vellum, showing scenes from court life at the palace of the Mughal rulers. Maria Theresia spent a fortune decorating this room - one million Gulden (silver florins) hence the name – and, obviously wanting to impress her guests, used it as her audience chamber.
The Vieux-Laque Room, with shiny black and gold lacquered panelling on the walls and an exquisite parquet floor, is another of my favorites. Besides the magnificent rooms within the Hapsburg's former summer home, there are other lovely sites to see outside. The carefully manicured gardens, behind the main wing, are among the most beautiful in Europe and the newly enlarged maze, with playground, is fun for all ages – I had a great time there recently with my mum, daughter and grandkids.
A walk up to the Gloriette is time consuming - a half hour to the top - but worth it for a fantastic view of the flower-beds. If you're thirsty after the climb, there's a cafe inside the war memorial (yes, that's what the Gloriette is) – although it's a pity the cafe interior doesn't offer the panorama it should do. Historic carriages can be found in the Wagenburg behind the west wing, hand-made puppets perform Mozart operas in the Marionettentheater and, last but not least, Schönbrunn zoo attracts over two million visitors each year. The latter is the second most popular site in Vienna - not surprising when you've seen the cute and cuddly baby panda bear, Fu Hu.