Rudolf’s Schloss

Austria’s Crown Prince at 150: Three Exhibits Honor his Life

On The Town | Candy Fresacher | July / August 2008

What better way to close the summer than spending an afternoon relaxing where royals once trod?

The end of August features a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Crown Prince Rudolf’s birth and an exhibition honoring his life at the palace grounds in Laxenburg, just 16 miles south of Vienna’s city center. The spacious grounds and surrounding town also offer visitors a detour from hectic city life with quiet gardens and even apartments in a castle one can rent.

The Habsburgs acquired the Laxenburg castle, one of three on the spacious palace grounds, in 1306. Serving as a summer retreat for royalty, it played host to several royal births, including two children of Emperor Franz I and Kaiserin Elisabeth – one being Rudolf.

To celebrate Rudolf’s birthday, the exhibition "Crown Prince Rudolf – Traces of a Life" opens Aug. 21 and runs through Jan. 30, 2009, the 120th anniversary of Rudolf’s mysterious death.

Beginning two days later is the exhibit "Crown Prince Rudolf – a Laxenburger," which runs through Oct. 10 on weekends. On opening day, the rooms in which Rudolf was born and then baptized will be open to the public. There will be an extensive program including afternoon performances throughout Laxenburg town and the castle park of various scenes from Rudolf’s life, concluding with an evening film about Rudolf.

While on the facilities, spectators may also visit other parts of Laxenburg. The palace grounds hold three separate buildings: the Blauer Hof (Blue Court) castle and the nearby Franzenburg castle, named after Emperor Franz I. One of the castles even boasts apartments for rent. In 1790, the grounds underwent a landscape renovation and now boast numerous lily ponds, lush gardens and an island, upon which the Franzenburg castle resides. Extensive efforts have also been made to preserve the interior furnishings and artworks, paving the way for the castle to become a museum.

Laxenburg’s close proximity to the city center made it a favorite with the Habsburg family for centuries and has been used by scientists as their research home base for more than three decades.  Today it can be reached via a short bus ride from Südtiroler Platz in Vienna.

Since its acquisition, expansion included the Old Castle, the oldest building in the town. Franz I enlarged the park area (620 acres) for his family, who lived in the Belevedere tower within the Blue Court in spring and summer. The park was converted from a deer and pleasure park meant only for hunting, to a park that had fountains, pavilions, bridges and pathways with a Rococo nature. Joseph II renovated it the park again to make it more like an English garden. The park itself belongs to the city of Vienna and has about 1 million visitors a year.

In 1798, Franz II built the Franzenburg on a man-made island in a lake that is fed by the Schwechat River. The lake is good for boating in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. There are walking paths and horseback riding trails within the park.  Bike riding areas surround it. A cultural walking tour takes one around 50 important buildings and sites of the small town. There are a number of palaces, churches, monasteries, fountains, and other sites constructed because the area was a desirable residence since it was close to the Emperor’s family.

And after looking at all the culture available in the little town and the park, it is a well-known fact that the best ice cream for miles around is at the Eissalon Daniel.

The decades in which the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) has been housed in the complex have been good years for the restoration of the buildings. The center combines the knowledge of scientific researchers from various parts of the world to conduct inter-disciplinary scientific studies on various issues global change. Four researchers associated with the institute have received Nobel prizes for their ideas.

A trip to the exhibition in Laxenburg offers a chance to see how the past and present entertainingly blend ways of life bridging the many centuries. The combination of a historical setting with new and fresh ideas can be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. After all, this was always a favorite place for the Habsburgs, too.


For more information on opening hours and prices of exhibitions check:, and

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    the vienna review July / August 2008