Your average kid probably won’t want to spend a morning reading philosophy over coffee and cake before taking in a Klimt exhibition. Fortunately, like any big city, Vienna has plenty of things for children to do…
Kids in Vienna: general tips
(The Natural History Museum. Dinosaurs!)
- Children under the age of six travel free on the municipal transport system. Kids under 15 also travel free during official school holidays, on Sundays, and on public holidays. Adults should consider a travel pass.
- The coming major school holidays in Vienna are:
- Christmas holidays 2023/2024: December 24th to January 6th
- Under 19s get free entrance into all federal museums. This includes, for example, the Technical and Natural History museums mentioned below.
- I’ve picked out particular locations that have a strong focus on kids, but other sights in Vienna may also offer activities for children. For example, the Kunsthistorisches Museum has child-friendly tours in their KHM Stories app, and the Mozarthaus has an audioguide designed for children.
- If you have a pram, you should be fine getting around. See the article on accessibility in Vienna.
- Should your kids be like mine, and remain surgically attached to their screens for most periods of the day, Vienna also has plenty of free WiFi hotspots.
- For interactive entertainment, try these suggestions for virtual reality, multimedia and immersive experiences.
- For summer entertainment, Vienna offers a big splash of water activities, notably:
Tips for children’s activities
(The animal highlight at the zoo)
Obviously, the zoo is a paradise for kids, and you can easily lose a day in here. Among the many things to to see and do, I particularly recommend:
- The rainforest house: a giant split-level glasshouse that mimics the climate and vegetation of that ecosystem. Full of free-roaming birds and fruit bats, as well as enclosures with otters, turtles, lizards, snakes and more.
(Parts of the rainforest house may be closed off during an ongoing renovation project.)
- The aquarium: especially the underwater tunnel and the large coral reef display. The terrarium section includes spiders, snakes, lizards, scorpions, and similar.
- The adventure playground: lots of opportunities to slide, climb, swing and generally ruin those nice clean clothes.
- The sea lion feeding: plenty of squeals and (particularly) splashing
Haus des Meeres
(Also an excellent location for city views)
And if you haven’t had enough of animals, try the Haus des Meeres: a huge aquarium and terrarium located in an old flak tower. It has, for example, a lovely multi-level tropical house with free-ranging birds and monkeys.
Oh, and plenty of crocodiles, snakes, and sharks for that little extra touch of excitement. The new massive 120m² free-standing shark aquarium, for example, is rather spectacular.
Be sure to go up to the rooftop restaurant afterwards and enjoy the amazing 360° views across Vienna.
Museum of Illusions
Now the Museum of Illusions is a lot of fun (also for adults). Enjoy an array of optical illusions on posters and in display cabinets that have you struggling to deny what your eyes are telling you.
But the real joy comes from the installations that mess with perspective. Stand in a room where the kids appear twice the size of their parents. Or have a dad’s head served up on a plate (quite literally).
(Actually part of the Hofburg palace area)
Another animal-based suggestion, albeit of the insect kind. The Imperial Butterfly House recently reopened after extensive refurbishments.
The butterflies really are both plentiful and beautiful. And it’s a small hothouse, so won’t take long to get round.
The building (a Jugendstil palm house) lies right next to some of the main sightseeing spots, so you can use it to keep the kids happy between palaces and paintings.
Natural History Museum
(This bronze sculpture outside tells you you’re in the right place for the Naturhistorisches Museum)
Another museum which entertains kids by default: many areas also have interactive screens and buttons to press. Three particular tips for the Natural History Museum:
- The dinosaur hall (dinosaurs!) has a suitably-intimidating animatronic model of an Allosaurus (a bit like a T-Rex) and the giant fossilised dinosaur poo rarely fails to elicit a delighted response from the children.
- Gallery 15 has a little photo installation that takes your picture and morphs it into a prehistoric humanoid.
- That prehistory section also includes a video installation that projects you onto a wall wearing centuries of different fashions
The museum shop offers a huge variety of toys and other items if you need to bride/reward the kids at any point (you can visit the shop without a ticket, too).
The Children’s Museum in Schönbrunn Palace
Well, there’s a clue in the title.
The Kindermuseum Schloss Schönbrunn in the Habsburg summer palace complex gives youngsters an insight into life as a member of the Imperial family in the 18th century.
