The Vienna Spanish Riding School: The ballet of the Lipizzaner horses

The oldest riding school in the world & a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site

Those who want to see Austria’s world-famous white Lipizzaner stallions live will definitely not want to pass up on a visit to the Spanish Riding School. It is both the oldest riding school and the only institution in the world where classical equestrianism has been continuously cultivated in the Renaissance tradition of the “Haute Ecole” for more than 450 years without change.

Winterreitschule, zwei Männer und ein Pferd
Winter Riding School © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Lammerhuber

Here, horse and rider are in perfect synchronisation. It is a heritage that is also on the immaterial UNESCO World Heritage List.

The history of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna

In the 16th century, Ferdinand I – later, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire – moved from Spain to Austria. In doing so, he brought horses from the Iberian Peninsula with him. Today’s Lipizzaner stallions – a cross between Spanish, Arabic, and Berber horses – are their descendants.

Today, the proud steeds are housed in the Stallburg – Vienna’s oldest Renaissance building from the year 1565.

From 1729 to 1735, the Winter Riding School was constructed in the Vienna Hofburg for the purpose of training young nobility for horsemanship and war– and is also known as the “most beautiful riding hall in the world”.

Here, where plays and balls even took place under Empress Maria Theresa, a particularly imperial celebration is still held once a year: The Fête Impèriale Summer Ball.

Vienna’s Lipizzaner: Breeding and holidays

The Lipizzaner are bred at the Lipizzaner Stud Piber in Styria. In turn, the Heldenberg in Lower Austria is the third site of the Spanish Riding School. The international training centre conveys the traditional knowledge of the “Haute Ecole” of Riding in exclusive seminars and special courses.

Hut der Spanischen Hofreitschule
Hat of the Spanish Riding School © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Lammerhuber

The Heldenberg is also, so to speak, the holiday residence for the white horses, who spend a few restful weeks there two to three times a year.

The world-famous performances of the Lipizzaner

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna boasts a breath-taking and diverse programme all year round. Visitors can choose between performances of the “white ballet”, visiting the Lipazzaner’s morning exercises, or taking a tour through the Baroque Winter Riding School and the Stallburg.

Die Spanische Hofreitschule, Pferde und ihre Reiter
Spanish Riding School © Österreich Werbung, Fotograf: Lammerhuber

The so-called “morning exercise” is daily training session of the riders and their Lipizzaners. During this, you can observe the young stallions that are often still grey and the already trained school stallions at their training, accompanied by classical Viennese music. These loosening-up exercises take place in the Baroque Winter Riding School. You can attend every day between 10 a.m. and 12 a.m., except during July.

Special themed tours as well as guided tours for schools are also offered.

Video of a performance:

The highlight of the programme at the Spanish Riding School: “A Tribute To Vienna”

The “A TRIBUTE TO VIENNA” show presents the highlights of the white stallions’ Viennese ballet combined with imperial music. During this, the Spanish Riding School presents different programme items or world-famous School jumps such as the Capriole and Levade. The music ranges from Waltz gems to the Radetzky March.

Backstage video commentary with beautiful impressions:

How to reach the Spanish Riding School in Vienna

Address of the Visitor Centre: Michaelerplatz 1, 1010 Vienna
Public transport: Tram (1, 2, D, 62), Underground (U1, U2, U3, U4), Bus (2A, 3A)

Further information on opening hours, programme, and ticket sales