A highlight of a visit to Vienna is undoubtedly a visit the summer residence of the Hapsburg family – the Schönbrunn Palace. Beginning as a modest hunting lodge, known as Katterburg, in 1548, the Hapsburg monarchs over the course of several hundred years transformed this once simple mansion into a 1,441 room baroque palace. An incredible estate that attracts more than 2.6 million visitors a year.
Maximillian II purchased the house and land in 1569 in order to enclose the grounds and fill it with pheasants, ducks, deer & boar and use it as a private hunting ground. A hundred years later Eleonora Gonzaga, wife of Ferdinand II, began the process of turning this mansion into a palace which was finished of by Maria Theresa in the mid 18th century.
Along with the palace there are the magnificent gardens. Opened to the public since 1779, the gardens and park extend almost 1.2 km (0.75mi) from east to west and 1km (0.65mi) north to south. The focus of the garden is on a hill, 60m (200ft), which is crowned by the Gloriette which was placed there in 1775. The Gloriette, Maria Theresa decided, was to symbolise the glory of Hapsburg power, a family who at that time had spent 500 years ruling Austria and its domains.
In 1996 UNESCO listed the palace and gardens as a World Heritage Site noting that the palace, along with its gardens, is a remarkable baroque example of – synthesis of the arts.