Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria and since the 1960s has also been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. The park and all the other attractions at Schönbrunn together see 8 million visitors each year. At the 20th session of the World Heritage Committee held in December 1996 Schönbrunn Palace was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.
In the possession of the Habsburg dynasty since Maximilian II, the palace passed to the ownership of the Republic of Austria at the end of the monarchy in 1918 and was subsequently administered by the Schlosshauptmannschaft Schönbrunn. The gardens house the world's oldest zoo.
The Habsburg dynasty is descended from a line of Alemannic counts from the Aargau (today in Switzerland). After Rudolf I of Habsburg had been elected Roman-German King in 1273, he enfeoffed his sons with the former Babenberg archduchies of Austria and Styria in 1282. This date marks the beginning of Habsburg hegemony in Austria, which was to last more than 630 years from the late 13th century to the end of the First World War in 1918.
Shrewd and energetically pursued policies ultimately led to these small possessions on and around the Danube and in Styria developing over the course of the centuries into a global empire which at its height stretched from central Europe to South America.