Saturday, 2 July 2011

Vienna Schönbrunn Palace Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length:  7 km ( 4.4 miles), terrain goes up a small hill

Vienna running routes:
Vienna Neustadt/Altstadt run
Vienna Schönbrunn Palace loop

Vienna Prater Park 
For other running routes, see Route List.

The pictures here all show a huge thunderstorm that was threatening for the entire run, but never arrived -- very strange weather!

Fiaker coach waiting out front at Schönbrunn
This route is a classic for Vienna (Wien, in German). If you can get out to the west end of town, then definitely run through the Schönbrunn (beautiful fountain) Palace grounds. The palace was built 250 years ago by the Habsburg Austrian kaisers (back then they were also German kaisers) as their answer to Versailles, and it is a great place to zig-zag around for an evening. The route isn't long, but I'd take my time, if I were you. The gardens are a place to enjoy: I occasionally stop to take-in the view, smell a flower, feel the spray of a fountain, look at an animal grazing in its enclosure. That's what the garden was built for!

And there really is a lot packed into the area behind the palace: a zoo (the oldest zoo in the world), formal gardens, elaborate fountains, a hilltop woods, fake ruins, an impressive tropical greenhouse, tirolean-style restaurants, cafés, a labyrinth, obelisks, a public swimming pool and all kinds of interesting stuff. And the opening hours are long: from 7 a.m. till 9 p.m., at least in June, when I last ran there.  (Check their web site for opening hours: http://www.schoenbrunn.at/en/plan-your-visit/opening-hours.html)

View towards the rear of palace
The palace and grounds are located southwest of the city center, along the Wien River in the Meidling neighborhood. It's easy to get to with the underground, Line 4, with its own station called Schönbrunn. The art nouveau station is a good place to start the run, sitting right at the southeast corner of the palace grounds.

There's only one good way to approach a palace like Schönbrunn: go through the main entrance. So from the station, turn your back on the Wienzeile river ditch and run south on Grünbergstraße, past the parking lot. Turn right on the Schloßstraße (ignoring the entrance signs that point straight ahead). You will run along the outside of the palace grounds and come right to the front entrance, flanked by obelisks.

Run into the large courtyard towards the palace, where you'll see the waiting fiaker (horse-drawn coaches). Stay on the right side of the courtyard and run past the right edge of the palace. You will come out into the vast grounds stretching out before you and up the hill behind the Neptune fountain. The hilltop is crowned by the Gloriette, a baroque arcade set up as a place for the royalty to wander towards when out for a walk.

Neptune and friends party it up
The best tactic now is just to zig-zag back and forth, because each corner of the grounds has its own interesting character. Just to orient ourselves at this point, when you stand there with the palace to your back, looking south, over the flower beds towards the Neptune fountain, there are formal gardens to the right and left of the flower beds. Everything is criss-crossed with gravel paths.

On the right side, you'll find the labyrinth (must pay an entrance fee), the botanical gardens with their impressive greenhouses, and behind that, the zoo.

On the left side are the fake Roman ruins, an obelisk fountain, the rose garden and a public swimming pool.

All paths lead to paradise
It doesn't really matter how you do it, but here's a nice loop through the grounds: Turn diagonally left and run southeast, away from the palace, with the flower beds to your right. You'll see a diagonal path going through the formal gardens on the left side, heading towards the obelisk-topped fountain in the distance. You'll pass a pool along the way, and come to the obelisk.

Path ruined by ruins
At the obelisk, turn right and run westwards, with the hill to your left side, passing the Roman ruins (or, better said, fake ruins) and then coming back out at the Neptune fountain. You can now run up a zig-zagging path that goes uphill on the left side of the fountain, heading towards the Gloriette on the hilltop.

Gloriette
When you get to the top and look out, you have a view over the city to the hills to the north. The grounds behind the Gloriette aren't open to the public, except for one path: it's all a game reserve. So turn right and run behind the Gloriette towards the west, going through the woods.
View from Gloriette towards the north
At the first intersection, you'll see some giant emu birds behind a fence. Turn left here and run down the path until it ends at the gate called the Tiroler Tor, where you turn around and run northwards, back to the intersection with the emus (that little detour was just to get a bit more time among some real nature).

Now turn left and run towards the wooden tirolean-style houses. The Tiroler Hof is used by the zoo to house old farm-animal breeds, in old farm-buildings dismantled in Tirol and rebuilt on this site. There is also a restaurant there, the Tirolergarten: a great place to come back to! Across the way from the restaurant is the old  crown-prince's playhouse, now fenced-off, locked-up, dusty and lifeless -- a bit sad when you think what it was once built for.
Tirolergarten restaurant
Now turn around and run back the way you came for a few steps, then turn left to run downhill with the Tiroler Hof and the zoo on your left.

You will come out at the Neptune fountain again. This time turn left and run westwards, going through the west side of the formal gardens. The labyrinth is immediately on your right, but you have to pay to get in. The zoo will be on your left side, and you can view various animals from the path.

Just before reaching the west end of the park, you'll see a Japanese garden and the beautiful kaiser-era greenhouse, the palm house along the right side. Turn right just past the greenhouse and run past it, going north, with another tropical greenhouse on the left side. Run to the end, at the northwest corner of the park, then turn right and run out to the flower beds behind the palace again.

The Palm House
Here, you leave the gardens the same way that you came in, on the left side of the palace and northwards, out through the main courtyard again. Or you decide that you haven't run enough yet, and you just start zig-zagging down the many other paths that you haven't even seen yet!