Vienna is one of the few cities where both adults’ and children’s ideas of indulgence meet. To me, Vienna is old-world charm in unhurried cafés where Freud dreamt up theories and Trotsky planned a revolution. To my husband, it’s the setting for Graham Greene’s classic film noir The Third Man, while for our children, it is the fairground rides of the Prater district which enthral.
Vienna has museums to suit all tastes and ages, including a Children’s Museum, next to which is a waist-expanding café. There is also a Butterfly House in the city centre – a glass and copper art nouveau construction which was built as a botanical hothouse.
Austria’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, the Steirereck, sits right in the centre of the park, so if you’re feeling flush, indulge in a long lingering lunch while the children run off steam under the trees.
Even Vienna’s transport is child- and
buggy-friendly and children love the red trams which trundle past the imperial buildings that flank the Ringstrasse – the wide avenue which encircles most of the city’s main attractions. If the tram doesn’t appeal, perhaps a ride on one of the horse-drawn carriages will do the trick. While these rides are a little pricey, children will find it exciting to trot through the busy streets in their very own fairy-tale carriage.
Older children are endlessly fascinated by a tour of the city’s sewers, but you will need to book as you can only visit them as part of a guided tour. When you’re ready for a tea break, you can learn about the history of the cake wars which led to a long court battle over who could lay claim to the original Sachertorte, Vienna’s deservedly famous chocolate cake. Watch as apple strudel is made in Café Demmel’s glass-fronted kitchens before ordering it, sprinkled with sugar and still warm, with cups of Viennese coffee. Children, meanwhile, can feast on hot chocolate and cakes. If Café Demmel is too crowded, at least take a peek through the window at the latest satirical marzipan creation. Cake aside, Café Central serves salads and plain, unfussy food, such as schnitzels or dumplings with bacon.
In the summer, Viennese families head for Schönbrunn – Maria Theresa’s summer palace – for a day out. The gardens alone contain the oldest zoo in Europe, imitation Roman ruins, statues, follies, a maze and a labyrinth covering 2,700 square metres. Would-be princesses will marvel at the rococo splendour of the palace’s interior with its gilded and mirrored opulence. It was in the gold Mirror Hall that a six-year-old Mozart performed for Maria Theresa before leaping onto her lap and smothering her with kisses.
Vienna has gone Mozart-mad this year due to the 250th anniversary of his birth, and his face will be emblazoned on everything from key rings and cake tins to women’s underwear. However, his music, along with the stories his pieces are set to, are quite palatable for mini opera buffs. Take the children to the Marionette theatre where puppets perform The Magic Flute, or attend a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir in the Musikverein’s Brahms Hal
Fly to Vienna’s Schwechat airport from Heathrow on Austrian Airlines, tel: 0870 1242625;
and British Airways, tel: 0870 850 9850;
from Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham. The CAT (City Airport Train) costs around £6, whilst a taxi will cost around £30.
.info for more details about public transport and ticket options.
£££ Hotel Sacher is the place to stay if your budget will allow. Doubles from around £180. Tel: 0043 1 514 560;
- ££ Some rooms at the Hotel Mercure Josefshof
have kitchenettes which are popular with families. Suites from £135. Tel: 0043 1 2180 0800;
- £ Hotel Kärntnerhof is a small, friendly hotel
with large rooms to accommodate families.
Triples from around £100. Tel: 0043 1 512 1923;
£££ Austria’s Michelin-starred Steirereck restaurant is first class. Tel: 0043 1 713 3168;
££ Visit Café Demmel for Sachertorte and other delicious cakes and hot chocolate.
£ Naschmarkt open-air food market near the Karlsplatz is great for picking up picnic ingredients.
For information on hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions, visit
. The site offers itineraries, an excellent events database, on-line hotel bookings and useful tourist information.