Vienna

Picture of vienna Vienna was the centerpiece of our Austria trip - we spent five nights here and easily could've stayed longer. We were a little concerned that a city with such a wealth of museums as Vienna has would be a difficult destination with a 1-year old. However, with the possible except of the Schonbrunn Palace (separate page) we never really pushed those limits. This view across the Danube Canal area towards UN City is taken from the Reisenrad.
Picture of stadtpark If you do happen to come to Vienna with children there are dozens of great playgrounds across the city. We stayed in Meidling and found a nice park nearby. There was also an impressive 'adventure park' near the Naschmarkt. This is good because the Naschmarkt is not all that interesting to a 1 year old. This is the Stadtpark of Vienna. It's usefully close to the city center, right on a metro stop and it's a huge green area with fields, fountains, flowers and a giant playground.
Picture of dom_view Stephans Dom is the center of Vienna. As cathedrals go, it's distinctive because of the one offset spire as well as the crazy roof tiling. The lower parts of the cathedral are not visible in this picture taken from a distance.
Picture of stephensdom Inside, well, it's less distinctive. It looks much like a cathedral. We didn't spend very much time inside and did not climb the tower. The strange colored lighting that lines the columns comes from the unusual windows.
Picture of dom_windows Here they are, not really stained glass so much as just colored glass. It's a nice effect though. The area around Stephans Dom is packed with cafes, shops, restaurants and people dressed up in strange costumes handing out brochures to everything happening in Vienna. In general, there is a lot happening in Vienna.
Picture of hofburg The Hofburg is a must-see in Vienna but it's not really a single item. The massive complex of buildings was the home of the Habsburgs when they ruled Austria-Hungary. You can easily get lost in the Hofburg without even entering a building. It houses some of Vienna's best attractions including Sissi's apartments, the Imperial Library, the riding school, national theater, the chapel (Burgkapelle) and a few more things that follow. Some of those items we thought we'd have a hard time visiting with a toddler but we did manage the Schatzkammer (Treasury) which is one of the most impressive collections we've seen anywhere in Europe. There is a remarkable collection of Austrian royalty-related items including the 1000 year old crown of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Picture of lippizaner Also located in the Hofburg complex is the Spanish Riding School where the Lipizzan horses are kept. We did not attend a dressage performance so this picture is as close as we came to them.
Picture of butterfly Next to the Hofburg, or maybe part of it still - who can tell, is the Schmetterlinghaus (Butterfly House) which is a bit pricey considering it is one large greenhouse room but it is impressive. We weren't sure if our son would like this or not - as it turns out he did - which in turn means we spent about a half hour inside. It should be noted that if you spend that long in the intense heat and humidity that the butterflies apparently prefer, you will emerge drenched in sweat.
Picture of volksgarten The Hofburg wraps around a huge green space known as the Volksgarten. This also borders the ring road around central Vienna as well as the National Theater and Parliament. It's probably mentioned in every Vienna guide everywhere that you can hop on the number 1 tram and circle the ring road endlessly for a cheap (or free if you have a transit card) tour of central Vienna. We found this to be good advice.
Picture of sacher_torte What to do while your child is sleeping in the stroller? Have a Sacher Torte of course. I'd never had a Sacher Torte before and quite honestly, I wasn't all that impressed. The hazelnut concoction that Melanie has in the background was much more impressive.
Picture of nh_museum Just across the ring from the Volksgarten is the Museum Quarter with another half dozen or so impossibly grand buildings around vast open plazas. The art history museum and the natural history museum face off across this plaza. We were quite interested in the art history museum but didn't think it was a good idea with the kid so we opted for natural history instead. Vienna's NH museum is quite impressive. It has the requisite display of practically every animal on the planet which was great fun for Alaric. They also have a decent dinosaur / fossil collection. Among the truly unique exhibits to be seen here are the Venus of Willendorf, an intact group of skeletons from the salt mines in central Austria, a huge collection of meteorites and the Diplodocus skeleton in this picture. It should be noted that young children are free at this museum. In fact, children under 6 are pretty much free at every attraction in Vienna as well as on public transportation. Back behind the NH museum are yet more museums including medieval weapons and musical instruments. We saved those for some future trip to Vienna when we return with an older version of Alaric who may possibly care about such things.
Picture of reisenrad The Reisenrad is a Vienna landmark and it's also a bit on the pricey side (9 Euros for one trip around). The trip takes about 15 - 20 minutes and offers great views of Vienna as well as the hills of the Vienna Woods, and probably Slovakia and Hungary too if you could tell where the borders were. Of course, you'll probably spend most of the time looking down at the Prater. The cabins hold about 12 people comfortably allowing you to move around and check out different directions.
Picture of prater This is the view down at the Prater. The Prater is an amusement park built more or less right in the middle of Vienna. It is also the giant park that stretches out from the amusement park section. The best way to see this, whether or not you have small children is on the Lilliputbahn (seriously). Ostensibly a children's railroad, it makes a loop into the park with several stations along the way. It's a nice shady ride through the park with a view of many of its attractions. The Prater is particularly crowded on weekends and holidays. There are also some impressive thrill rides.
Picture of pork_knuckle There is food here as well. This is the smallest size pork knuckle available at the Schwiezerhaus. The Schwiezerhaus is a restaurant which is so large that the sections of its Biergarten have street signs named after the Vienna districts. As you can see, Alaric is stunned to learn there is a pork product he has not had yet. (We do live in North Carolina after all). Like so many items in Austrian cuisine it comes with mustard and grated horseradish. Also there's a playground for kids inside the open-air restaurant which is good because by the time you've made it this far into the Prater you almost certainly need a beer.
Picture of belvedere If you somehow escape the central district of Vienna and still want to see more grand palaces, you're in luck. There are some in every direction. The Schonbrunn is the largest but the Belvedere in the south part of the city is impressive as well. This is the view from the far end of the gardens which is rather far away indeed. The Belvedere mostly houses an art collection now (another thing there is no shortage of in Vienna). There's an upper garden as well with a large reflecting pool and an Orangery (behind us in this picture).

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