For those looking to explore beyond the typical European capitals, the elegant city of Vienna, Austria is a perfect choice for families. Its narrow cobblestone streets, classical architecture and grand palaces make even a simple stroll for coffee a delightful experience. Plus, what kid can turn down the delicious selection of pastries? In fact, my daughter has declared Vienna her favorite city in the world — at least so far!
Best Things to Do in Vienna with Kids
There is so much to see in Vienna that it is hard to fit it all into 72 hours. One sight that can’t be missed is the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace. Getting there is easy, just a short metro ride from the city center. Once home to many of the Habsburg rulers, the palace has evolved over the centuries and today is open for tours. The beautiful gardens surrounding the palace are also free to the public and offer fun for all ages with a maze and a Labyrinthikon Playground.
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Younger children can enjoy dressing up like emperors and empresses at the onsite Children’s Museum. There are two guided tour options; the shorter Imperial Tour is the way to go with kids.
TIP: It is worth climbing the hill to see the views over Vienna from the garden gloriette. You will need a ticket to enter the gloriette, but the views are just as good from in front of it.
Adjacent to the Palace gardens you will find the oldest zoo in world, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Vienna Zoo is home to more 700 animal species, including giant pandas and Siberian tigers.
Schnitzel at Griechenbeisl
It may be touristy, but you simply must start your visit to Vienna with a plate of schnitzel, and many claim that Griechenbeisl has the best around. You won’t be disappointed by the strudel either! For something off the beaten path, the cozy and authentic Brezl Gwolb is a great choice — with yummy homemade pretzels too.
Spanish Riding School
Plan in advance and with luck, you can score tickets to a performance of the high-stepping Lippizaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School. If not, you still may be able to catch a rehearsal and tour the barns to see these famous beauties.
Be sure to leave time to soak up Vienna’s coffeehouse culture and choose your favorite from the city’s famous historic coffeehouses. Our favorites were the popular Cafe Central and the quieter Cafe Sperl.
There are more museums in Vienna than you will have time to visit, but even if you skip them all, everyone will enjoy a fun stroll through the Museums Quartier and through the gates at the Hofburg Palace. A few top picks would be the Albertina, ZOOM Children’s Museum and the world-famous Natural History Museum. A bit further away, art enthusiasts will enjoy taking a selfie with “Kiss” by Gustav Klimt, one of Austria’s most famous artists, at the Belvedere Museum.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
No visit to Vienna without at least a quick peek into St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This Gothic masterpiece acts as a landmark in central Vienna, looming large over the city with its towers and impressive tile roof. The North Tower houses the second-largest free-swinging church bell in Europe. If you are willing to climb the 343 steps of the South Tower, you can enjoy the view across Vienna.
Delight the pet lovers in the family with a stop at Cafe Neko, a Japanese-style cat cafe. If you are lucky, one of their giant Maine Coons might come by to say hello.
Haus der Musik
Children of all ages will delight in the Haus der Musik, an interactive sound museum. Here you will find three stories of fun exhibits like music stairs, a sound gallery and my favorite, the “Classics Reloaded.” There is also an entire floor dedicated to the great composers, using hands-on activities and historic artifacts to educate visitors about Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, Schubert and more.
Where to Stay
We could not have been happier with the personalized service at the Palais Hansen Kempinski. This luxury hotel is located within the Ringstrasse (the ring road that surrounds central Vienna), away from the crowded touristy areas, yet convenient to trams and the metro. Its elegant suites offer plenty of space for families to spread out and enjoy. High tea is offered in the lobby, along with coffee, pastries and drinks — perfect for afternoon aperitifs. One of our favorite features was the extensive global breakfast buffet featuring made-to-order eggs, local cheeses and meats, all sorts of fresh pastries, freshly squeezed juices and even Champagne. A lovely Virtuoso perk!
If you’ve seen London, Paris, Rome and/or Barcelona, it is time to experience the timeless elegance of Vienna. The city is also a perfect jumping off point for exploring more of Central Europe, from Salzburg to Prague to Budapest.
Editor’s Note: Tamara received a travel advisor rate at Palais Hansen Kempinski. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Tamara Gruber unless otherwise noted.