четверг, 24 октября 2013 г.

Family Holidays: Vienna, Austria

The idea has long been in my mind to write about holidays with children in Vienna, Austria, but there is so much to say! I’ve had to spend a while structuring my thoughts as I am so overwhelmed by emotion… I am in love with this city!
We have lived in Vienna for a long time. We fell in love with it at first sight, and the feeling appears to be mutual :). My appreciation for Vienna has only increased over time (like all great love affairs), and the expansion of our family on the arrival of our lovely daughter meant that I started appreciating Vienna even more. In my opinion, Vienna is one of the best cities in the world, perfectly adapted to family life and leisure. It is safe, clean, and green, has good infrastructure, and has a great public transit system on which you can easily use a stroller.

Photo is taken by My Train Pix from Flickr under CC

The best time to visit Vienna:
Vienna is great for all kinds of activities, whatever the weather. If you want to spend more time outdoors then it is better to come in the warmer seasons (spring, summer, and autumn) although it can be very hot in mid-summer.
In winter it is a lovely idea to visit Vienna for the Christmas markets (they run from the end of November until Christmas). Vienna shines as a magical city as if from Christmas stories! Please note, however, that on Christmas day itself Vienna is very quiet and empty, everything is closed (shops and restaurants) as it is a public holiday which families usually celebrate at home.
Photo us taken by charley1965 from Flickr under CC

New Year in Vienna is quite the opposite though! Here, the New Year is celebrated very loudly - with fireworks! We normally try to escape Vienna for New Year as it is too loud and too full of tourists ;).
Where to stay with kids:
There are plenty of options for family accommodation in Vienna; something to suit everyone’s taste, preference and budget!
There are hotels ranging from budget to luxury, and apartments of all sizes and in different locations. Our friends, when they come to Vienna with children, prefer to stay in an apartment. They’re very comfortable!
Apartment choices abound but most visitors prefer to stay close to the center.
I can recommend:
 - Belvedere Studios: Apartments for 2 - 4 people, which are located in the central part of the city, close to the Belvedere (Belvedere). On request, they can provide a high chair for a baby, a cot and a stroller (if needed). 

Vienna Boutique Apartments: Several apartments, nice suites, and good locations.

I can guarantee the quality on the basis of friends’ testimonials…
If you prefer a hotel, I would recommend the following options:
- BEST WESTERN PREMIER Kaiserhof Wien (4 stars): Located near the center, in the 4th district of Vienna. The State Opera House is just a 5 minute walk away, and the metro station Karlsplatz is just 3 minutes away by foot. This is a lovely hotel, with good reviews, and nice staff. There a lot of cafes and restaurants, just around the corner, including a lovely Italian restaurant. The hotel is also close to a very beautiful church (Karlskirche).

Photo is taken by Krister462 from Flickr under CC
- Luxury hotels: I won’t write about these in detail but there are a few that deserve special mention. In the central part of the city just behind the Vienna State Opera House there is the famous Sacher Hotel - a luxury hotel in a classic Viennese style. There is also a cafe where you can enjoy real Viennese cake, Sachertorte.
Photo is taken by mpellegr from Flickr under CC
New five-star hotels: Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna (next to the old Vienna Stock Exchange) and the SANS SOUCI Hotel (next to Volkstheater and Museumsquartier).
Be prepared to pay for the luxury of these hotels (and their location) - the hotels are not cheap, but are very comfortable.
Practical advice: children under 6 years old can use public transport for free in Vienna. For children from 6 to 15 years there is a reduced rate. On Sundays, public holidays and school holidays in Vienna the fare for children in any kind of transport is for free. You might want to take advantage of the ‘Vienna Card’ which is an all-inclusive pass that allows you and a child up to 15 years old to use all transit within 72 hours (don’t forget to get it stamped the first time you use it on transport!). This card also provides discounts in various museums, cafes and restaurants in Vienna.
What to do with kids in Vienna:
- Take a ride in a horse-drawn cart (Fiaker): This is expensive, but very traditional. The kids will have fun, but I prefer to walk to explore the city...
Photo is taken by Craig Elliott from Flickr under CC

