Vienna’s storied Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule), established in the 16th century, is the world’s oldest haute école of classical equitation. Experience the Renaissance tradition of classical dressage—on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list—by witnessing the Viennese institution’s morning exercises.
During morning training sessions at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, impeccable and graceful snow-white Lipizzan horses practice intricate figures and jumps accompanied by classical music, with riders dressed in their historic empire-style uniforms and bicorn hats. They go through their paces in the elegant 18th-century Winter Riding School (Winterreitschule), commissioned by Emperor Charles VI. In addition to exercises, the school also holds more formal exhibitions and even gala performances a few times each week in addition to daily guided tours of the Baroque Summer Riding School and the Stallburg, one of Vienna’s most significant Renaissance structures. If you want to see the horses without watching a training session, you can observe them from outside the adjacent Stallburg stables. A stop at the Spanish Riding School is a must during any Vienna city walking tour or hop-on hop-off bus tour; the school is included in the Vienna Flexi Pass and Vienna Pass tickets as well.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Children from three to six years old are admitted free of charge but must be held on an adult’s lap; children under three years old are not admitted.
- The school is accessible to those with limited mobility, and tickets for wheelchair spaces are available.
- The school is not recommended for those with allergies to horses or dust.
How to Get There
The Spanish Riding School is located in the Hofburg, in central Vienna. The closest metro station is Herrengasse on line U3; alternatively you can take tram line 1, 2, D, or 62 and get off at Kartner Ring Oper or Burgring station. Buses 1A (Herrengasse stop), 2A (Michaelerplatz stop), and 3A (Habsburgergasse stop) also stop nearby.
When to Get There
Morning exercises are held daily from 10am to 12pm, except from late June to early August and on days when a gala performance is scheduled.
History of Lipizzan Stallions
Maximilian II first imported this prized breed of horse from Spain in 1562, and in 1580 a stud was established at Lipizza (hence “Lipizzan” or “Lipizzaner”), now in Slovenia. Since 1920, the stud located in the village of Piber has been the breeding center for Lipizzan stallions destined for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.