The best bit is the dressing up area, where the kids can put on period costume and pretend to be little princes and princesses (or Archdukes and Archduchesses to give them their proper title).
The rest of the Schönbrunn Palace area has one or two other activities likely to bring joy to the younger generation: the mazes, for example (and the zoo, of course).
Spanish Riding School
(The Stallburg stables, viewable on a tour)
If your children are at least three and like horses, then make sure to take them to the Spanish Riding School.
Tickets to performances can be tough to come by, but you can watch the white stallions train to music most mornings fairly easily. This Morgenarbeit is a fairly relaxed affair, so you can leave without any fuss if the kids have had enough.
Giant Ferris Wheel and Prater amusements
(One of Vienna’s most famous landmarks)
The Ferris wheel (Riesenrad) sits at the entrance to the Wurstelprater, a long expanse of fairground rides, arcades, roller coasters, and restaurants that form part of the wider Prater with its huge park full of playgrounds and similar.
(Note that not all Prater attractions stay open in the colder months.)
The Riesenrad itself is an iconic Vienna experience, made famous through cameos in such films as The Third Man and Before Sunrise. Kids enjoy the ride up top and the views over the city, especially if they come with the promise to explore more of the entertainment on offer nearby.
(Press photo © Madame Tussauds Wien / Christoph Kleinsasser)
Opposite the Ferris Wheel sits Madame Tussauds, which needs no introduction. Some of the waxworks are quite Austria-specific, but many are not.
For example, get your selfies with numerous international stars, such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Benedict Cumberbatch, Katy Perry or Johnny Depp. (And Audrey Hepburn, my personal historical crush.)
The location even includes a little bit of an educational aspect, with a section on WWII (which manages to combine Anne Frank and Brad Pitt).
Time Travel Vienna & Sisi’s Amazing Journey
Two relatively new attractions in the centre.
- The Time Travel Vienna immersive tour takes you through the city’s history. It’s kept lively for kids with a 5D show, virtual reality, animated models, and various special effects as you find yourself, for example, in a WWII air raid shelter or a plague pit.
- The sister location is even newer: Sisi’s Amazing Journey provides a VR boat ride above and below Vienna with Empress Elisabeth.
Future Bus Tour
(A new addition to the tour scene)
Talking virtual reality, the one-hour Future Bus sightseeing tour around central sights includes a few stops where you don the VR goggles and dive into animations, historical reenactments, and other surprises.
A few kids were on board when I went and all seemed to have fun.
(The sign is a big clue to what’s inside the building)
The Technisches Museum is essentially a museum of science and technology. It includes numerous big machines to gape at and those all-important buttons to press. But the location also has various areas dedicated to younger visitors. For example:
- If you have young kids, two large play areas let toddlers mess about in all sorts of creative environments. Both can get busy, though, as they make excellent play date venues for local families, too.
- If you have older kids, the “in motion” exhibition invites them to explore the world of mobility with 30 interactive learning stations.
You can spend a lot of time in here. Look out, also, for the special exhibitions.
Haus der Musik
Think of this as a museum of sound. While the Haus der Musik does have sections showcasing composer memorabilia for the likes of Beethoven and Mozart, many of the displays are more futuristic and interactive.
The kids can, for example, create their own CLONG sound creature aided by virtual reality, conduct the Wiener Philharmoniker, or roll their own waltz using dice. Not to mention the stairs that work like a piano. Yeah, I have a lot of fun there, too.
(The English cinema we go to most often)
“I love the smell of popcorn in the morning,” to (mis)quote that kids’ favourite, Apocalypse Now. If you want to catch the latest Marvel blockbuster or Disney release, many local cinemas show films in the original English.
Try the Haydn, Artis International or Burg, in particular, for kid-friendly movies.
If your kids prefer to feed at the faster end of the food chain, Vienna has plenty of McDonald’s, Burger Kings, and similar. But you might try taking them to a Konditorei (essentially cake-filled cafés with enough varieties to please even the most picky of children).
The main supermarkets also tend to have takeaway sections with sandwiches, or you can simply ask them to make up a filled cheese or ham roll at the delicatessen counters.
The above should keep them entertained. And there’s always ice cream (try Zanoni on Rotenturmstrasse, just down from Stephansdom cathedral).
Here’s a map of the locations mentioned…