The summer residence of the Habsburgs -- often called "Austria's Versailles" -- is one of Vienna's most popular tourist attractions. The famous Austrian Baroque architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was responsible for the plans of the castle. He selected the distinctive basic forms of the mighty structure: the two wings, the main courtyard, and the staircase to the garden.
Only under Empress Maria Theresa, who lived here with her husband and 16 children, did the palace become the center of the imperial court. At the request of the empress in 1744-49, it was expanded and remodeled in a playful rococo style. In all, Schönbrunn has 1400 rooms, of which about 40 can be visited on the guided tour. Also worth seeing are the wagons in the west wing, with its collection of more than 60 historical ceremonial carriages and state carriages.
Especially for the Viennese, Schönbrunn Palace doesn't just mean the palace itself but also the beautiful park, which is often used for walking and jogging. On a tour of the 0.7-square-mile facility, which is designed entirely as geometrical French baroque gardens, you will encounter a palm house, a maze of yard-high hedges, and a passel of trusting squirrels. You'll also see Vienna's charming zoo, which dates back to 1752 -- it is the oldest zoo in the world. A special tip is the Roman ruins -- a strikingly realistic but artificial ruined palace dripping with romantic decay. Above all, the crowning glory of the park is the Gloriette on a hilltop, a neoclassical portico that contains a restaurant. Today, in the former dining and breakfast room of Emperor Franz Joseph, anyone can have brunch or coffee or simply enjoy the glorious view of Vienna.
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