We begin our walk through the Vienna Hofburg with the oldest part, the Gothic Swiss Wing.
When Austria becomes an archduchy in 1156, Vienna, which becomes the royal seat, is also upgraded. The first ruling family to set up camp in today’s Austrian capital is the House of Babenberg. Their residence, of which nothing remains today, lies roughly where “Am Hof” can be found today.
After the Babenberg family dies out King Ottokar II of Bohemia (1230-1278) comes to power. He is generally regarded as the first building contractor and owner of Vienna’s Burg or castle. From around 1275 work begins on a simple fort within the city walls, with 4 towers and a rectangular courtyard – today’s Swiss Courtyard.
King Ottokar’s construction is admittedly a far cry from the collection of buildings that make up the Hofburg today. And the ruler is not able to enjoy his new home for long, meeting his death a few years later in the Battle on the Marchfeld at Dürnkrut in Lower Austria.
The victor, Rudolf I of the House of Hapsburg (1218-1291), not only takes control of Ottokar’s territories, but his fortress too. And he founds a long line of rulers from the House of Hapsburg who live in and reign from the Vienna Hofburg.
Over the centuries the Swiss Wing is constantly changed and extended. The famous red and black Swiss Gate in the Renaissance style for instance comes into being in around the mid-16th century. And Ottokar’s original towers are not removed until the 18th century under Emperor Charles VI and his daughter, Maria Theresa. Both Baroque staircases, the Column Staircase and the Ambassadors’ Staircase, which are accessible from the Swiss Courtyard, are also from this period.
Today the seat of the Austrian Castle & Fortress Authority and Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments, along with the entrances to the world famous Treasury and Gothic Imperial Chapel can be found in the Swiss Wing.
Enjoy now the 3 points of interest from Highlight 1, “The Swiss Wing”, before continuing your walk through the Vienna Hofburg. To do so take the passage on the back left of the Swiss Courtyard, go under the Redouten Wing and arrive at Josefsplatz. Highlight 2 of our walk through the Vienna Hofburg, “The Stallburg”, borders on Josefsplatz.