Vienna with (and for) kids
ne of the symbols of Vienna is the big wheel. Visible from many points around the city, it’s a beacon for anyone setting out on a tour of the Austrian capital. Located in Leopolstadt district, it stands at the entrance to Prater, one of Europe’s oldest— and most emblematic— amusement parks. Besides merry-go-rounds, a roller coaster, house of mirrors and the miniature railway, the Park also houses the Planetarium and Madame Tussaud’s, the world’s most famous wax museum. The adjoining Green Prater is a vast expanse of green meadows with areas for skating, BMX and beach volleyball.
A couple of kilometres from Prater is Stadtpark, the prettiest of Vienna’s green lungs. Opened in 1862, it was the city’s first public park and contains several monuments. The most photographed of these is the golden statue of the composer, Johann Strauss. Of course, Vienna is the ideal destination for instilling in children a love of music.
A museum designed for children
At the ZOOM museum, children can play and learn at the same time. Installations and workshops are designed to develop and stimulate their artistic and scientific abilities, creativity and social skills. Activities are suitable for children from eight months to 14 years of age.
The House of Music does a lot to help. Its four floors (Vienna Philharmonic Museum, Sonosphere, Great Composers and Virto-Stage) use an all-round approach. The interactive space encourages children to experiment with installations like Namadeus, where visitors’ names are interpreted as Mozart compositions.
Vienna’s most popular sites of interest also cater to youngsters. The Hofburg Palace offers guided tours around the apartments where the Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife, the famous Empress Sisi, spent the winter months. To make the tour more entertaining, children can dress up in period costumes, uniforms and accessories. Across from the Palace is the Spanish Riding School, boasting a 450-year history. The ballet of the white Lipizzan stallions delights adults and children alike.
The Viennese Versailles, Schönbrunn Palace, shows how children of the Imperial family lived during the summer. Each child had three rooms until the age of six, when they were allocated two more (an anteroom and an audience room). The children’s tour program includes a visit to the Children’s Museum and maze gardens.
The Schönbrunn also has a zoo. And not just any zoo: this one is the oldest in the world and has been named the best in Europe on five occasions (most recently in autumn 2018). Such high accolades are due, mainly, to the spacious enclosures housing giant pandas, elephants and other exotic animals. The Rainforest House and the Orangery and Citrus House are among the zoo’s most popular highlights and, like the rest of the Schönbrunn, World Heritage Sites.
While St. Stephen’s Cathedral may not sound as attractive to the kids as the zoo, they are bound to enjoy the view overlooking the entire city from its two towers. If the 350 steps to access the south tower are too much of a challenge, you can always take the lift to the top of the north tower. For the more daring, the cathedral catacombs are also open. Energy can be replenished afterwards with a slice of Sachertorte, though you really don’t need an excuse to eat chocolate.