If you’ve ever wondered what life was like as a little prince or princess in the days of the Hapsburg Empire (and who hasn’t?), then the children’s museum is a great place to explore and reward the kids for tramping around the main palace all morning without complaining.
You’ll find it at the right-hand side of the large central palace building opposite the main entrance to Schönbrunn, just before the arches you pass through to get round to the gardens.
The museum is, unsurprisingly, very family oriented; there’s plenty of space to pack away bags and coats, an eating area and — most importantly — numerous things for the little ones to do.
What you get for your entrance money is a series of rooms demonstrating various aspects of life as a court youngster. Not in a boring “yet another old schoolbook in another glass cabinet” way, but with toys, games and hands-on experiences which include everything from indoor slides to the chance to dress up in period costume.
There are around 15 rooms and chambers which you can wander through. Unlike many other Vienna destinations, each room has detailed information in English about the displays.
Some of the highlights:
1. Before or after you tour the museum, you can dress the kids up in period costume, meaning wigs, hats, dresses, fans, suits and other court paraphernalia. Our kids loved this bit, and you can pose for photos in front of a sedan chair. Unfortunately, there’s no dressing up for adults.
2. In the “toy room,” you can play with the same toys and games used at court in centuries past.
3. Smell all the different perfumes used by the princesses at a dressing table. And in the dining room, you can smell a selection of kitchen aromas, which is not quite as pleasant…
4. Use magnetic “leeches” to find the right places to bleed a patient (dads like this one, too).
While kids will enjoy messing about with the displays, it’s not uninteresting for adults, too. The Bergl rooms, for example, are stunningly impressive, with their walls painted to look like a river jungle landscape. And it’s quite amusing to see how incredibly old the imperial children look in their portraits, where a 22 year-old easily looks 50.
The museum also reveals the kind of imperial trivia that makes history bearable. For example, the kids only brushed their teeth twice a week. The inevitable consequences explain why you never see Hapsburgs smiling in their portraits.
The museum is open weekends and public holidays throughout the year, and every day during school holidays. There are guided tours, but normally only in German (don’t worry – the written information in each room says just about everything the tour guide would say).
Tip: Although a children’s museum, it’s probably of most interest to kids aged between 6 and 12. Under 6, and they’ll not really relate to most of the displays. Over 12 and they’ll probably get a touch bored.
NB: My kids are grown up now, so I’ve not visited here in a while – things may have changed!
Address: Schloss Schönbrunn, 1130 Vienna | Website