Mel Griffiths, 35, husband Chris, 38, and their children Lisa, 6, and Paul, 4, went on a three-day cultural city break to Vienna, Austria.
Why we went
Although the children are young, we think it's never too early to immerse them in culture, so we headed off to Vienna to visit the world famous Schronbrunn Palace and the many child-friendly museums this spectacular city had to offer.
The easyjet flight from Gatwick took two hours and 15 minutes, so it wasn’t too taxing for the children and they happily amused themselves with games consoles and books. Once we arrived at Vienna International Airport an attendant kindly helped us to purchase our trains ticket into the city. We were informed that if you purchased them along with a Vienna Card (which allows you to travel on the subway, bus and trams) you can get them for a discounted price. So we bought two as children under 14 travel free with adults who have a Vienna Card, which meant that our travel for the weekend was swiftly and easily organised. Plus the Vienna Card gave us money off entry to a large number of attractions and museums, which proved incredibly useful during our stay.
Hotel Harmonie was a short train and subway ride away, located a little north west of the centre of the city, in a peaceful, mostly residential district of Vienna known as the Serviten quarter. Although the building itself is over 150 years old, inside Harmonie is a thoroughly modern and super-stylish boutique hotel. We booked ourselves in for two nights in a one of their larger Superior rooms, which contained a double and two single beds, so it accommodated us all very comfortably.
Breakfast was delicious, with a wide range of various cuisines on offer. The weather was nice so we opted to eat outside on the veranda, and happily there were plenty of gluten-free options for Lisa who is a coeliac. From 3-6pm we they also offered a complimentary afternoon tea providing a wide range of various teas and traditional cakes, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.
What we did
The Schonbrunn Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Vienna's most popular tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. We loved exploring the gorgeous grounds and trying to navigate our way through the Schonbrunn Maze of hedges. We also paid a visit to the famous Schonbrunn Zoo as the children were keen to see the baby pandas and the polar bear enclosure where you can watch them swimming underwater. We then made our way over to the Schloss Schonbrunn Experience children’s museum in the west wing of the palace to learn about Empress Maria Theresa’s sixteen children in the 18th century. Lisa and Paul jumped at the opportunity to dress up in regal garb and had a ball learning about how the Austrian royal family used to live. Our last stop off at the Palace was to see a performance of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ at the Marionette Theatre. It was the most remarkable puppet show we’ve ever seen and both the children were absolutely enthralled.
The next day we went to the Museums Quartier, where the majority of Vienna’s cultural institutions are located. While I had a quick peek at the art in the Leopold Museum, Chris kindly took Lisa and Paul to The Zoom Children’s Museum which is a fantastic experiential museum for young ones. It houses a creative workshop, a film studio, an interactive themed exhibition and the Ocean which is geared towards younger children aged 8 months to six years. You have to book places in advance for each child, but it’s well worth doing as our children loved it. We also stopped by the House of Music, a unique interactive sound museum. Chris enjoyed trying out the unusual instruments and Lisa proved to be a natural at conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. On the way we paid a visit to the Prater Wheel, which gave us gorgeous views of the city from the top of the ferris wheel. Our last stop of the day was the House of the Sea, Austria's largest aquarium which is housed in a huge Second World War anti-aircraft tower. They have children-sized tunnels built into the tanks so little ones can get up close to different breeds of fish, sharks and sea turtles. We finished off the day with coffee and cake at the House of the Sea’s roof top café and terrace, which has breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
What we ate
As luck would have it the weekend we visited coincided with a food festival in the Stadtpark. The Wiener Genussfestival offered up lots of regional culinary delights to try and gifts to buy, including vinegars, chocolate and most importantly, wine. A self-confessed foodie family, during our visit we made it a priority to try an authentic Weiner Schnitzel and the world famous Sacher-Torte, a Viennese chocolate cake with apricot jam that’s considered a national treasure in Austria. There’s a big focus on fresh, organic food in Vienna and we really felt spoilt for choice.
EasyJet flies from Gatwick to Vienna daily, with prices starting from £32.49 per person (one way, including taxes). Visit easyjet.com for more details.
Superior rooms at Hotel Harmonie start from €198 for two 2 adults. Children under 2 years stay for free, children between 2 and 6 years are charged at €40/night. Children older than 6 years pay the normal price. For more information visit harmonie-vienna.at.
For general information on Vienna visit vienna.info.
The Vienna card entitles holders to more than 210 discounts and unlimited free travel.