Schönbrunn Palace dates back to the Middle Ages and was once just a hunting grounds for the Austrian rich and famous (back in the 1500’s!). It is located about 20 minutes outside of Vienna and is accessible by train (€1.80 each way).
The land fell into in the Habsurg’s hands under Maximilian II and eventually the palace was built and the hunting expanded.
Like many things in Europe, it was victim to numerous issues due to wars or some ancestor down the line letting it fall into disrepair, etc. Fortunately, in the 1700’s it landed into the hands of Maria Theresa and it became the centre of court life and was rebuilt and expanded. (FYI, Marie Antoinette was Maria Theresa’s youngest daughter.)
In 1830 Franz Joseph was born in the east wing, and as he spent much of his youth here he became very attached to the palace and once he succeeded to the thrown it became his primary residence and he died here in 1916.
Franz Joseph was married to a woman called Elizabeth and the Empress was affectionately called Sisi. She was apparently an extremely attractive woman with a very slender figure and a head of hair never before seen, nor seen since. Her tresses reportedly fell to her ankles and several hours each day were spent tending to it. She was also fixated on her looks and figure and supposedly suffered from anorexia.
I visited one of Franz Joseph’s other homes in Bad Ischl last year and there was a lot of information there regarding the rigorous exercise routine that Sisi undertook daily. She seemed very obsessed with her appearance but she was much loved by the Austrians as she was so beautiful.
Sisi was assassinated by an Italian anarchist when she was 60 and poor Franz Joseph was broken hearted. There is much speculation that Sisi was not as smitten with him, however.
The property also includes a zoo and a maze in addition to the gorgeous gardens. There is also an apfel strudel demonstration in one of the kitchens which was entertaining.
The palace passed to the ownership of the Republic of Austria at the end of the monarchy in 1918.