- In summer you can take a boat ride on the Danube river: In 75 minutes you can travel from Vienna (‘Schwedenplatz’ in the center of the city) to Bratislava (Twin City Liner).
Photo is taken by Mark Godfrey from Flickr under CC

- Take a ride in the old tram around the Ring: There are the regular tram routes and a special sightseeing tram - Vienna's Ring-Tram. This will take you to all of the main attractions of Vienna: the Opera, City Hall, Hofburg, Parliament, etc. At Christmas time they offer a ride in a special pink (!) tram ‘Manner’ (which is great advertising for the Viennese wafer brand ‘Manner’). I am a fan of the trams in Vienna, so I highly recommend that you give them a go!
Photo is taken by Su-May from Flickr under CC
- Older children might be interested in the Segway tour as a novel way to explore the city center.
Photo us taken by Daniel Stockman from Flickr under CC
- Take a walk in the center and admire the beauty of the old city. Vienna is a museum in the open air! Do not forget to visit the main cathedral - Stephansdom.
Photo is taken by weekendpower from Flickr under CC
Photo is taken by Sauerlaender from Flickr uder CC

- Try Wiener Schnitzel in the most famous restaurant ‘
Figlmueller’ where the schnitzel is not just big… it’s huge!
Photo is taken by Kim'n'Cris Knight from Flickr under CC
 - Taste the Austrian lemonade Almdudler: Austrians are very proud of this herbal lemonade, and rightly so. I really like it and it reminds me of the taste of my favorite drink in my childhood.

Photo is taken by Jenn Vargas from Flickr under CC
- Treat yourself with the Austrian donuts Krapfen. Donut fans will love these :)! My favorite is a donut filled with apricot marmalade.
Photo is taken by Butaris from Flickr under CC
- Visit the quintessential Viennese cafesCafe Landtmann (next to the Town Hall / Rathaus), Oberlaa (in different parts of Vienna), Museum Cafe (near Karlsplatz), Cafe Central (in the center, next to the subway station U3 ‘Herrengasse’), Cafe Schwarzenberg (near Karlsplatz). The cakes and pastries are gorgeous at all of these places! You can also eat a full meal in these cafes (but save room for pastries).
Photo is taken by bigweasel from Flickr under CC

- Try an Italian ice cream at Zanoni & Zanoni: It isn’t a traditional Viennese specialty, but I love this cafe and highly recommend it! Unfortunately, it has become more ‘touristy’ recently, but the kids will appreciate both the quality of the ice cream and the portion sizes!
Photo is taken by Fearless Fred from Flickr under CC
Museums and places to visit with kids:
- The Children's
Museum ZOOM (in Museumsquartier) is a great place for kids of all ages, from 8-months to 14 years. The museum has a number of different areas, including the Zoom Ocean (8 month-6 years), which is a large play room on two levels (‘The Ship’ and ‘Underwater’, decorated in a nautical theme). Kids have a lot of freedom here to climb up everything and touch everything and explore... not like a typical museum!
Photo is taken by Roberto Verzo from Flickr under CC
 For older children: Exhibition Zoom, Zoom Studio, Zoom Animated Film Studio and Zoom Science offer different programs, workshops and lectures for children. These are both very informative and very interesting!
- Technical Museum (Technisches Museum Wien) will be most interesting to the children of the school age. Located over several floors, kids can view the emperor’s carriage, sit in the cockpit of a train, and see the different models of airplanes and antique cars. This is a very interesting exhibition, both for children and adults.
Photo is taken by Brian O'Flanagan from Flickr under CC
For art lovers I would recommend a visit to the Belvedere (Belvedere) art gallery. There is also a lovely park here in which you can take an enjoyable stroll.
Photo is taken by ciotka from Flickr under CC

Or you can visit Albertina, another gallery where there are interesting exhibitions. 
Photo is taken by Ryan Healy from Flickr under CC
The Museum of Natural History in Vienna (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien) and the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien) are also worth a visit. These are two identical buildings, located opposite each other. The Museum of Art has a big collection of paintings, which could be of interest to older children, especially those who appreciate art. The Museum of Natural History is suitable for children of all ages, and the little ones will love the ‘revived’ dinosaur, if they are not scared :). 
Photo is taken by Alfred Diem from Flickr under CC

