Photographs are not allowed of the rooms on the formal tour, so we are unable to
show you the beautiful apartments, furnishings, decorations and paintings that you will
be able to see during your exploration of the Hofburg.
Sisi, was the favored name of Elisabeth (1837–1898), wife of the Habsburg
Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916) who adored her, although it appears that
his ardor was not returned. Conversely, he appeared to have had little time
for Sisi due the needs of the Empire and she turned to other pursuits.
Apparently, Sisi, arranged a relationship between her husband and a leading
actress of the Vienna stage, so that he would have companionship during her
various absences from the Palace, including numerous voyages abroad.
The Sisi Museum is housed in the first six rooms of the Imperial Apartments
and employs an interesting series of displays in an attempt to penetrate the
mystique surrounding her famous persona.
The exhibits in these rooms detail her life as young girl in Bavaria (she
was a member of the Wittlesbach family who ruled Bavaria) through her
betrothal to and life with the Emperor Franz Joseph. In these rooms, you
will find displays focusing on the common aspects of her life (desk, writing
instruments, combs, and parasols, as well as some of the exquisite gowns and
stunning jewelry she wore in formal appearances (including her “Lady in
Black” period following the suicide of her only son Rudolf in 1889).
of newspaper clippings details the causes in which she was interested, as
well as public reaction to her lifestyle. It is interesting to note that Sisi was not popular with the Viennese people and was more popular in
Hungary than Austria, perhaps because she was the Queen of Hungary and
actively advocated the political independence of the Hungarian people. The tour of Sisi’s Apartments ends
with a room dedicated the details of her assassination by an anarchist during
her journey to
visit Lady Rothchild in Switzerland.
Elisabeth, in a manner that was unusual for the times, lived a life independent of
the monarch. She has become a cult figure for many, although it
appears that her reputation was quite different than her actual life. The
mystique surrounding her took on a life of its own after she was
The more banal analysis of her life is that Sisi was unprepared to be
married at sixteen to a cousin and her betrothal the Franz Joseph was a plot that
went awry. Apparently Sisi’s mother and Franz Joseph’s mother had secret
plans to marry Sisi’s older sister Néné to Franz Joseph, but he fell in love
with Sisi during his first meeting with the family. Sisi’s notes indicate
that she was originally intrigued by the marriage, but soon regretted giving
up her freedom for the constraints of life to someone as prominent and
powerful a ruler as Franz Joseph. In addition, it appears that Sisi was not
cut out for the intrigues in the Imperial Court and spent most of her life
attempting to avoid its focus. Perhaps, most importantly, Sisi never recovered from the tragic death of
her firstborn (Sophie) at 2 years old, which was later complicated by the
suicide of her son Rudolph in 1889.
The state apartments, although having walls covered with red, silk damask
pineapple pattern, are relatively modest, The rooms are
using period furniture borrowed from other palaces in Austria, although the
beautiful ceramic stoves are reputed to be the originals. The relatively
plain furnishing of these rooms reflect the demeanor of Franz Joseph, who was
a somber, religious man dedicated to the Empire.
The Kaiser Apartments,
which were in the former Imperial Chancellery Wing of the palace, included not only the
Emperor’s living quarters, but also his working quarters and his Audience
Chamber and Waiting Room to the Audience Chamber (which is decorated with
three monumental paintings of scenes from the monarch's life). The tour moves
on to the Emperors Conference Room, Study and modest bedroom.
The Emperor Franz Joseph lived a somewhat Spartan existence and was very
religious. He began his day at 4 AM, rising from his narrow bed and
proceeding to a small kneeler for prayers, followed by a modest
breakfast and, then, a morning wash (he was bathed by his staff in a
collapsible rubber tub). It appears that he worked the rest of the day on
matters of state. His personal quarters, while not quite bare, were modest
and he surrounded himself with photos of his family. He wore military
uniforms most of the time and his valet claimed that the Emperor barely had
two good-quality coats to his name.
Once the Franz Joseph and Sisi stopped sleeping together (after having produced four children,
including a male heir), Sisi moved into separate quarters and the emperor
had to ring a bell (so her staff could leave the area) before he could enter
her quarters and visit. Sisi lived much more lavishly in better decorated
apartments than those of Franz Joseph
Elisabeth’s Apartments, adjoin those of Franz Joseph, but are located in what is known as the Amelia
section of the Palace. Sisi’s apartments reflect the differences
between her values and those of the emperor. On your tour you will see her
bedroom, which also served as a living room. The tour continues to her
dressing room, exercise room and lavatory. These rooms are followed by a
salon and then, the luxurious Alexander Apartments, which were
often used by Sisi for entertaining and included a dining room for intimate
Your tour of the Habsburg will start with the Silver Collection (Silberkammer),
which is focused on tableware, as well as other dining table decorations used by the
Habsburgs, although some cookware is included in the exhibit.
The feeding of the royal family and preparing for royal banquets
required an army of workers. The facilities included an Emperor’s Kitchen for preparing
food only for the emperor and his family and a large Kitchen equipped with roasting
ovens and spits for preparing food for banquets. In addition, there was a Cold Kitchen for the preparation
of pastries, cold meat and cheese. There was, also, a Salad Kitchen and a
specific kitchen (the Oleo Kitchen) where the clear consommé named oleo was
The highlight of the extravagant collections of silverware, ceramics and
porcelain is a series of gilt bronze table centerpieces. One (the Milan) is
over 30 meters in length. Silver plates, gilded services, porcelain
services, crystal, ceramics and common pots and pans make up the rest of the
The Silver Collection is quite large and the exhibit occupies a
significant number of rooms. You will see table services in an amazing
variety of designs and some used only once, while others were used only for
special occasions. The wealth relayed by this collection is amazing,
especially since much of the collection was sold off after the Habsburg
Empire ended in 1918. Apparently, it was good to be a Habsburg.
There is even more to see at the Hofburg, including the Spanish Riding
School, the Treasury, The Albertina, and much more. Click here for our
what to see in the rest of the Hofburg.
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