Hofburg Palace vs Schonbrunn Palace – Which one should you visit?

Hofburg Palace vs Schonbrunn Palace (Schönbrunn) are both iconic landmarks located in Vienna, Austria, and each holds significant historical and cultural importance. Before visiting Vienna, I wasn’t sure which palace was worth visiting, or should I see both? Here’s what you need to know about Hofburg Palace vs. Schonbrunn Palace.

Personally, I think if you’re in Vienna for 2 days or more, there’s time to visit both. However, there’s some key differences, pros and cons, and overall experiences between the two that you’ll want to make note of before visiting Hofburg Palace or Schonbrunn Palace.

Table of Contents

About Hofburg Palace

The Hofburg Palace served as the principal residence of the Habsburg dynasty, one of the most influential royal families in Europe, for over six centuries. Originally a medieval castle, it was expanded and renovated over the centuries to reflect changing architectural styles and the evolving needs of the Habsburg rulers.

Spread over a large area in the heart of Vienna, Hofburg consists of numerous buildings and courtyards, with 18 different museums and offices housed there. I didn’t realize that before visiting. I assumed that Hofburg Palace was a single museum; it is most definitely not. The complex is huge, and there are so many different museums and government offices there. 

Hofburg was not just a residence but a seat of power for the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The palace’s elements date back to the 13th century, and various architectural styles reflect the changing tastes of the Habsburg rulers over the centuries.

Attractions Include:

  • Sisi Museum
  • Spanish Riding School
  • The Imperial Apartments
  • Imperial Treasury Vienna
  • Imperial Silver Collection
  • In the Footsteps of the Habsburgs
  • Hofmusikkapelle at Hofburg Chapel
  • Weltmuseum Wien
  • Collection of Historical Instruments
  • Ephesus Museum
  • Collection of Arms and Armor

About Schonbrunn Palace

In contrast, Schonbrunn, built in the 17th century, was the summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs. It is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture known for its extensive gardens and stunning interiors. It was built to rival Versailles and other palaces in France.

Originally a hunting lodge, Schonbrunn Palace was transformed into a grand imperial residence during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century. It served as the summer residence of the Habsburg monarchs, and it was at Schonbrunn that Emperor Franz Joseph I, the longest-reigning emperor of Austria, was born and spent much of his life.

The palace showcases a stunning blend of Baroque and Rococo architectural styles. Its bright yellow façade, adorned with white ornaments, stands out against the lush greenery of its expansive gardens. The palace features over 1,400 rooms, including lavishly decorated staterooms, private apartments, and the opulent Hall of Mirrors.

The palace is surrounded by vast gardens and parklands, making it one of Europe’s largest and most impressive palaces. There are several things in the gardens to do and visit the castle.

Attractions Include:

  • Schonbrunn Palace State Rooms
  • Schonbrunn Zoo
  • Privy & Orangery Garden
  • Maze & Gloriette
  • Desert Experience & Palm House
  • Children’s Museum

Key Differences and Highlights

While both are part of the Habsburg Dynasty, some key differences should be noted when visiting each palace. Below are a few things to consider when deciding to visit Hofburg Palace vs. Schonbrunn Palace.
  1. Location:
    • Hofburg Palace: Right in the heart of Vienna, it is really easy to visit.
    • Schonbrunn Palace: Located on the outskirts of Vienna but on public transit.
  2. Cost:
    • Hofburg Palace: Multiple museums, each museum costs a different price but ranges from 5.50 Euros to 20 Euros
    • Schonbrunn Palace: Prices for children (from age 6) start at € 23.00, and tickets go up to € 48.00 depending on the combo ticket you purchase.
    • Walking the gardens and grounds at both is free.
  3. Purpose and Function:
    • Hofburg Palace: Originally constructed as a fortress in the 13th century, Hofburg evolved over the centuries to become the imperial palace and administrative center.
    • Schonbrunn Palace: Built as a summer residence for the Habsburg monarchs in the 17th century, it was primarily used for leisure and entertainment. 
  4. Architectural Style:
      • Hofburg Palace: It includes Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo elements, showcasing the changing tastes and preferences of different Habsburg rulers.
      • Schonbrunn Palace: Exemplifies Baroque architecture with its symmetrical layout, grandiose façade, and elaborate interior decoration.
  5. Size and Layout:
    • Hofburg Palace: Spread across a significant area in the center of Vienna, Hofburg consists of multiple wings, courtyards, and buildings. I got lost a few times trying to find different museums…
    • Schonbrunn Palace: While not as sprawling in terms of buildings as Hofburg, Schönbrunn covers an area of over 1.2 square kilometers and has extensive gardens and parklands.
  6. Visitor Experience:
    • Hofburg Palace: Multiple museums on various historical topics relating to the Habsburg and Austrian histories.
    • Schonbrunn Palace: Offers palace tours and many different outdoor and smaller gardens to visit.

