The Spanish Riding School is the world’s oldest classical riding school. Whether you choose to take a tour, watch a training session or book tickets for a performance, here you can immerse yourself in the world of the beautiful Lipizzan stallions and their mesmerizing renaissance dressage.
It’s a fascinating place even if you’re not that into horses. The tour is entertaining and you get to see different parts of the riding school.
You can’t stay and look around on your own at the end of the tour, and children under 3 are unfortunately not allowed. A petting zoo, this is not!
The only way to visit is to go on a tour or watch a performance, so make sure you book ahead!
Last Modified: 15.11.2022 | Céline
Spanish Riding School Tickets
Spanish riding school Tickets
General tour, in EN or DE, Duration: 1 hour, max. 4 persons
We visited the Spanish Riding School during the coronavirus pandemic in summer 2020. The school was not putting on any performances when we visited, so we opted for a general tour – and we certainly weren’t disappointed! We’ll definitely be back again to watch a performance or a training session when we can. The tour was really interesting (and we’re no big horse lovers, so full credit to our guide!). We were shown the famous Lipizzan stallions in their stables and also the winter and summer riding schools, including the magnificent Baroque riding hall. Plus, we learnt all about dressage, the different breeds of horses and the history of the school.
A visit to the Spanish Riding School is a must for any horse lover – that much is obvious – but it’s also fascinating for anyone with an interest in the history of Vienna because the school is so deeply intertwined with the city and its imperial past. It’s not every day that you get such an exquisite insight into the world of dressage!
SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL A bit of history
The Spanish Riding School in Vienna has been teaching the art of classical renaissance dressage for 450 years and is said to be oldest (and only) riding school of its kind in the world. Royal riding schools have existed for as long as royalty itself, as have royal preferences for certain prestigious breeds of horse. However, the Spanish Riding School that we see today dates back to the reign of Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–1564). In fact, he’s the reason it’s called the Spanish Riding School since Ferdinand I grew up in Spain before returning to Vienna in 1521. On his return, he brought with him the Andalusian horse, the Spanish breed from which the Lipizzan descend. He had stables built in Vienna and Prague, and also appointed Spanish experts in horse breeding.
The first riding school was established in 1565 on Josefsplatz in Vienna. In the years that followed, various attempts were made to set up a riding school in other locations, but it wasn’t until 1729 that Emperor Charles VI established the Spanish Riding School at its current site in the Vienna Hofburg. Only the noble elite were invited to learn the art of horsemanship at this prestigious institution, as the inscription over the entrance explains. It reads ‘zum Unterricht und zur Übung der adeligen Jugend wie auch zur Ausbildung der Pferde für Kunstritt und Krieg’ (for the education and training of young nobility and the training of horses for artistic performance and war). A portrait of Emperor Charles VI on horseback can still be seen in the magnificent riding hall today. His daughter and successor Maria Theresia wanted the riding school to be renowned around the world, so from 1740 onwards many courtly festivities were held here, including equestrian performances.
The French Revolution and reign of Emperor Napoleon marked a pivotal moment in the history of the Spanish Riding School, as during this period (in the 18th century) all other classical riding schools across Europe closed their doors. The Spanish Riding School in Vienna was the only one left and it remains the only school of its kind to this day.
The school’s riders continued to train their horses during the First World War and when the war came to an end – and Austria emerged as a republic rather than an empire – they started putting on their first public performances.
In 1938, Major Alois Podhajsky became director of the Spanish Riding School. His standards of horsemanship, as set out in his book The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principles of Classical Horsemanship, are still applied to this day. The school’s first performance after the end of World War II took place in 1955.
Since 2001, the Spanish Riding School and Lipizzaner Stud Piber have been run as a public company, but they remain 100% owned by the Federal Republic of Austria. The fundamental principles of the company are to preserve traditional breeding practices and the art of classical dressage, in particular Haute école – the most specialized form of dressage including airs (or jumps) above the ground.
In 2007, the school appointed its first female director, the distinguished businesswoman Elisabeth Gürtler. It went on to accept female riders onto its training programme for the first time in 2008. 2015 marked the 450th anniversary of the riding school and that same year it was also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Official website of the Spanish Riding School (EN): www.srs.at