The Schönbrunn Palace

After its destruction by the Turks in 1683, Schönbrunn, then a simple hunting pavilion, was to become a rival for Versailles, according to the vision of Empereur Leopold and his architect J. B. Fischer von Erlach. For financial reasons, the result was on a more modest scale but successful, thanks to Maria Theresa who had the castle finished by Nikolaus Pacassi in a near-Classical Baroque style, inspired by French taste. It was her summer residence. At the entrance to the Ehrenhof, the huge courtyard, flanked by two «cavalier wings», visitors are overwhelmed by the sheer imperial grandeur of the castle. The façade of the castle stretches for 180m, the monotony broken by projecting parts and redans. Its yellow ochre colour, known as «Schönbrunn yellow» chosen by the Empress, has since become the colour of Vienna's official buildings. The interior is in sumptuous Rococo style, predominantly gold, white and red. Exuberant stucco-work pirouettes between the trompe-l'œil of frescoes and ceilings illuminated with a magnificent profusion of crystal chandeliers. The 40m-long Great Gallery, still used for official banquets, balls and concerts, is the most splendid part of the tour. It is easy to imagine the atmosphere at the 1815 Congress of Vienna when almost all the crowned heads of Europe danced here. On the whole the apartments still have the rocaille woodwork decor, marquetry, chinoiseries and floral ornaments of which Maria Theresa was so fond. There are also poignant memories, notably of a concert given by young Mozart, 6 years old, in the Mirror Room.


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