Vienna, or Wien, as this romantic city is known in German, is elegant from head to toe. Or perhaps I should say hat to hoof? After all, the imperial city is known for horse-drawn carriage rides through Vienna’s old center and the famous Spanische Hofreitschule or Spanish Riding School, home to the Lipizzaner stallions. During an AmaWaterways Danube river cruise, I had the opportunity to visit Schönbrunn Palace Park and the Vienna Imperial Carriage Museum. The Carriage Museum is a must see for both history and horse lovers.
I’m not going to attempt a history lesson here, as Writing Horseback is about horseback riding vacations and horse-related things to see and do. So rather than explaining the Hapsburg Monarchy or empire, I’ll simply explain that the Hapsburg Monarchy was part of the Holy Roman Empire from 1526-1804. The Hapsburgs’ collection of carriages is quite impressive, as the former imperial fleet is largely displayed here on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace Park, including replica of horses in ornate leather and velvet harnesses. While you won’t be able to ride with a Fiaker in a Vienna, Austria horse-drawn carriage, you’ll get a glimpse inside of how royalty was transported in the Imperial Carriage Museum
Back in the day, royal family members were transported in carriages from place to place. The ride was rough and often, unpleasant, but the passengers managed as best they could. The Rococo Berlin Coach was used for children, while town carriages were designed for two or four people. If you notice a crown on the outside of a coach, that symbol designates a VIP (very important person) resides inside the carriage.
The Imperial Coach, also know as the Coronation Coach, was the Hapsburg’s most ornate coach. Interestingly enough, there was no seat for a coachman, as the carriage was steered while riding horseback. According to Spanish court etiquette, no one was allowed to sit higher than the ruler inside the coach.
A fancy, racing sleigh was driven by Joseph Hapsburg, while his sister, Marie Anna, was seated in the carriage. Carriages also served a purpose in funeral processions, with the most ornate coaches designed to transport deceased royalty to their final resting place. One of the hearse carriages on display featured artistic panels on the side of the coach with soldiers in combat, as well as angels in a separate panel; perhaps depicting life, death and heaven?
Need to know: The Vienna Imperial Carriage Museum is a self-guided tour with audio headsets available in different languages. The cost of the carriage museum tour, during my visit, was 9.5 euro for adults with children and teens free. Unlike inside Schönbrunn Palace, visitors are allowed to take pictures inside the museum as long as they do not use a flash.Hours of operation are from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.