Once the winter palace of the Habsburgs, the vast and impressive Hofburg sits in the heart of Vienna. To reach it (you can hardly miss it), head up Kohlmarkt to Michaelerplatz 1, Burgring, where you'll stumble across two enormous fountains embellished with statuary. You can also take the U-Bahn to Stephansplatz, Herrengasse, or Mariahilferstrasse, or Tram nos. 1, 2, D, or J to Burgring.

This complex of imperial edifices, the first of which was constructed in 1279, grew with the empire; and today the palace is virtually a city within a city. The earliest parts surround the Swiss Court, a courtyard named for the Swiss mercenaries who performed guard duty here. The Hofburg's styles, which are not always harmonious, result from each emperor's opting to add to or take away some of the work done by his predecessors. Called simply die Burg, or "the Palace," by the Viennese, the Hofburg has withstood three major sieges and a great fire. Of its more than 2,600 rooms, fewer than two dozen are open to the public.

The Spanish Riding School

Like other horses, Lipizzaners need daily exercise as a means of maintaining their muscle tone and body chemistries. As such, the trainers of these elegant animals put them through their paces within the Hofburg stables every day of the week except Monday and during the July to August period when the horses are off in the countryside. For a fee of 17€ for adults, 10€ for students and persons under 18, you can sit quietly in the bleachers, beneath the baroque ceilings of the Hofburg's riding rink, most Tuesdays to Sundays between 10am and noon.

If you opt to attend one of these training sessions, know in advance that the emphasis will be on the horses and their training, without any particular concern for whomever might be in the stands. Interruptions will occur, and the trainers might go into huddles to discuss equine issues associated with this or that particular animal. Classical music may or may not be playing. (It pays, the trainers think, to accustom the animals to the sounds of Chopin in advance of the more elaborate full-dress performances described immediately above, so you might get a sense of Pavlov training one of his dogs.)

If you opt to attend one of these morning training sessions, you'll at least get an idea of what all the fuss is about. But be warned that any of them might be cancelled on short notice for a wide array of reasons, and that they positively won't include the elaborate pomp and circumstance of one of the full-blown performances. Advance reservations are not accepted for any of the morning training sessions; tickets are sold only on the day of the actual training, and the schedule of their availability is as convoluted as the social calendar of a Habsburg Duchess.

For more information, contact the Spanische Reitschule at Michaelerplatz 1 (tel. 01/553-9032; www.srs.at). We think the training sessions are far more interesting than the more expensive shows here.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.