On the trail of Empress Sisi in Vienna

On the trail of Empress Sisi in Vienna

This month marks the 120th anniversary of the death of Empress Sisi, one of the most fascinating characters in European history. In her honor, here’s a look at six places in Vienna associated with the iconic, yet tragic, royal.

There are many ways to experience splendid Vienna. You can plan each step of your journey to include stops at some of the most beautiful old-school coffee houses, seek out the groundbreaking works of Klimt or follow in the footsteps of a royal. To commemorate the 120th anniversary of the death of Empress Sisi, we put together a selection of six places associated with the late empress, a fascinatingly complex character whose life ended tragically on 10 September 1898.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria had a bizarre beauty routine during which she obsessively arranged every single hair on her head, and she’d weigh herself several times a day. Unsurprisingly,  Sisi went on to become the subject of many films, cartoons, books, documentaries and artworks. In fact, the best time to visit Vienna and discover the life of Empress Sisi is just after watching the famous trilogy with Romy Schneider in the titular role. Here’s a look at six of these places.

1. Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace is one of Vienna’s most distinct emblems. The Habsburg’s summer residence, the castle boasts 1,441 rooms of which, sadly, ‘only’ 190 are open to the public. Fountains and faux Roman ruins surround the enormous park, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. Emperor Franz Joseph, Sisi’s husband, who both died and was born here,  resided in the castle’s western wing with his wife. At the Museum of Imperial Carriages located in the palace garden, you can see the very carriages that Sisi rode in, including those that she took to her coronation and wedding ceremony, as well as the one in which she was killed in Geneva.

2. The Hofburg Palace and the Sisi Museum

This elegant palace has been the center of Austrian power for centuries, and it expanded during the time of the Habsburgs. Today, in addition to the National Library and a number of museums, it is also home to a museum dedicated to Empress Elisabeth of Austria herself.  Located in the apartments of Sisi and Franz Joseph, the carefully curated museum displays what remains of the Empress’ possessions. See her clothing–including items wore in some of her most famous portraits–, accessories and the exercise devices she used to keep fit. You can also admire other fascinating objects like the glass from which she drank milk every evening and her original death certificate.

3. The Church of St. Augustine

Sisi and Emperor Franz Joseph were married in this church on 24 April 1854. An important landmark in its own right, the church houses two spectacular organs. Also, the Loreto Chapel is home to the Herzgruft, or “hearts crypt”, which houses a collection of silver urns that contain the hearts of 54 Habsburg rulers.

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4. The Imperial Crypt of Vienna

After her tragic murder in Geneva, Sisi was buried in the city’s magnificent Imperial Crypt beneath the church of St. Mary of the Angels also known as the Capuchin Church. Here, the Empress is in the company of the remains of another 149 members of the Habsburg family. Also, you can see the crown of the Holy Roman Empire here as it adorns the sarcophagus of Emperor Charles VI.

5. The Volksgarten

Near the Church of St. Augustine, this magnificent French Baroque garden houses a monument dedicated to Sisi in the midst of its quiet alleys. After paying homage to the Empress, relax in the park and admire the beautiful Rose Garden.

6. Demel K. u. K. Hofzuckerbackerei

Some rest and refuel will be necessary after all the walking, and the perfect place to do so is Cafe Demel, a few steps from the Hofburg. It is here that Sisi, even though she kept an obsessively close eye on her waistline, would indulge her sweet tooth with candied violet sorbet.

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