I don't know that I need to see 2 elaborate royal residences. Which do people prefer?
I'm gonna be honest and say that I really really enjoyed both. The Hofberg has the interesting Porcelain Museum and Sisi Museum in additional to the fancy rooms. There are also additional things within the Hofberg to see such as the Treasury [do this even if you don't do the Hofberg proper], the Augustinian Church [pretty, worth it to me for the fancy tomb with the lion], the Spanish School of Riding [great stable tour], and the National Library [amazing and worth a 20-30 minute look]. Not to mention the New Residenz Museums.
Schonbrunn also has fancy rooms with a really well done audio guide but also has the amazing gardens with some truly amazing fountains.
I felt like seeing both gave me a more complete review of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and I don't regret taking the time to see each of them. We stayed in Vienna for four days last year. If I absolutely had to choose, I'd probably go with Schonbrunn because I enjoyed the gardens so much. In winter, I'd probably give it to the Hofberg.
Going to Hofburg you don’t get the full effect of the vast grounds and majestic Palace that is Schonbrunn. It is a short bus ride from the center, but Hofburg Is practically in the center, short walk. Also, Schonbrunn has a strudel Show/Demonstration which was fun (for an extra fee of course). It was less then an hour and included coffee and a slice of the strudel.
We went to the gardens at the Schoenbrunn, but did not go into the palace. We did go to the Hofburg and enjoyed much of it. The display of armor is one of the best and most interesting we saw. We expected to breeze through that to focus on historical musical instruments as we've seen armor at many other places, but it fascinated us.
To those who have been to both, would you say that a tour of the Hofburg has more of an emphasis on history? I too am looking to only visit one, and have a limited desire to just see pretty royal rooms.
The grand scale of the grounds at the Schonbrunn are pretty amazing [400+ acres.]. We had the Vienna Pass, so could take the little "train" tour around the grounds, and at one stop, had a fantastic view of the city of Vienna. The indoor palace audio tour was not overwhelming, featuring the highlights, about an hour. I would choose this palace if I had to prioritize.
We, too, enjoyed the grounds at Schonbrunn and did not go inside. Neither did we go inside the Hofburg. (Jaded tourists, I guess, who have walked through way too many elaborate royal residences.)
I did both and enjoyed them both ( bought the Sissy ticket) but if I had to pick one, I would do Schonbrunn
I went to both in a 2-day visit to Vienna. I loved the Schonbrunn - there are more rooms on display, especially those used for the lavish entertainments, and the beautiful gardens are extensive and varied. At the Hofburg (at least when I went several years ago), you had to follow a one-way route through innumerable rooms of porcelain dinnerware, then lots of rooms of silver dinnerware followed by the Sisi Museum which had every recorded detail of Sisi's life and a few exhibits, before getting to the palace. I started out enjoying the porcelain but about half-way through, it all started to look the same. I was glad to be through the dinnerware and enjoyed reading about Sisi until that too got to be overload on steroids. Then the Palace was a bit of a disappointment because the private rooms were almost identical to the ones at the Schonbrunn (the royal couple spent summers in one, winters in the other, and apparently didn't much like change :-)
Just one tourist's impression. Many disagree. I will add, to support my opinion, that Rick says the Schonbrunn is the second-best palace in Europe (after Versailles). I read that in his description of the Palace in Madrid which he ranked 3rd.
Schonbrunn is by far the better visit. Schonbrunn is the summer palace and is centered around huge gardens. The interior is quite special and includes a variety of rooms. Schonbrunn is easily reached by the subway.
Hofburg on the inside is tedious and boring, in my opinion. The Sisi portion is so boring, unless you are a Sisi fan. The rooms all look the same and pale in comparison to those at Schonbrunn. What is worth seeing at the Hofburg is the National Library and the Treasury. Looking at the Hofburg from the outside, which you will do anyway as you can't avoid it, is just fine.