Haus der Musik (House of Music) is a great place to visit for those who like to experiment with different sounds and even have a go at conducting an orchestra. There’s an exhibit that allows you to hear the sounds of different cities of the world, experience sounds as a child does in the womb, and your kids can try out for a career as an orchestra conductor. It’s not as easy as you might think… you need to put in a lot of effort, otherwise the orchestra will run away :).
Photo is taken by Mark Turner from Flickr under CC

Haus des Meers (House of the Sea) - This is a local aquarium where you can see the inhabitants of the underwater world, and watch for sharks, turtles and crocodiles, as well as various exotic fish. The building alone is worth mentioning. It is a former anti-aircraft tower left after the Second World War. There are six such towers in Vienna as, after the war, there were plans to demolish these by blowing them up but they realize that this would affect nearby buildings. They decided to leave the towers, and one of them was renovated and redesigned inside and turned into the city’s attraction - the aquarium. A good idea, right?

Photo is taken by A-Kha from Flickr under CC
Near the House of the Sea there is a park with a playground that my daughter loves to play in. The aquarium is also very close to a nearby shopping street, Mariahilferstrasse, so moms can combine a little educational kids’ entertainment with some shopping :)

Photo is taken by Sensorhalter from Flickr under CC
You can’t visit Vienna without touring the royal residence, Schönbrunn.
Photo is taken by Reham Alhelsi from Flickr under CC
This is not only a beautiful palace but also a magnificent park and home to the oldest zoo in Europe (Schönbrunn Zoo). I won’t write much about the zoo but this is a must-see for the kids as I'm sure they’ll love it!
Photo is taken by Mario Spann from Flickr under CC

In good weather, I highly recommend taking a walk through the park to feed the squirrels, then walk up the stairs to the Café Gloriette on the hill. A beautiful view across Vienna awaits you at the top.
Photo is taken by Mr's G Travels from Flickr under CC
If you have time, be sure to wander through the maze of green Schonbrunn

The most important thing on the agenda at the royal residence, however, is a visit to the
children's museum (Kindermuseum) in the palace. The kids get to dress up in regal clothese and walk through the royal chambers, with a guide giving you an overview of the customs and way of life in royal times. You can see how the royal family ate and which toys the royal children played with. It is a very informative tour! If you live in Vienna it is a wonderful idea to celebrate your child’s birthday here – they, and their friends, will have lots of fun!

Near to the Palace is the theater / museum of puppets (Marionettentheater) where you can also see a demonstration of how Austrian apple strudel (Apfelstrudel) is made.

Photo is taken by foodfreak from Flickr under CC

What to do with the kids in good weather:
If time and weather allows, you may wish to go to the Prater, an amusement park in Vienna. Here you’ll find the famous
Giant Ferris Wheel.
Photo is taken by paulafunnell from Flickr under CC

This is not Disneyland, but the kids will love it all the same! There are plenty of attractions for kids of different age: from smooth-sailing rides for the little ones - to the extreme rides for more adventurous (and big) kids!
Photo is taken by Nicu Buculei from Flickr under CC
In Prater there is also a huge park where Austrians like to spend their weekends with the family, walking, cycling, running, or roller skating.
Toddlers might like Liliputbahn – a mini train (the stop is at the Prater amusement park).

Satisfy your hunger at the restaurants in the park: Kolariks Luftburg (Prater 128, Waldsteingartenstrasse, A-1020 Vienna), where the food is good and there’s even a bouncy castle for the kids to play on. Another option for food is Kolariks Praterfee (121 Prater, an der Hauptallee, A-1020 Wien).
Or, you can go to the famous Schweizerhaus to get acquainted with Austrian cuisine. A little warning: come with an appetite :). This place is not for vegetarians, but is a meat-lover’s paradise. Be sure to try the pork shank (Stelze)!
Photo is taken by Michela Simoncini from Flickr under CC

Another wonderful attraction is the Vienna Woods (Wienerwald) where you can go and enjoy the vineyards (19th district of Vienna, 20-30 minutes from the center by public transport). There is a wonderful view of Vienna from here, with a signposted viewing point and, if you want to enjoy the view a little longer, you can stay at the ‘
Suite'Hotel am Kahlenberg’ (click the link for my review of this hotel). The only drawback of this hotel is its distance from the center, it can be a bit remote if you plan on doing lots of touristy things.

