Palmenhaus Wien & Schmetterlingshaus:
Greenhouse at the Hofburg, Vienna

The Palmenhaus Wien is a historic greenhouse at the Imperial Palace of the Hofburg in Vienna. It is locally known for a café that it hosts and the Schmetterlingshaus ("House of Butterflies"). The latter one is a section of the Palmenhaus that is used for keeping various species of exotic butterflies - which has a reputation for being of particular appeal for children. Thinking back to my own childhood, I am not so sure butterflies would have done the job of exciting me, and I have become a biologist after all. Anyway, most guides to "Vienna for Children" include the Schmetterlingshaus, and so I also do.

Back to the Palmenhaus: It is sandwiched in between the Augustine church and monastery as well as the Albertina on one side; and the Burggarten park on the other. The back side of the Palmenhaus was once part of the city walls of Vienna. The Burggarten is popular with teenagers in the summer, but it also has a reputation as a market place for drugs. One level above, the Palmenhaus sits on something that resembles a balcony; it is popular among Vienna′s yuppie and wanna-be-yuppie scene as well as tourists. The Palmenhaus as a greenhouse itself is 128 metres long and covers approximately 2050 square metres. The site has been occupied by a greenhouse since the early 19th century.

History of Palmenhaus & Schmetterlingshaus

The first greenhouse was built between 1823 and 1826 according to designs made by the architect Ludwig von Remy. The architecture was in neo-Classical style and inspired by the orangery of Schönbrunn, the Imperial Summer Palace. Around 1900, this first greenhouse was demolished and a new one built until 1901. This current Palmenhaus was built in a combination between historicism and Jugendstil (Art Nouveau). The architect in charge was Friedrich Ohmann.

By 1988, the state of the Palmenhaus was so bad that it had to be closed for safety reasons. Between 1996 and 1998, it was renovated. The greenhouse inside the Palmenhaus is maintained by the Bundesgärten, the Federal Garden Office. The Schmetterlingshaus occupies only some 280 square metres and has a separate entrance. With some fluctuations based on the season, there are more or less 400 butterflies of approximately 150 different species in the Schmetterlingshaus. None of them is particularly rare or difficult to breed, so don′t expect anything that will please the expert. The Schmetterlingshaus is also run as a branch of the Bundesgärten and modelled after a tropical rainforest. Therefore, it comes with 28 degrees Celsius and an impressive 80 percent humidity.

Attractions nearby are numerous, so I want to focus only on those in a 3-minute walking distance: The previously mentioned Albertina and the Burggarten; the Kunsthistorisches Museum; the Akademie der Bildenden Künste; the Staatsoper or National Opera; the Augustinerkirche, Dorotheum and Palais Lobkowitz; and of course the Hofburg with its various attractions (Stallburg, National Library, Neue Burg, Treasury Schatzkammer and all that other pompous Habsburg stuff).

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Palmenhaus

Official Website of the Schmetterlingshaus