Until 1918 the extensive palatial complex at the heart of Vienna was the political centre of the monarchy. Today it fulfils the same role for the democratic Republic of Austria. The rooms where once Emperor Joseph II drew up his revolutionary programme of reforms, where the Congress of Vienna met and danced and where Emperor Franz Joseph held audiences, now house the offices of the Federal President, the ministers of the chancellor's office and the secretaries of state.
In the Silver Collection magnificent dining services, centrepieces measuring up to 30 metres in length and exquisite napery give an impression of the lavish pomp of imperial banquets.
The Sisi Museum conveys a complex piture of Empress Elisabeth with numerous,
partly very personal objects on display which afford fascinating insights into the official and private worlds of this unique woman. Here as in no other place the legend of Sisi becomes tangible, with this imaginatively designed display shedding light in the mystery surrounding the personality of this fascinating woman.
Visitors to the Imperial Apartments will gain an insight into the world of Austria's most illustrious imperial couple. The 24 rooms in the apartments occupied by Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Elisabeth, comprising studies, residential suites and reception rooms, are all furnished and decorated to the highest standards of historical authenticity, and in their comparative restraint form a fascinating contrast to the exuberant splendor of imperial summer residence at Schönbrunn.
In 1735 Johann Emanuel Fischer von Erlach completed the Winter Riding School, today still the setting for the performances of the Spanish Riding School. The Redoutensäle (ball rooms) were then erected as an adjoining building. Originally used for grand receptions, balls and other festivities, they today serve as a congress centre.
At the beginning of the 19th century Ludwig Montoyer built the magnificent Hall of Ceremonies which was from then on used for all the ceremonial events of the imperial dynasty and which is still used today for many of the famous Viennese balls.
It was not until the end of the 19th century when the old palace theatre was demolished that Ferdinand Kirschner completed the Michaelertrakt (St Michael Wing, named after the church it faces) to Fischer von Erlach's designs. With its curving façade and its 50 meter high dome, it dominates the façade of the palace which faces the centre of the city.
At the beginning of the 20th century, shortly before the end of the monarchy, the New Hofburg was erected facing Heldenplatz. With the sweeping curve of its impressive monumental facade, it was originally planned as part of a much larger 'imperial forum' designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Hasenauer. Today it today houses a part of the National Library as well as a number of collections and museums.