Itty Bitty Guide to Vienna
If you asked a five year old to make a city for adults, she’d make Vienna. First, she’d make it look as old as possible, because it’s for adults and adults are old. So the buildings would be huge, and gray and covered in Greek and Roman statues because they are meant to be impressive. And they are. After that, she would make a list of rules, because that’s what adults do. Don’t walk in the bike path. Don’t eat your ice cream cones in the cafe you just ordered them from. Don’t buy too much in the grocery store. Break a rule, and then you get yelled at. Just like what happens to your kid. So, if you want to enjoy all that Vienna has to offer, it’s best to have the attitude of a kid when you visit this former Imperial city and just have fun.
Play Dress Up
The Viennese are amazing at dress up. You’ll meet friendly and laid back people you can have beers with one day, and the next they’re dressed to the nines for the winter balls. Or they’ve donned the traditional lederhosen (for men) and dirndl (for women) to drink copious amounts of beer, because, well, because. So join the fun when you are in Vienna and pretend at being someone else. Go to the children’s museum at Schonbrunn Palace, you can dress like emperors and empresses. Duck into a traditional shop and don a dirndl. Or splurge and get yourself something fancy from the shops along the Graban. You’re on vacation, and if no one knows who you are, you can be anyone you want.
Make Some Noise
Do your kids sing their little hearts out while pooping? Do they love to sing-narrate everything they are doing? Then they deserve to go to Vienna, where Mozart was already performing for royalty by the of age 5. Music is big in Vienna, so start with the interactive Haus der Musik, where kids can learn about the science of sound and play a prelude on the piano stairs. During the summer months you can grab an ice cream and watch an opera outside on the big screen. Or just listen to one of the many talented buskers on Kartnerstrasse as you explore the heart of shopping.
You may feel pressured to visit every museum you can while in Vienna, but that is an impossible task as there are exactly 573,042 museums in the city. So choose one or two that will resonate with the littles and spend more time just being outside. The playgrounds in Vienna are plentiful and challenging, with high-climbing rigging that will strike fear in the hearts of any US-insured parents. For a more relaxing day, hop on the U-bahn and hang out on the banks of the Danube or explore the “jungle” of Vienna and its petting zoos. Still not quite your speed? then head to the mountains to frolic among the vineyards and enjoy lovely local wine at a heurige. We promise you will not be disappointed.
If you stumble upon the Augarten or go to the aquarium (Haus der Meer), you will also stumble upon a very stark reminder of Vienna, and Austria’s, past. From playgrounds and beautiful gardens throughout Vienna rise three pairs of Nazi Flak Towers, their rough edifices in complete dissonance with the Vienna you’ve already seen. It’s important though, to remember what happened in the 1930s and 40s, from a gradual deterioration of basic rights to outright murder. The names of those who were taken from their homes, as well as their final known destination (mostly concentration camps) can be seen in the bronze plaques embedded in sidewalks. Especially heartbreaking are the plaques where entire families are listed, children and all. So, if your kids can handle it, pay your respects at one of the Jewish museums in Vienna.