Schönbrunn Palace

This month’s Thursday Travel Throwback posts share a trip to Vienna G and I took a couple of Decembers ago to enjoy the Christmas markets.

Just a short tram ride from central Vienna lies Schloss Schönbrunn, the former summer residence of the Habsburgs…

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The majority of the palace that visitors see today was built during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (Marie Antoniette’s mom). She ascended to the throne in 1740 after her father had declared a change in the succession laws which allowed females to take power in Habsburg countries and though the early years of her reign were plagued with issues (she was a bit…impulsive…as a new ruler) she eventually came into her own as an Empress. Her greatest accomplishment though? Marrying her ten children into the royal courts of Europe and making all roads lead back to the Habsburgs.

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The palace is enormous and, with dozens of state rooms to explore, a historian’s dream and so I was right at home. Following a tour we headed out to explore the grounds.

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We eventually found ourselves at the very quiet zoo and decided to take advantage of the lack of crowds.

The Tiergarten Schönbrunn claims to be the oldest zoo in the world and it’s small size and unique layout certainly mark it as unique from other zoos I’ve been to.

Though the weather was icy we kept warm by wandering through the pathways, stopping to say hi to new friends along the way. (As you’ve probably realized by now, every animal I meet is immediately considered a friend…)

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^Unimpressed fluffy bunny is very fluffily unimpressed.

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^ I love the reflection!

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Oh, to live the life of a panda…

From the zoo we walked up the hill to the Gloriette. Found at the summit of the palace parkland’s hill, the edifice was designed by Ferdinand Hetzendorf von Hohenberg (can you imagine having to write that out every time someone needed a signature?!) in 1715.

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^ The view down the hill towards the palace.

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We made our way down the long path back to Schönbrunn and went in search of some light refreshment.

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(Because nothing is as ‘light’ as strudel with ice cream and whipped cream with a side of creamy hot chocolate and even more whipped cream, of course.)

The strudel was delicious (as it was all 7,000 times I ate it while in Austria) but for dessert we decided to take things to the next level…we went to Strudel School!

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Offered at the restaurant at Schloss Schönbrunn, a nominal fee will get you a slice of strudel with a live baking show where you can learn the secrets of successful strudel making from the Strudel Queen of Schloss Schönbrunn. It’s incredible and you MUST promise to go if you’re in Vienna.

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By the time we emerged from the kitchen, strudel knowledge and a direct phone line to the Strudel Queen in hand, night had fallen over Schönbrunn.

…And it looked glorious!

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Sooner rather than later though we had to face the fact that we could no longer feel our extremities so we hopped back on the tram and went back into the city for dinner.

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Cafe Central is one of the best-known cafes in Vienna and was once the hangout of Leon Trotsky while he was exiled in Vienna before WWI. Almost 1,000 cups of coffee are served every day in Cafe Central and it’s a favourite of residents and tourists alike.

With a mouth-watering menu, affordable prices and priceless ambiance it’s no surprise why!

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Make sure you check back next Thursday for the fifth installment in my Vienna Thursday Travel Throwback posts and find the previous posts here, here and here if you missed them!

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