The following options can be mixed and matched according to individual choice, either as half-day, full-day or evening programs (see also Events):
Imperial Tour (around 20 rooms, concentrating mainly on Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elizabeth) in the imperial summer residence of Schönbrunn. View the shared bedroom of Sisi and Franz Joseph, her dressing room and salon; her weighing scales and hear stories of her favorite hairdresser; Franz Joseph’s work room with its many pictures of Sisi, the room where he died, his bathroom etc. Scenes for the well-known “Sissi” films were filmed in the Great Gallery and the Carousel Room, as well as by the Neptune fountain.
Grand Tour (around 40 rooms, added on to the Imperial Tour): including Empress Maria Theresia’s bedroom, the room where Franz Joseph was born or the room where the last emperor of Austria, Karl I formally surrendered the affairs of state.
Wagenburg (Carriage Museum)
The former winter riding school now houses a museum for carriages from the imperial era. As well as the magnificent golden coronation coach you can also discover the carriages used by Sisi and Franz Joseph, a child’s coach belonging to Crown Prince Rudolf or a hunting carriage from his adult years.
The Sisi Museum and the Imperial Appartments display many objects personal to Sisi: the famous statue which shows her actual dimensions and unbelievably tiny waist, the pointed file with which she was murdered, her exercise equipment, her bathroom with its original bath tub. At the end of the tour, a fully laid table displays the lavishness of imperial mealtimes and gives us a picture of the strict Spanish court etiquette.
Silberkammer (Imperial Silver Collection)
Magnificent table decorations, cooking utensils, table and kitchen linen, and innumerable dinner services and accoutrements allow us a glimpse of the richness of the imperial table displays. Here you can find the dinner service that was used at Sisi’s wedding, her travel china, a dinner service used at Bad Ischl and much more.
Kaisergruft (Capuchin or Imperial Vaults)
Elizabeth’s last resting place following her murder in Geneva, as well as that of the Emperor Franz Joseph and their son Crown Prince Rudolf (interred after the tragedy at Mayerling). In addition, there are approx. 140 other emperors, kings and members of the imperial family laid to rest in the crypt. Hear about the embalming of the corpses, the burying of heart and entrails at other locations and the burial ceremony of the “poor sinners”.
This is the church where Sisi and Franz Joseph were married. For Sisi the austere court wedding ceremony removed all trace of romance from the proceedings. The 16-year-old girl was totally crushed by the experience. The “heart crypt” of the Habsburgs is also here (not always available for tours). Hear many interesting facts and discover why brides still wear white…
Spanish Riding School
See the training of the Lippizaner horses and/or visit the stables of the Spanish Riding School and the riding hall (Sisi was one of the most accomplished riders of her generation). In this institution the highest level of horsemanship has been maintained for about 440 years.
Monument to Empress Elizabeth
Sisi’s monument in the splendid Volksgarten was unveiled after her death in the presence of Franz Joseph. We can only wonder – what were his feelings?
This former court purveyor was a favorite haunt of Elizabeth’s – to this day the candied violets she was so fond of can still be sampled here. Enjoy a typical Viennese coffee (perhaps a “melange”) accompanied by a slice of Sachertorte or another variety of delicious cake. The décor of this classy traditional café takes us back in time to imperial Vienna. Also worth a visit: the on-site chocolate and marzipan museum.
Hofmobiliendepot. The Imperial Furniture Collection
As one of the biggest furniture museums in the world this collection offers a unique insight into imperial and middle-class housing traditions from the renaissance onwards. You will find many mementos of Elisabeth and Franz Joseph and can also visit the permanent exhibit “The Sissi Films – Imperial Furniture for the Sets”. The original pieces of furniture used for the Sissi trilogy are exhibited together with the relevant excerpts from the films.
Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera)
This monumental structure, the first opened on the Ring Boulevard, opened in 1869 with a performance of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. On January 1st 1892 the opera “Ritter Pásmán” by Johann Strauss was premiered here. The tour includes the auditorium, the vestibule, the interval rooms, Empress Elizabeth’s tea salon and if possible even the stage of this world- renowned opera house. Hear about the Opera Ball, the glittering high point of the internationally famous Viennese carnival season. It has become a tradition that Johann Strauss’ operetta “Die Fledermaus” is performed at the state opera on New Year’s Eve.
Imperial and Royal Purveyors to the Court
Visit former purveyors to the court e.g.: Jungmann & Neffe, Sisi’s personal dressmaker; Backhausen where the material for the furnishings for Schönbrunn and the Hofburg were produced (with The “Wiener Werkstätte” Museum); Lobmeyer the maker of glasses, chandeliers etc. (with The Viennese Glass Museum).
The former imperial hunting grounds, the Lainzer Tiergarten, are surrounded by an enormous wall. In the middle of the grounds stands the Hermes Villa, which Franz Joseph built for his wife and equipped with the most modern technical advancements of the time. Visit Sisi’s living quarters, adorned with works by artists Gustav Klimt and Hans Makart. On the walk from the parking area to the villa learn about the cruel “toughening up” methods to which the small Crown Prince Rudolf was subjected by his tutors, before the vigorous intervention of his mother.