In the Vienna Woods there is a kids’ farm (
Cobenzl) where the kids can observe animals such as goats, chicken, rabbits, etc.
Photo is taken by Drea Frei from Flickr under CC
In the 19th district there is another outdoor playground for adventurous kids - Robinzon Spielplatz (1190 Wien Greinergasse 7). You can search for treasure here, learn how to grow vegetables, and generally get a little closer to nature...

 For those who love climbing, be sure to plan a visit to Waldseilpark. It is suitable for older children rather than for the very young, while people like me, who are afraid of heights, can skip it altogether :).
Photo is taken by reflexer from Flickr under CC
Worth visiting for the beautiful forest park and small zoo, head to Tiergarten Leinzer (Hietzing-West, 1130 Vienna) to shake off the stresses and strains of the city! 

 Vienna is overflowing with great outdoor parks! Some of my favorites inclue: Augarten (Obere Augartenstraße 1, 1020 Vienna), Türkenschanzpark (Währing, 1180 Vienna) and Stadtpark (metro station ‘Stadtpark’). All of these feature kids’ playgrounds too, just so you know. In Stadtpark there is one very Viennese attraction - a golden statue of Strauss.
Photo is taken by Victor Wong from Flickr under CC
Another great outdoor excursion is a trip to Donauinsel (Danube Island) – an artificial island and a popular place for Austrians wanting a little break from the daily grind. The island is long, perfect for biking or roller skating, swimming and sunbathing, or sitting in a cafe or restaurant by the River Danube.
Photo is taken by Franz Jachim from Flickr under CC
If bad weather makes the outdoors less tempting, take the kids to:
- The thermal swimming complex
Oberlaa (recently renovated). This is a swimming pool with thermal water, as well as water slides for children, and saunas and steam rooms for adults. It is not an aqua park as such, but kids and adults will have fun there! Next to it there is a nice cafe Oberlaa (there are a chain of these cafes in different parts of Vienna): the cakes are delicious!
Photo is taken by Jörg from Flickr under CC
Photo is taken by Marekj from Flickr under CC
Photo is taken by Marekj from Flickr under CC
Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule): Fans of riding and horses will love this place. You can attend dressage performances of Lipizzaners (magnificent white horses) or, if these are a little too expensive, save some money by watching them train instead.
Photo is taken by Brian Scott from Flickr under CC
5D Cinema ‘Time Travel’: History buffs (or kids who like to take a different approach to education) can explore the history of Vienna in an innovative way, at a 5D cinema. Here, you enter a time machine which takes you into the past! The cinema is located right in the center, near the main cathedral Stephansdom.
Minopolis: This is an indoor attraction where the kids can try their hand at different professions - firefighter, salesman, hairdresser, even a garbage man... Minopolis even has its own currency as well as shops, a bank, a bakery, etc. It’s like a city within the city!
Photo is taken by WU Wien from Flickr under CC

Vienna also has lots of indoor playgrounds: Bogi-park, Monki-Park, Family Fun, Farbie Welt (next to the Shopping City Süd).
In winter make sure to visit the Christmas markets! The smell of punch and roasted chestnuts means that Christmas is coming soon. The main market is the one near Rathaus – the City Hall. It is very colorful, with a lot of entertainment for the kids, but is the most touristy of all of the Christmas markets in Vienna. 
Photo is taken by Rinaldo W. from Flickr under CC
My favorite market is the one near Karlskirche. Here the kids can ride ponies, look at pigs and other animals, roll in the hay, and take a ride on the carousel. And, don’t worry, there is also child-friendly non-alcoholic punch (Kinderpunsch) at the markets!
Photo is taken by Wien-Vienna from Flickr under CC

Whew! That was just a round-up of family vacations in Vienna itself! There are also lots of fun things to do and see in the outskirts of the city and I’ll write about those in upcoming reviews... I hope my review has inspired you to visit the beautiful Vienna!

I'm more than happy to give guidance if you’re planning a trip to Vienna (I’ll read your comments carefully!)

Photo is taken by Kliefi from Flickr under CC

Bon voyage!
Look forward to getting your feedback upon your return!

1 комментарий: