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Spanish Riding School

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The Spanish Riding School in Vienna is a unique place that celebrates the connection between human and horse in a fascinating way. The history that the riding school has to tell with its Lipizzaner horses makes it a true treasure for horse lovers and culture enthusiasts alike. Additionally, this baroque jewel is architecturally very valuable, especially since the chapel of the Palace of Versailles is said to have served as an inspiration for its construction.
Miriam DewamBy Miriam Dewam
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Tickets

Observe the unique interaction between rider and Lipizzaner during the morning exercise or at a performance. There are also combo-tickets available which include the riding school and the Imperial Treasury - two cultural assets of the Habsburg monarchy.
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Performance Of The Lipizzans At Spanish Riding School
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Vienna: Spanish Riding School Training
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Vienna Spanish Riding School Training with Music Tickets
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Tours

Learn more on a guided tour of the riding school. Get the unique opportunity to look behind the scenes.
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Vienna Spanish Riding School Guided Tour
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Architectural Tour at the Spanish Riding School
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Vienna Old Town Walking Tour, Hofburg, Spanish Riding School
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Vienna Old Town Walking Tour, Hofburg, Spanish Riding School
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5 tips for visiting the Spanish Riding School

Inside the Hofburg there is the Riding School | Unsplash: Leonhard Niederwimmer - CC BY 2.0
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Book your ticket in advanceThe Spanish Riding School is rightly a true tourist magnet and offers regular shows as well as special performances. There is also the possibility to watch the morning exercise. Since tickets are often quickly sold out, it is best to book online several weeks in advance.
At the entrance of the Riding School | Flickr: Kevin O'Brien - CC BY 2.0
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Morning work with the horsesThe morning practice sessions offer special insights into the Spanish Riding School away from the hustle and bustle of the main performances. In a relaxed atmosphere, you can observe the interplay between the rider and the Lipizzaners. This is a great opportunity to admire the art of 'High School' riding up close.
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Performances at the Riding SchoolThe elaborately conceived performances of the Spanish Riding School are the result of a perfect and years-long interplay between the rider and the Lipizzaner. The School Quadrille includes, among other things, the Pas de Deux and the Long Reins performed to classical Viennese music. The Performances I and II last about 70 minutes, the gala performance, which is live commented, almost 90 minutes.
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Take a look behind the scenesDuring an exclusive, one-hour tour of the Spanish Riding School, you will learn more about the history of the riding school and its architecture. You can also visit the most important areas, such as the winter and summer riding schools, or even the historical stables of the Lipizzaner stallions. Special tours for children and architectural tours are also offered.
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Note the dress codeAppropriate clothing aligned with the ambiance is especially appreciated at official performances and simply belongs to such a noble event. Therefore, you should dress elegantly to maintain the traditional atmosphere of the Spanish Riding School.
The Spanish Riding School at the imperial Hofburg | Flickr: Kevin O'Brien - CC BY 2.0

Spanish Equestrian Art in the Heart of Vienna

Since 1672, the Spanish Riding School in the Viennese Hofburg has captivated not only horse lovers. It is considered one of the most prestigious and beautiful riding schools in the world and has become an integral part of Austrian culture. The continual riding of the magnificent horses with their noble disposition is meant to preserve the classical Spanish art of riding, also known as the high school of riding or haute école, as a tradition and further perfect it with the breeding of the Lipizzaners. The Spanish Riding School is the oldest riding school of classical horsemanship and has been included in the UNESCO list as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

One of the oldest cultural horse breeds

The revival of classical horsemanship during the Renaissance led to the establishment of imperial court riding schools that also played a key role in the training of court riding. Under Emperor Charles VI, a horse breeding facility was established near Lipica, Slovenia, in 1580, where horses from Andalusia were used.

The Breeding

The breeding of the famous Lipizzaners in Piber, Styria, began only in 1920. After World War I, Austria was awarded 97 out of the 241 Lipizzaners housed in Laxenburg near Vienna and at the Kladrub Stud. With their relocation to Piber, their 'residence' was more similar again to their origin in Lipica (Slovenia) and has been their home and birthplace of the world-famous white stars ever since. The knowledge of the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner Stud Piber about Lipizzaner breeding as well as the Riding School itself were included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage of humanity at the end of 2022.
In the Riding Stable | Photo: Flickr, Kevin O'Brien - CC-BY-SA 2.0

From dark to light

Initially, the breed was still called Spanish Karst, and the name Lipizzaner appeared for the first time 200 years later. They represent a crossbreeding of Arab, Spanish, and Berber horses that are known for their grace, intelligence, and endurance. Their distinctive coat, however, is not present at birth; initially, it is dark and becomes white between the ages of 6 and 10. One in every 100 Lipizzaners remains dark, which is considered to bring luck. According to a legend of the Spanish Riding School, as long as there is at least one such lucky charm, the Riding School will continue to exist.
A look behind the scenes | Photo: Flickr, Kevin O'Brien - CC-BY-SA 2.0

The Art of High School Riding

At the Spanish Riding School, one can experience the interplay between human and horse: classical dressage. It represents a harmonious connection between the rider and stallion and requires years of training and dedication. Notably, the harmony is evident in that humans and Lipizzaners constantly meet at eye level, which allows the horses to decide when they are ready to learn tricks. The horses undergo a six-year training program before they are deployed in the School Quadrille and can perform breathtaking maneuvers such as the levade, capriole, and piaffe.