Mayerling is situated in the delightfully scenic Vienna Woods and is the unlikely setting for one of the greatest tragedies of the Habsburg dynasty. It is here that Crown Prince Rudolf chose to end his life along with his 17-year-old lover, Mary Vetsera. The background to the tragedy and also the speculation surrounding it are discussed in detail.
In the former Mayerling hunting lodge, today a Carmelite convent, we visit the church which was established on the site of Rudolf’s bedroom. There is a small museum, where not only the original carpet from Rudolf’s bedroom can be seen, but also Mary Vetsera’s copper coffin. During the occupation of Austria after World War II the coffin was desecrated by grave robbers.
The Cistercian monastery founded in the Vienna Woods in 1133 by Leopold III of Babenberg is still a monastery today. Worth a visit are the wonderful medieval cloister with chapter hall; the funeral chapel; the fountain house and the Romanesque/Gothic church. In 2007 Mary Vetsera’s copper coffin was discovered here in the monastery and was handed over to the Carmelites at Mayerling, where it can be seen today .We can visit the nearby Heiligenkreuz Cemetery where Mary Vetsera was finally laid to rest after the shocking desecration of her grave.
Elisabeth spent her lonely honeymoon in the so-called Blue Court of this spacious complex that played an important part in the beginning of the Habsburg dynasty in Austria, and it was also at Laxenburg that her son Rudolf was born and christened. Sightseeing from the outside only.
Bad Ischl (and Fuschl)
The spa town of Bad Ischl lies amid the mountainous scenery of the stunning Salzkammergut. The very first meeting between the 15-year-old Bavarian Princess Elisabeth and the 23-year-old Emperor Franz Joseph took place here in 1853. The official engagement was sealed only a few days later in the parish church. Franz Joseph regularly spent his summers at the Emperor’s villa in Bad Ischl. Elizabeth loved sport, and often hiked on her “magic mountain” the Jainzen, at the foot of which the villa is nestled. Sisi’s favorite daughter, Marie Valerie, married here, and in his later years Franz Joseph visited his “friend” the actress Katharina Schratt every morning in her villa. For fear that one day she might spoil his favorite Guglhupf cake, she always had a spare one to hand, baked from her personal recipe by the famous bakers and confectioners Zauner. Visitors can still sample an original Schratt Guglhupf at Zauner today.
A tour of the interior of the villa may find you being guided by a great-grandchild of Elizabeth – if you’re lucky! A stroll in the town to the parish church and a visit to Zauner are also on the itinerary.
There is the option of eating in the Schratt villa (now a gourmet restaurant) or in the rustic Gasthaus where, according to legend, Franz Joseph’s favorite dish, Kaiserschmarrn has its origins.
As an extension to the program we can undertake an excursion to Fuschl, about 30km away. In the Sissi films Schloss Fuschl served as Elisabeth’s family residence for both indoor and outdoor shots and the surrounding area for various nature scenes. There is a possibility to visit the premises at the Hotel Schloss Fuschl.
A whole day’s tour of the Wachau can be put together from two to three of the following suggestions:
Sisi’s bridal journey was for the most part by ship along the Danube. The corresponding scenes of the “Sissi” films were shot in the world famous Wachau, with its breathtaking scenery. We can follow Sisi’s trail by ship and see, just as she did, Schloss Schönbühel, Dürnstein and other sights from the water.
Take in the view of the pretty village dominated by the castle where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner. Here we visit (from the outside) the picturesque town hall and the baroque church which is still used for weddings. In addition, see the wonderful renaissance sgraffito facades and the mixture of old and new guild signs over the shop entrances. In addition, Dürnstein has unbelievably beautiful views over the Wachau and the Danube.
This architecturally overpowering baroque Benedictine monastery has no direct connection to Sisi, although it does have links to the Habsburgs. However, it is hard to imagine coming to the Wachau and not seeing this imposing landmark. Visit the emperor’s apartments including the dining room, balconies, the library, the church and if possible the garden, and learn the history of the Benedictines.
A famous and impressive place of pilgrimage high above the Wachau – with a fantastic view! In the treasure chamber of the baroque church discover votive offerings which provide touching evidence of human destiny. Fragments of Elisabeth’s wedding dress are also displayed – find out how they got there!
The private castle of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. Franz Ferdinand became the heir to the Austrian throne after the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf, but before he could accede to the throne the couple were shot and killed in Sarajevo – setting in motion a fatal chain of events which led to World War I. Personal details of their lives, together with the historical facts and the details of the events which took place during the transportation of their bodies will leave us deeply moved. The reason why they are both buried here and not in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna gives pause for thought. The castle is now occupied by Franz Ferdinand and Sophie’s great-granddaughter, Princess Anita Hohenberg and her family.
If you wish, it is also possible to go for wine, schnapps or liqueur tastings at a variety of venues in the Wachau . Elegant and classy or rustic and quaint – it’s your choice!
For further ideas please see Events.