Easter Sunday, to be exact.
Rule #1 when visiting anything in Europe during Easter season – prebook your tickets for all popular sites. This absolutely saved my time. There are two popular websites for this: Imperial Austria (tickets to all major Imperial castles and palaces in/near Vienna) and the palace’s home website.
Do it. Seriously. Pre-book and preprint your tickets. You will reap untold rewards.
I arrived at Schönbrunn on a sunny, gorgeous, blue-skied morning, right around its opening time of 10 AM. It’s easy to find the palace from it’s monikered Metro stop – follow the hoards of people. By the time I reached the palace’s grounds, loads and loads of people were already lined up, and the palace hadn’t really opened yet. It was so crazy, several lines of people wound around by the gates.
Deep breath. I have a ticket already.
One problem – my ticket hadn’t come up properly after I’d booked it and paid for it online. I just had the top of the ticket and a QR code, not the necessary barcode. It took me quite a bit of time to weave through the lines of people – who were quite suspicious of my “cutting” through the lines – to find the Information desk. When I got up there, they couldn’t help me all the way, but they sent me back by the Children’s Museum. There, yet another friendly staffer brought me into an office where they looked up my ticket number and printed me a new one.
Despite the insane crowds, these people set me on the right path. They solved the issue efficiently and quickly, and I really appreciated it. These are good staffers!
I ventured into the palace, which is one of those grand, beautiful places you must see. Armed with an audio guide, I followed the galleries and rooms of the house. While you aren’t allowed to take photographs inside, it’s a good thing – all the more to concentrate on the intricate wall hangings and paintings inside. Be on the lookout for my favorite rooms – the Mirror Room (where Mozart once worked his magic), Chinese Cabinets, Carousel Room, Blue Chinese Salon, and Millions Room. I can still recall pieces of these rooms, especially how intricate they were.
Whilst the palace is undeniably beautiful inside, the gardens are the crowning glory. Studded with Romanesque statues and recreated Roman ruins (because, if you’re super-rich, why not make fake ruins on your property to folick about in?), even in early spring the gardens were marvellous. There’s the Neptunbrunnen, a beautiful Roman tribute fountain. The Gloriette up on the hill is simply lovely. The views down the green lawn, not-yet-blooming roses and flowers, and the spread of the palace were quite breathtaking. Besides, after a good climb up the crowded paths to the Gloriette, the layout of the city is a treat.
I sat on the green lawn for a time before walking toward a far garden gate, near the Palmenhaus, a replica of Kew Gardens in London. From the gate, there was a lovely church, followed by a busy street.
Crossing the street and walking down a local lane gave over to good restaurants and cafes. I fueled up at Pure Living Bakery at Altgasse 12 – delicious parma ham on a bagel, a booster smoothie, and a slice of deep-dish apple pie that was a cross between Chicago deep dish pizza and Viennese apple strudel. Oh, my word – yums. Besides, the cafe workers were awesomely friendly, with one guy giving me a list of cool things to do and see in Vienna. He was incredibly nice, and we had a good chat about life in old Europe and new America.
Schönbrunn – a must-see palace in Vienna. No matter what. Try to spend as much time there as possible – there are so many rich and beautiful sites to see.