The Path to Becoming a Rider or Female Rider

Not only the Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School undergo extensive training, but the riders, both male and female, are also highly demanded. All candidates start with a three-year apprenticeship as a 'Pferdewirtschaftsfacharbeiter'. Thereafter, assuming they have excellent riding skills, they undergo a two to four-year training as 'Eleven'. During this period, the trainee receives riding lessons, learns how to handle and care for the Lipizzaners, as well as the history and tradition of the Spanish Riding School. With the breaking-in of a young stallion, they may then ride as 'aspiring riders' (Bereiteranwärterin/Bereiteranwärter) in the school quadrille. Each rider is personally responsible for the training of their respective horse. Only after a further six years of training do they reach the rank of rider (Bereiterrang). Of those only a few will become Chief Riders; thus, there are only two in the Spanish Riding School.

The Morning Exercise

In addition to performances, guests can also watch the morning work with the horses. This unique opportunity allows the observation of the interplay between the riders and the Lipizzaner horses. Loosening exercises as well as exercises aimed at perfection and refinement are shown. The goal is to strengthen the musculature of the stallions so that their natural movements turn into masterful figures of High School. However, those who want to see the classic school jumps must visit one of the performances, as these are not part of the morning work.

The Most Beautiful Riding Hall in the World

Near the Hofburg, an open riding and tournament arena was initially used, which proved to be unsuitable in bad weather. In 1681, the construction of a riding school was commissioned, but it was damaged during the subsequent Turkish sieges. It was not until 1729, under Emperor Charles VI, that a winter riding school was created, designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and built as part of the Hofburg by his son. Initially, it was referred to as the 'imperial-royal city riding school', but later it acquired the name 'Spanish Riding School'. At the time, the use of the riding school was exclusively reserved for the nobility and served for the training of riding skills of the young nobility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Spanish Riding School accessible for people with disabilities?

This attraction is mostly accessible for people with disabilities. However, it is recommended that wheelchair users pre-register by email as there is only a limited number of wheelchair spaces available in the winter riding hall. Read more.

What is the minimum age for the performance?

The show is suitable for children aged three and older; naturally, they must be accompanied by a supervisor. Read more.

Are there any dining options at the Hofreitschule?

At the Hofreitschule there is a café where, in addition to snacks, sweet treats are also offered. Read more.

Is it allowed to carry bags and backpacks during the tour?

Small luggage items may be taken into the Hofreitschule. However, there is no cloakroom available on site. Read more.

Is there a souvenir shop?

The Spanish Riding School has a souvenir shop that is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Read more.

Are dogs allowed to be taken to the riding school?

No, animals are not allowed in the building. Read more.

Is it allowed to take photos and videos of the performances?

At the Spanish Riding School, it is prohibited to take photographs and videos; audio recordings are also not allowed. Read more.

General information

opening hours

The visitor centre of the Spanish Riding School is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. It is closed only on September 21st. The morning exercise takes place almost daily between 10:00 am and 11:00 am, the times of the main and gala performances can be found in the annual program on the riding school’s website.

address

Spanish Riding School
Michaelerplatz 1
1010 Vienna

website

Official site: https://www.srs.at/

tickets

The ticket prices vary depending on the category (seated or standing area) as well as the type of event. Tickets for the morning exercise (between 16 € and 27 €) are significantly cheaper than those for a main performance I and II (30 € to 180 €) or a gala performance (43 € to 237 €). Children up to the age of 5 can visit the riding school free of charge, and children between 6 and 12 years old receive a discount of 20 percent on the events. A reduction is also granted to students up to the age of 25 and seniors (65+).

how to get there

Since the Spanish Riding School is located in the city center, it is recommended to arrive using public transportation. The U3 station Herrengasse is within walking distance, and bus lines 1A and 2A also stop here.
Miriam Dewam
Written byMiriam DewamMiriam is keen on traveling and has a passion for photography, which she can enhance through her cross-media studies. She uses her knowledge as well as first hand experience from diverse travels to help other travellers as a content creator at TicketLens.
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