Austria, Vienna, view to lighted Hofburg Palace at twilight

Getty Images/Westend61


Top choice in Vienna

Nothing symbolises Austria's resplendent cultural heritage more than its Hofburg, home base of the Habsburgs from 1273 to 1918. The oldest section is the 13th-century Schweizerhof (Swiss Courtyard), named after the Swiss guards who protected its precincts. The Renaissance Swiss Gate dates from 1553. The courtyard adjoins a larger courtyard, In der Burg, with a monument to Emperor Franz II adorning its centre. The palace now houses the Austrian president's offices, the preserved Kaiserappartements and a raft of museums.

The Hofburg owes its size and architectural diversity to plain old one-upmanship; new sections were added by the new rulers, including the early baroque Leopold Wing, the 16th-century Amalia Wing, the 18th-century Imperial Chancery Wing and the Gothic Burgkapelle (Royal Chapel).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Vienna attractions

1. Silberkammer

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The largest silver service of the Silberkammer at the Kaiserappartements can cater to 140 dinner guests. Multilingual audio guides are included in the…

2. Sisi Museum

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Inside the Kaiserappartements, the Sisi Museum is devoted to Austria’s Empress Elisabeth, affectionately known as Sisi. A partial reconstruction of her…

3. Kaiserappartements

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The Kaiserappartements, once the official living quarters of Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth, are dazzling in their chandelier-lit opulence. The Sisi…

4. Burgkapelle

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The Burgkapelle originally dates from the 13th century and received a Gothic makeover from 1447 to 1449, but much of this disappeared during the baroque…

5. Kaiserliche Schatzkammer

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The Hofburg's Kaiserliche Schatzkammer contains secular and ecclesiastical treasures (including devotional images and altars, particularly from the…

6. Michaelerplatz Roman Ruins

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Ringed by gorgeous architecture, Michaelerplatz is centred on Roman ruins that are reputed to have been a brothel for soldiers. This cobblestoned circular…

7. Loos Haus

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Designed by Adolf Loos, this modernist gem put Franz Josef’s nose seriously out of joint when it was completed in 1911. Its intentionally simple facade…

8. Nationalbibliothek Prunksaal

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Austria’s flagship library, the Nationalbibliothek, contains an astounding collection of literature, maps, globes of the world and other cultural relics;…