Kaiservilla (Bad Ischl)
The large mansion was gifted to the couple as a wedding present by the Emperor's mother. In 1853 after their engagement, Archduchess Sophie had purchased it from physician Eduard Mastalier. He, in turn, had bought it from a notary called Josef August Eltz, who had built the Biedermeier-style building in 1834. Prior to gifting in to her son and his wife-to-be, Archduchess Sophie made several changes to the interior of the "Imperial Villa" as to fit the lifestyle of an Emperor. In July 1854, three months after their wedding, Franz Joseph and Elisabeth firstly moved into the villa. While some of their staff still had to sleep in the city and the kitchen wasn't yet finished so the couple had to dine at the home of the Emperor's parents, they still welcomed their first royal guest at their summer residence on August 23: The King of Portugal. Many followed.
It was at Bad Ischl were both Franz Joseph and Elisabeth enjoyed spending time. Sisi, who otherwise despised her life as an Empress, felt reminded of her childhood at Schloss Possenhofen in Bavaria, and could go hiking and riding as much as she liked. The Emperor also indulged in his passion: Hunting, as proven by some 2,000 antlers hanging on the walls of the Kaiservilla. Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take pictures of the interior though it is surprisingly large - while it seems to be rather small from the outside - with many personal touches.
Bad Ischl in general is pretty keen on their imperial past. After all, had the imperial family not chosen this small spa town, it would just be one of many in the Salt Chamber region. Now it is one of its main attractions. Just a few days ago, on August 18, the town celebrated what would have been Emperor Franz Joseph's 187th birthday in grand style. I visited two days prior and the town was already booming (and parking spots pretty hard to come by). When you visit the Kaiservilla, make sure to also stroll through the town to admire it's lovely buildings.
Good to know:
The Kaiservilla is open all year round; daily between April and October, between January and March, on Wednesdays, with specific opening dates in November and December. Admission into the Kaiservilla and its surrounding park is 14,50 euros per adult. You can only visit with a guided tour. For more information, have a look here.