Imperial Architecture - Tour of the Hotel
The luxury hotel in Vienna was originally built as the private palace of Prince Philip of Würrttemberg from 1863 to 1865. The Prince was married to a grandniece of Emperor Francis Joseph I. There are documents that even suggest that the palace had been a morning gift by the bride's father, Archduke Albrecht. Famous Munich-born Arnold Zanetti was the architect. A huge park, extending to St. Charles Church, was located behind the building. When the city administration had a street built between park and palace without asking the permission of the Prince, and when a pit was excavated to construct Musikverein, an enraged Prince of Württemberg left the place. Rumor has it though that he received a generous financial compensation.
An investor, Horace Ritter von Landau, bought the magnificent palace. On time for the opening of the Universal Exhibition in Vienna, it was inaugurated as Hotel Imperial in 1873. It was, however, not inaugurated by Emperor Francis Joseph I himself as is often wrongly told. While the Emperor never opened hotels, it would have certainly pleased him. The hotel had made great efforts to be granted the "K & K" accolade but only received it in 1918, a few weeks before the Monarchy fell apart - and so the title became invalid again.
Let us guide you through the rich history of the hotel in Vienna. Learn more about the personalities who lived here, the stories and anecdotes and many more details.
Visit the history timeline ›
The Royal Staircase
In the past, the horse-drawn carriages halted in front of the Fürstenstiege, the Ceremonial Staircase at today's lobby, allowing the guests of the Prince of Württemberg to step out and ascend to the private apartments on the first floor, the Belle Etage. The walls of the Ceremonial Staircase are not made of marble but of so-called stucco lustro. If you put your palms on the wall they don't feel cold - as is the case with genuine marble - but turn warm instead.
The Donauweibchen (Danube Mermaid) is an original by Hans Gasser. The legendary Donauweibchen is a mermaid living at the bottom of the river having been held responsible for men's drowning. Where today's Donauweibchen is located, there was a passage to the service staircase in the past. Above the Ceremonial Staircase you see a painting by Emperor Francis Joseph I, presumably at the age of 34, painted by Zaszer. Even in times of occupation and when the Imperial was the Russian headquarters after the war, the painting remained there and was never removed.
The Belle Etage
The paintings on the Belle Etage once more depict Emperor Francis Joseph I wearing the uniform of a field marshal with the Maria Theresa Order and his wife, Empress Elisabeth "Sisi". The original paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1875), created in 1864, are located at the Vienna Hofburg Palace. The secret lies in the Emperor's right shoe: His toe-cap apparently follows the onlooker wherever he turns.
The Belle Etage's anteroom is already a foretaste of the imposing Imperial Suites of more than 23 feet of height. The entire front of the Hotel Imperial Vienna can be booked as a combination of 6,458 sq ft. Three smaller rooms between the two Imperial Suites (Franz Joseph and Maria Theresa), however, are often reserved for bodyguards of distinguished guests. From here you can also beckon to the people (if around) from the balcony - as once did the Queen of England, Indira Ghandi or the Kind of Sweden - and even Michael Jackson.
During the interwar period a ceiling was installed above the lobby on the mezzanine floor. That's how the Gobelinsaal, the Tapestry Hall, came to be. Until 1994 the lobby was relatively low and little attractive.
When in the course of a large-scale renovation the room was removed again, the stucco uncovered and the hall reconstructed according to old sketches, the Hotel Imperial Vienna was rated best hotel in the world by the readers of renowned Conde Nast Traveler magazine in 1995.
The mezzanine floor, by the way, was an architectonic feature of Vienna around 1900 to avoid building regulations. Thus, there were only few floors on the paper but the height of the building was increased by intermediate floors such as basement, raised ground and mezzanine floor. That's how people bypassed the (above all financial) constraints associated with additional floors.