March 26, 2014 / 12:37 PM / 5 years ago

Vienna palace offers flat at princely price

VIENNA (Reuters) - Vienna’s opulent Schoenbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial Habsburg family, will open its doors to tourists looking to spend the night like Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Sisi.

A general view of Schoenbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the imperial Habsburg family, in Vienna March 25, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

An apartment - once reserved for close relatives of the court - can be booked from April 30 at a starting price of 699 euros ($960) per person per night. The two-bedroom flat with kitchen and dining room sleeps four.

Those looking to experience full imperial grandeur - and who have the cash to spare - can reserve such amenities as a personal butler, a horse-drawn carriage and an in-suite chef.

The late 17th-century rococo palace was once the secondary residence of the Habsburg monarchy, which ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918.

It is one of Austria’s top tourist attractions and registered 2.9 million visitors last year. In 1996 UNESCO listed Schoenbrunn and its gardens as a world heritage site, calling it a remarkable example of Baroque synthesis of the arts.

Austria Trend Parkhotel - which will operate the hotel suite - hopes to capitalise on this charm and sees the apartment as attractive to foreign tourists from East Asia and Europe.

“Making the apartment feel like a part of Schoenbrunn without making it a copy of other rooms was important to the architect,” a spokeswoman for Austria Trend said.

“We looked for furniture that was in the style, but still making it modern enough for a hotel.”

A 400,000-euro revamp updated the apartment to palatial opulence, with Maria Theresa chandeliers, gold accents, moire wallpaper and “pineapple damask” motifs.

The red silk damask fabric, mistakenly named after its semblance to a stylised pineapple, was used exclusively for the Viennese Court at Schoenbrunn and the Hofburg - the main Habsburg residence in central Vienna.

The views of the gardens and the hilltop Gloriette pavilion complete the imperial ambience.

“It is probable that even Elisabeth Petznek, the daughter of Crown Prince Rudolf and famous as the ‘Red Duchess’, lived in these rooms towards the end of the monarchy,” said Franz Sattlecker, managing director of the Schoenbrunn Palace Company.

Petznek, the favorite granddaughter of Emperor Franz Joseph, rocked the House of Habsburg when she became a committed Socialist party member.

Immediately before its renovation the hotel suite had been used as a normal flat, one of around 135 such apartments rented out on the palace grounds. Prospective tenants apply to join a waiting list and pay neighbourhood market prices.

Following the downfall of the monarchy, the newly founded Austrian Republic became the owner of Schoenbrunn and preserved its rooms as a museum. British forces used the palace as offices during the post-war Allied occupation of Austria.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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