Vienna for children. At first sight, Wien doesn’t scream ‘fun’. Since most kids activities in Vienna hide in museums and palaces how do you get your children to explore the city itself? In fact, since the center is packed with wonderful stories and references, your kids just need to unearth them. My own children were lukewarm about mama’s home city. Hence we decided to roam Vienna with a special children’s guide. Here is our review.
Of Hares, Albert and Christina
Vienna for children. A pink hare the size of a donkey: Thanks to a quirky sculpture of the Albertina’s iconic hare by Albrecht Duerer we were off to a good start on an otherwise chilly winter morning.
With the animal glancing over our shoulders tour guide Kathi unrolled the story of the Vienna State Opera right next: A rude Emperor and a subsequent suicide were capturing though my daughter’s eyes really lit up when Kathi fished a sparkling princess crown out of her handbag. As she was sharing her own memories of her debutante evening at the opera ball that building edged a lot closer to us.
Vienna for children. To warm up and add fun we decided to run up the stairs of the Albertina museum. From there, another ‘wildlife view’, this time of a green hare grazing on top of a Viennese sausage stand. We heard the story of aristocratic couple Albert and Christina, and their Albertina.
Not long after that we learned what we were actually standing on top of, some eight meters above ground. From then on, the historic key date 1683 weaved a red thread through our tour, connecting many loose sightings into a meaningful whole.
Life At Hofburg Palace
Vienna for children. Before we knew it we headed for Hofburg Palace, sneaking through a secret passage way just behind the former orangery in Burggarten. We peered through the orangery’s large glass panels: The Habsburgs loved to cultivate orange and lemon trees there to decorate their ballrooms. In fact, the reason for them to do that provided a more juicy detail for my children than any odd fruit.
From Burggarten onwards, the Imperial Eagle turned into another leitmotiv that was fun to spot throughout our tour in various places.
Finally, we resurfaced among the castle-like compounds of Schweizerhof (Swiss Court), where the Vienna Boys Choir goes in and out every Sunday morning, and Imperial treasures sparkle behind thick doors. While medieval castles generally make for attractive stories we had the most fun spotting exciting details, such as the Lamb of the Golden Fleece, and the Imperial coat of arms.
If you wanted to get to know Habsburg’s most eccentric personality that lived behind those walls you would pick Empress Sissi (Elisabeth), and this was what Kathi did. That time she conjured up a picture of the stunningly beautiful monarch, along with a measuring tape, probably from Kathi’s own sewing box. Standing in front of Sissi’s house we listened to her astonishing daily routines, frequent escapades, and love of candied violets.
To be honest, we found the truthful facts about Sissi were in no way inferior to the many ‘fake news’ about her. Noticing our frozen faces Kate decided she could as well talk to us in the warmth of the nearby souvenir shop – fab idea.
‘Asterix and the Romans’ in Vienna
Vienna for children. Roman excavations can be exciting. But how intrigued would my children be by rotten brickwork and red gravel pathways in the middle of Michaeler Square, just in front of splendid Hofburg Palace?
Lacking any particularly intriguing visuals the excavations required passionate story telling… and eventually, an imposing Roman junction (pathways) reappeared, together with Southern European style villas (brickwork) and a real Roman coin from Kathi’s inexhaustible handbag. We weren’t far from imagining an ‘Asterix and the Romans’ episode. After all, since Vienna started out as a Roman camp, Vindobona, getting an idea about the city’s roots was important.
A Pestilence Column and A Bombed Cathedral
Vienna for children. Following Empresses, palaces and the Romans, it was time for a pestilence column, so typical for Central European cities. I liked the fact that Kathi explained the background of that column but didn’t dwell on boring history. Instead, she picked out the most interesting bits, such as a relief of the world map missing Australia, and shared the story behind it.
By the time St. Stephen’s Cathedral came into sight my kids showed the first signs of fatigue. It was an original Turkish cannon ball from 1683 that woke them up: Stuck mid way up the cathedral walls it was almost invisible to the unsuspecting eye. Likewise, the legend of ‘toothache Jesus’ persisting next to an outside sculpture proved captivating enough for my kids to appreciate a gothic church.
We were almost done and Kathi agreed to accompany us to our nearby lunch spot Zu Den Drei Hacken. On the way we passed one of Mozart’s former work and living spaces, which triggered another hilarious anecdote.
Talking about St. Stephen’s Kate and I remembered the cathedral’s stone mason sponsored by Austrian wafer brand Manner. My kids laughed their socks off at the picture of the stone mason all dressed up in Manner pink (see photo).
By the way, the final piece emerging from Kathi’s handbag was a pack of Austrian Manner wafers!
Vienna For Children: Book The Tour
Private walks for children for up to 6 people cost USD 390 per group. Drop me a line inc. a reference to the Vienna Walk For Children if you are interested.
NOTE: We were kindly invited to this tour. All opinions expressed are explicitly our own.
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