Imperial ambience – the Hofburg Palace
For over 600 years, Hofburg Palace, located at the heart of Vienna, was not only the centre of the Habsburg Empire, but also the main residence of the Imperial family. The oldest sections of the building complex date back to the 13th century and were gradually expanded. The “Old Palace”, for example, served Field Marshall Radetzky (1766-1858) as a residence. Unlike numerous other residences, Vienna’s Imperial Palace is not a homogeneous building: It is a monument that developed in the course of centuries, appearing today as a building complex made up of a seemingly chance blend of architectural styles.
The character of the palace was kept despite numerous modifications, and still today the high façades, gates and passages as well as the windows, which are protected by heavy iron gratings, can be seen. Formerly the residence of the Habsburg monarchs, today the localities are used as exhibition halls for a large number of museums (e.g. the Sissi Museum), as event locations (e.g. for large balls) or as the location of the Office of the Federal President.
Precise records give information on how the countless rooms were used in the past. It is interesting to note that no two Habsburg sovereigns ever used exactly the same locations of the building complex. The respective successor invariably moved into a different wing or chose at least different living quarters and office rooms. Under Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780), who had been baptised in the Rittersaal of Hofburg Palace, the Leopoldine Wing, which was to be used as a residence during the winter months, was adapted in a luxurious but yet comfortable manner, so that in particular the windows were enlarged and could be opened wide. This was very typical of the Empress.
Important historical events are connected with Vienna’s Hofburg Palace. In 1814/15, for example, the Congress of Vienna took place here after Napoleon I was defeated, being the location where the reorganisation of Europe was determined. In the Leopoldine Wing the Habsburgs decided the fate of 56 millions inhabitants of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Another highlight of Hofburg Palace was the summit meeting of the protagonists of the Cold War: In June 1961 U.S. president Kennedy met with the Soviet leader Khrushchev. Moreover, in 1969 the Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, came to Hofburg Palace on the occasion of a state visit.
Superlative “Hofburg Palace”
The former Habsburg winter residence comprises an area of some 500,000 m², with 18 wings, 54 staircases, 19 courtyards and 2,600 rooms in the midst of Austria’s capital. Today, some parts of the Imperial State Apartments are used for conferences and have been fitted with state-of-the-art conference equipment. On three levels, the ground floor, the mezzanine and the rooftop foyer, 35 rooms for up to almost 5,000 guests are available.