VIENNA – Music Box and Princess Town by Barbara Grüll-Cação

Where to go in Europe for a short break with kids? Exclusive article by guest blogger Barbara Grüll-Cação of travel portal Vienna Unwrapped and mother of two (Moritz, 3 and Matilde, 6 years) shares her tips on what to do with kids in her native town Vienna.

Vienna is so grown up: the Vienna Opera House, Schonbrunn Palace, the Spanish Riding School, the sumptuous Ringstrassen Hotels, the classical concerts, the coffee houses, the society balls. If you have grown up here and regularly take your kids to Vienna, like I do, however, the city turns into an original princess town, giant music box, and animal kingdom.

Why Vienna?

Vienna is comparably small, compact, one of the greenest and cleanest cities in Europe, has a big pedestrian area, family friendly hotels, and high quality attractions for children that build on its cultural and music assets.

Matilde’s, Moritz’ and my top 10 kids’ attractions in Vienna:

1. Schonbrunn Zoo

It’s two months now since we’ve been there and Moritz still talks about the Vienna zoo on the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace. Awarded Europe’s Best Zoo in 2010, the area nestles up against the wood slopes between the Palace and the Gloriette belvedere. It’s like a forest walk with exotic animals in between.

Recommended age: all ages

2. Prater

Our oldest and largest amusement park is not just fun for teens. We focus on the historic attractions – the Giant Ferris Wheel, a nice 30 minutes ride with lovely views of Vienna, the historic mini railway that leads you through the lush meadows and woodland of the Prater, and the First Viennese rollercoaster with its model Austrian villages.

Recommended age: from three years

3. Historic Marionette Theatre

Here is my personal trump card of Vienna with kids, even with my local friends. Matilde, Moritz and I watched Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, performed by beautifully crafted rococo-style marionettes. Matilde was glued to her seat, even though this was a full length adult’s performance. (Moritz could have done with the shorter, one hour adaptation for children.) The small audience room and the backstage tour after the performance made the trip even smoother and more worthwhile.

Recommended age: from 3 years (children’s performances), from 6 years (adults’ performances)

4. Quadrille Dancing

Matilde loves princesses, and she loves to dance, so learning the quadrille at Schonbrunn palace was her thing: During one hour with a professional dance instructor, she and other kids and parents learnt our traditional society dance where men and women line up on either side, step towards each other and dance. She could choose from various princess costumes, which got her right into the mood. The quadrille dancing takes place at the children’s museum every third Saturday and Sunday each month.

Required age: from 6 years

5. Children’s ZOOM Museum

The Museumsquartier, Vienna’s large complex of more than 10 museums and cultural institutions, has a few sites for children, such as the ZOOM children’s museum or the theatre house Dschungel Wien. ZOOM is interactive and particularly great for toddlers. I also recommend the cafe/deli at the Dschungel Wien.

Recommended age: from 1 to 10 years

6. Spanish Riding School

Watching animals cuts it for almost any child. Take your kids to one of the daily morning exercises of the Lipizzaner horses. My kids were intrigued by the delicate trots and dances of the white stallions while the music and the baroque splendour of the school’s winter riding hall added to the happiness of the whole family. The morning exercises are informal and you can drop in and out easily during the two hours. And the classical music that is played calms not just horses!

7. Vienna Children’s Opera

The Vienna Children’s Opera is officially the only permanent opera for kids worldwide, in which children perform for children. Housed in a big tent right on top of the Opera House (see photo), the operas are either adaptations of real operas or have been specifically created for children. They last around one hour. Like the opera for adults, tickets for the children’s opera usually sell out weeks, if not months, in advance, so make sure you book as soon as you have fixed your trip. The opera does not perform during the summer months, and the next children’s opera (Aladdin and the Magic Lamp) starts in mid October. My tip: Snatch early tickets for Aladdin during the Christmas holidays – performance is on 28th December.

Recommended age: from 6 years

8. Segway tour

Segways, the electric self-balancing two wheelers that buzz more and more tourists around cities worldwide, are a fun way to do a city tour with teenage children. The tours are usually small (10 people) and tour guides make sure everyone is safe and comfortable with the Segway after an initial 20 minutes of training, which is all that is needed. The 12 year old boy on the tour I joined mastered it in less than 10 minutes!

Required age: From around 12 years (minimum weight: 40kg)

9. Boat trip to Bratislava

Boat trips are a sure thing to entertain my kids but they need to tick a few boxes: Be safe (closed area), be fast for added fun and reasonably short. The catamaran boats from Vienna to Bratislava and back have a large closed area, and whizz you to your destination in just 75 minutes, at up to 55 km per hour. Needless to say you better watch your lively offspring as on any boat. On top, Bratislava is a nice town to see and ideal for a day trip.

Recommended age: all ages

10. Porcelain painting at Palais Augarten

The lovely garden palais Augarten, home of the famous porcelain manufacturer Augarten and of the Vienna Boys Choir, hosts porcelain painting courses for children at Easter, Mother’s Day (early May) and at Christmas. In the summer, kids from eight years of age who have some experience with porcelain painting, can participate in half day courses (while you explore the surroundings!) at the Palais.

THE AUTHOR: Barbara Grüll-Cação

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