Tips for Visiting Hofburg and Schonbrunn

Both palaces have a lot to offer, and while visiting Vienna, I found a few different tips that helped make visiting easier! Take a look and prepare for your trip.

As you look at the prices listed above, you may realize that both are pricey if you want to see multiple museums and places. However, both are included in the Vienna Pass

Hofburg Palace Tips

The palace complex is enormous. I mentioned above that I got lost; this was mostly because I didn’t realize there were multiple museums there (rookie move), and I just walked up thinking I would see an entrance. I didn’t. There are a few maps posted around the gardens and complex. I’d highly recommend using this map when looking for a specific museum. 

While at Hofburg Palace, check the hours for each museum. They are all different; you may want to visit one earlier if it closes, etc.

With its indoor attractions, Hofburg is an excellent choice for a rainy day or a winter visit.

Schonbrunn Palace Tips

Consider skip the line tickets for Schonbrunn Palace. It’s a very popular palace and a single complex, so lines for tickets can get long. I’d also recommend a group tour while here that includes skip the line tickets, which is what I did!

While at Schonbrunn, make sure you also explore the gardens and head to the cafe at the top of the hill that overlooks the palace called The Gloriette. This grand pavilion is on the hilltop overlooking the palace, offering panoramic views of Vienna.

Schönbrunn’s gardens are best enjoyed in spring or summer when they’re in full bloom. 

Which one should you visit?

Both Hofburg Palace and Schonbrunn Palace offer unique insights into Austria’s rich history and the legacy of the Habsburg dynasty. While Hofburg is more closely associated with the political and cultural life of Vienna, Schönbrunn’s breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens make it a must-visit destination for tourists.
Depending on how much time you have, both are worth a visit! However, let’s do a little more deep digging because if you’re reading you may have time for just one. Here’s the winner in some different categories.
If you only have one day in Vienna… Hofburg is easiest and will help you learn the most about Austria history. It’s centrally located, easier to get to, and you can do other things with your day. Schonbrunn is at least a 2-3 hour activity and takes about 20-25 minutes to get to and from.

If you want to see the grandeur of royal life… Schonbrunn takes the win on this one. It’s beautiful and the gardens are so pretty, although the Hofburg is still nice too.

If it’s rainy… Hofburg is best. You’ll still enjoy and get to experience it fully and can save Schonbrunn for a sunny day. 


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Photo by Martin Zenker on Unsplash

Other Palaces to Visit in Vienna

While Hofburg and Schonbrunn are two of the most popular and historically significant palaces in Vienna, there are others to know about. Below are a few I’ll highlight.
  1. Belvedere Palace: This palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, built in the 18th century as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy. Today, it consists of two palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere) and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. This is an art museum that showcases an impressive collection of Austrian art, including works by Gustav Klimt.
  2. Liechtenstein Palace: Situated in the Alsergrund district of Vienna, this palace is often referred to as the City Palace. It was built in the 17th century and is a landmark of Vienna renowned for its exquisite Baroque architecture and lavish interiors. The palace houses the Liechtenstein Museum, which features an extensive collection of art and artifacts.
  3. Coburg Palace: This historic palace is located near the Hofburg Palace and is known for its Renaissance and Baroque architecture. It has served various purposes over the years and is now a luxury hotel and event venue.
  4. Württemberg Palace: Inaugurated in 1873 by Emperor Francis Joseph, this palace is now the renowned 5-star Hotel Imperial is set directly on the Ringstraße boulevard in the heart of Vienna and takes you back to the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Deciding between Hofburg Palace vs Schonbrunn Palace? Learn about the key differences, pros and cons, and make the most of your visit.
Deciding between Hofburg Palace vs Schonbrunn Palace? Learn about the key differences, pros and cons, and make the most of your visit.

Overall, I loved visiting both palaces and hope you’ll find the time to see both, too. If not, I hope this guide provides insight into what to expect and make a decision that works best for you and your trip. Have a fantastic time in Vienna!


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