Much of the reason that Vienna is such a music, art, and architecture center is the result of the Habsburg family who ruled Austria and varying portions of the rest of Europe from 1273 to 1918. For part of this period, the Habsburgs rule the Holy Roman Empire and were devoted Catholics. They married across countries for political and military power and they amassed wealth that is simply stunning. I visited only two of their palaces in Vienna - the Schonbrunn (the summer home in the Vienna Woods with a modest 1,400 rooms) and the Hofburg (the winter home in the heart of Vienna with 2,400 rooms). The first picture is the exterior of the Hofburg.
The next to last Emperor, Francis Joseph, and his wife, the Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria (nicknamed Sissi) ruled from 1848-1916 at which point Francis Joseph died, yielding the thrown to Charles who only held it two years before relinquishing it in pesant uprising. WWI and WWII both had heavy influence on changing the culture away from monarchy to new democratic governments. Elisabeth (Sissi) was known the world over for her beauty, for the opulence of her lifestyle, and eventually from distancing herself from Francis Joseph due to disagreements about the monarchy and affairs of state. She was stabbed and died, giving rise to many "Sissi" myths that spawned books, movies, etc. during the beginning of the 20th century.
After viewing the royal apartments in the Hofburg, I enjoyed roaming throughout the area, first stopping by the Parliament (picture above), then attending a beautiful Christmas market placed between the Rathaus and the Burgtheater (to the right).