The structure consists of a central section in the form of a triumphal arch, flanked by arcaded wings with semi-circular arches. The central section, which was glazed during the last year of Maria Theresa's life, is crowned with a mighty imperial eagle perching on a globe and surrounded by trophies. The flat roof with its retaining balustrade was already being used as a viewing platform by the beginning of the 19th century. It can be accessed today via a stairway.
The attic below the roof bears the inscription
JOSEPHO II. AVGVSTO ET MARIA THERESIA IMPERANTIB. ERECT. CI)I)CCLXXV.
The way the date is written follows a usage from the early days of book printing: large numbers were represented by a combination of the letter C, the letter I and the ancient Roman apostrophe which resembled the modern round bracket. Thus M (=1000) was replaced by the formula C-I-apostrophe, and D (=500) by I-apostrophe.
Besides the external flight of steps leading up to the glazed central section, which today houses Café Gloriette, there are additional lateral flights of steps which are lined with massive sculpted trophies.
These are arrangements composed of antique Roman armour with shields, standards and lions, and were executed by the sculptor Johann Baptist Hagenauer.
The central eagle motif and the other sculptural decorations were executed by Benedikt Henrici. The majority of the twin columns, capitals, arcade arches and entablatures came from the Renaissance palace of Neugebäude, begun by Maximilian II in 1568. The bucrania or bulls' skulls that decorate the frieze inside the central section also came from the Neugebäude. Never completed, the palace was made over to the army in 1774 to be used as a powder magazine. Maria Theresa subsequently gave orders for the valuable architectural features to be dismantled and used in the remodelling of the park and gardens at Schönbrunn.
During the 19th century the glazed inner hall of the Gloriette was frequently used as a dining room. A kitchen was built nearby so that food could be freshly prepared, but this was demolished around 1925. One year later the glazing was also removed. In 1945 part of the east wing was destroyed by a bomb, but was rebuilt in the years following the war. The Gloriette underwent complete restoration in 1994/95 during the course of which the central section was reglazed.