on July 26, 2010
The Hofburg Palace was the imperial palace of the Hapsburg dynasty. Today it houses the President of Austria.Originally a fortified castle, the Hofburg expanded into numerous wings and courtyards, including the Stallburg, a palace for the Imperial horses and now home to the Spanish Riding School.The Schatskammer has the amazing crown jewels of the Hapburgs. There you can also see the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, an embroidered velvet coronation robe, ceremonial swords, tiaras and a royal crib. Audio tours are available in English. It is less crowded if you come earlier in the morning.The Schmetterlingshaus - Imperial Butterfly House has an indoor tropical garden filled with exotic butterflies, colourful flowers, little waterfalls and ponds with fish. Our 6 year old loved it here. It is open daily year round and would be a great place to visit if the weather was bad. Entrance costs 5 Euros. I have never before seen such large butterflies as they had here - swooping and almost touching you as you walked around.The Spanish Riding School also has its home at the Hofburg. The wonderful Lippazaner stallions perform at the Winter Riding School. It was built in the 18th century by a Hapsburg emperor and the gilded baroque setting for the show is amazing. There are no performances in July and August and the June shows sell out, so you do need to book well in advance. Children under 3 years are not allowed, but those aged 3-6 are free if they sit on their parents lap.Unfortuntately there was no performance of the Lippazaner stallions which coincided with our visit, but the next best thing is to go to the morning training session.We arrived at the ticket desk at 9.30 to find there was already a huge queue. We did though get tickets without a problem. It cost 15 Euros per person - our 6 year old had free entrance, but not only do you get to see the horses as they train, but also the splendid interior of the Winter Riding School.The viewing area is 2 storeys high - I would recommend trying to get a spot on the lower level - you are much closer to the horses and get a far better view. You can move around though, and people come and go all the time. You can stay for as much of the session as you want between 10.00am and 12.30pm. We stayed about 45 minutes and then had coffee and cakes at their lovely cafe.The Volksgarten is a pretty place to visit and rest during a visit to the Hofburg. There are lovely flowers, we brought sandwiches and relaxed.All around the Hofburg there are the sound of buskers - violinists in particular playing classical music in the shaded hallways. It is a very special place.
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