The enormous 2km² park behind the palace is one of Vienna’s favorite
sights. The public had free access to it since the last year of Maria Theresa’s
reign, and with around 5 million annual visitors, it is considered the most
popular monitored sight in Austria. The park is huge, and to see all of it
properly would take more than day – comfortable shoes are highly advisable.
Although there are 13 entrances to the park, most visitors access it from
either side of the palace itself. (Hohenbergstraße gives direct and easier
access to Gloriette.) The park is mostly in a mid-18th-century French
baroque style with Austrian influences, such as the Tirol garden and the
allowance for more natural landscaping. However, these Austrian aspects are
somewhat hidden, with most visitors rightly focusing on the more strict baroque
features of the main garden. Trees are in straight lines and trimmed to
perfection. Statues and fountains are scattered through the garden, and new
features are to be discovered at every twist and turn. Remember – like the
palace itself, the gardens were supposed to mirror and surpass Versailles.
Directly to the east of the palace is the small but fine Kronprinzengarten
(Privy Garden). Admission is 2€ or included in the Classic Pass. At our visit
in late April, it was already past its spring peak, and, in any case, all of it
could be seen for free through the not-too-thick fence.
More impressive is the view from the palace to the Gloriette on the opposing
hill. The garden in this section is treeless and almost forcing the eye to look
up to the hill and its crowing architecture. At the foot of the hill is the
large and impressive Neptune fountain.
Close by is the Irrgarten (maze). Although this attraction is probably aimed
primarily at children, I have to admit that I got into the spirit of the thing
within seconds of being enclosed by the around 2m-high hedges. The joys
of traveling with toddlers include the opportunity to run around like a nutcase
without generally being considered odd. Finding our way to the pavilion in the
center proved more complicated than anticipated. At least we managed it on our
own. Several times we passed a French couple with two toddlers who were already
inside the maze when we entered, and they were still struggling when we were
about to leave the viewing platform. It was only the smaller boy’s insistence to
enter an "obscure" passageway, against the advice of both parents and older
brother, but with encouragement in four languages and hand signals from the
viewing platform that saw them through to the target. The adjacent labyrinth is
a fun walkway with several play instruments – once again aimed at children, but
strong enough to endure adults, too. Admittance is included in the Classic Pass –
otherwise, it’s 2.60€ well spent!