Heading south from the wonderful city of Prague, we'd opted to visit the captivating city of Vienna. A mecca for museums, imperial charm and stunning architecture that matches any other we've seen across Europe. But interestingly, Vienna's history goes much further back than Roman times with a past of riches and woes to match any city in Europe!! It really does have a little bit of everything for kids and adults alike... so we couldn't wait to get out and explore the city.
In doing so, we discovered a family dynasty that lasted almost 500yrs (1477-1918). The Habsburg family is synonymous with Vienna, Austria's capital city. With a motto of 'Let the others wage war, thou; happy Austria marry', the family cleverly arranged marriages to secure close ties with other European ruling families... With iconic figures such as Empress Sisi, Emperors Maximilian or Charles V, it created the Vienna we saw today... Perhaps the girl's favourite was the most important figure of all in Empress Maria Theresis who despite having 16 children managed to preside over the largest expansion of Vienna. (a story well told in the Vienna Time Travel Attraction)
Vienna's iconic buildings include the State Opera House, Schönbrunn & Belvedere Palace, Winterpalais, Hofburg Imperial Palace, St Stephen's Cathedral... and so many more. As we'd given over 2 days to explore the city, we thought we'd start with the useful Vienna Card (not Vienna Pass). Giving great access across the city to discounted attractions and free public transport.
So where to start? Well, there's no better place to see Vienna than in front of the Vienna State opera building... a commanding building that oozes sophistication elegance and no little wealth... but we'd not come for the opera/operetta (plenty do though - 600,000 in 2014/15) Instead we took a tram ride through the city to get our bearings... past a Pinocchio (did you know he's really Italian!)and onto the impressive Spanish Riding School!!
Could we have biked across Vienna, well we think so as the bike provision for city bikes was good (but not as good as the King of City Biking - Copenhagen) but in truth the public transport was too good not to use... trams disappearing every which way... and at such amazingly short intervals (where else have you waited a maximum of 4mins for a train/tram (in 48hrs of use!)... hats off to the Vienna City Council for that one!)
Ok, we'll come clean... the girls loved the trams, but they really had their hearts set on the horse drawn carriages that pull they're way through central Vienna... But sadly our budget didn't match their dreams... but don't feel too sad for them, they managed a trip around Seville in a horse drawn carriage which isn't too bad (is it??!!)
To maker amends, we headed for an Austrian institution... a chance to try the famous Viennese Sausage at a Würstelstand.. I'm not joking around this gained worldwide fame in the 1800's... and these stalls have risen up all across Vienna ever since (but our tip would be the one just outside the main tourism office outside the Albertina museum)... yum yum!!!
Having spent a few hours walking around the centre of Vienna (and we reckon it's a must for kids, as there's so much to see and take in) we headed for the U4 subway and a chance to see the Schönbrunn Palace... (reminding us a little of Christiansborg Palace (Denmark) or Chateau Villandry (France).
If you've got young children, and you're looking for something to both entertain and offer some learning opportunities. Then you might want to consider Schönbrunn's 'Chidren's Museum'. Offering a chance to dress up, solve puzzles and problems and even get a chance to copy Empress Sissi's hairstyle...
But it's well organised and our kids loved it... in fact we spent over an hour weaving our way through the interactive displays and themed rooms! It could be done in under an hour at a push, but take your time and enjoy the kids delving into imperial life in one of Vienna' most iconic palaces! (even visiting the real bedrooms of those who sleep there over 100yrs ago!)
Once you've seen inside the imperial charm of the Schönbrunn, then there's the outside the explore. No not just the zoo, although that's pretty amazing - see here)
Having seen a fair few mazes across the year (they seem to be like magnets for our girls!)... we have to admit, this has beaten everything we've seen so far!! The Schönbrunn Maze has everything you could want! Adventurous playgrounds, a truly difficult maze to conquer and some interesting aspects to make your kids smile enroute! (mind the water features!)
It really has been a brilliant first 24hrs in Vienna and we can't wait for our heads to hit the pillow so we can start again tomorrow! If there's ever a measure of a great city for kids, there it is! We're truly shattered, but we can't wait for the sun to rise and we can start all over again!
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