The Ultimate guide to Austria and Central Europe with kids
Central Europe offers vibrant and eclectic cities for travellers of all ages. They are especially appealing in winter with snowy landscapes and holiday festivities and decorations. The beautiful Alpine country of Austria features magnificent mountain vistas along with many family-friendly attractions in the capital of Vienna and charming Salzburg. Other central European cities that dazzle in any winter travel itinerary include Berlin, Prague, and Budapest.
Elegant and rich in history and old-world charm. Vienna captivates visitors with its striking architecture, culture, and wide array of family activities, especially around the Christmas holidays.
Vienna has the world’s oldest amusement park. It features the Riesenrad Ferris wheel, which provides great city views. The city boasts numerous palaces, with the most famous being Schönbrunn, with its impressive state rooms and magnificent gardens. The Palace property also contains the city’s zoo as well as a maze to delight kids and their parents.
Be sure to see the beautiful St. Stephens Cathedral with its mosaic covered roof. And explore the Hofburg Palace, once home to the ruling Habsburg emperors. Watch a performance of the famed white Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanish Riding School. Or settle into the historic Demel cafe for a piece of delicious Sachertorte!
Special winter activities include ice skating in front of the picturesque Town Hall. Visit famed Christmas markets such as at City Hall or Belvedere Palace, with stalls selling holiday handicrafts, hearty food and warming drinks.
Salzburg is surrounded by beautiful Alpine vistas. It features a Baroque old city core that is a delight to explore with its museums and gardens.
Wander down charming streets such as the Getreidegasse full of colourful shops, restaurants, and intricately carved shop signs. Visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress high above the city and Salzburg’s ornate Cathedral with its turquoise domes. Music lovers will want to see Mozart’s birthplace and/or the home where he subsequently lived. Children will enjoy the Marionette Theater with its puppet shows and the delightful Toy Museum.
During the Christmas holidays, your kids will be enchanted by the delightful holiday markets such as in the Residenzplatz. Offering visitors sparkling lights and hot mugs of glühwein, ice skating in Mozart Square, or sipping a hot chocolate at Cafe Tomaselli, Mozart’s favorite.
In warmer months, children will delight in the city’s parks such as the Mirabell Gardens, one of the settings used in the movie The Sound of Music. They will also enjoy Hellbrunn Place with its gardens, which contain surprise water features that can get unsuspecting guests wet! An interesting day trip available from May to October is to the spectacular ice caves at Werfen, the largest such caves in the world.
Germany’s Berlin is a dynamic and vibrant city to visit. From the striking Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building to the fabulous collection of museums on Museum Island.
History is around every corner in Berlin. Fascinating visits can include the area known as Checkpoint Charlie, which was the famous crossing point between the eastern and western parts of the city during its partition after World War II as well as seeing sections of the famed Berlin Wall. Learn more about life in what was once East Germany at the intriguing DDR Museum.
Despite winter’s chill, the city dazzles over the holidays with wonderful Christmas markets like the one in Potsdamer Platz, Berliner Weinachtszeit (Christmastime) just behind Alexanderplatz, and WeinachtsZauber (Christmas Magic) at the Gendarmenmarkt.
Additional fun family activities include ice skating and sledding on Potsdamer Platz . You can also visit the Christmas Circus and the special Christmas Garden at the Botanical Gardens with its spectacular light displays.
The beauty of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, entrances visitors. It boasts the history rich Prague castle overlooking the city to the iconic Charles Bridge over the Vltava River lined with statues of saints.
Kids will love taking the funicular up Petrin Hill to climb its Observation Tower for great views over the city. Stroll the fascinating Jewish Quarter with its old synagogues. From the unique Astronomical Clock and enticing old town to concerts featuring the music of Mozart, a visit to beautiful Prague is sure to delight children and adults alike.
A winter holiday can include strolling through the beautiful Christmas Markets at Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square or Kampa Island. You can watch a lamplighter in period costume manually light the Charles Bridge lamps in December. Or go ice skating at the Tower Ice Park underneath the Zizkov TV Tower. Ride the special Christmas trams decked out with thousands of lights. You can even cross-country ski in one of the city’s parks!
The Hungarian capital of Budapest is another great choice to add to any Central European excursion. Its rich history is reflected in striking sights like the delightful neo-Gothic architecture of the Fisherman’s Bastion and mosaic roofed Matthias Church high above the river. The ornate Parliament Building on the other side, along with the Chain Bridge connecting both parts of the city are also marvellous.
Walk the cobblestoned streets around Buda Castle. Cruise the Danube and take in all the sights along the riverbanks. Enjoy a Hungarian folk dancing show. And your kids will love the Chocolate Museum, which includes tasting sessions!
The city sparkles in wintertime with Christmas markets at both Vörösmarty Square and St. Stephen’s Basilica, and you can enjoy relaxing thermal baths in spas such as at the famous Gellért or Széchenyi Baths. City Park’s boating pond is frozen over and becomes Europe’s largest ice-skating rink, directly in front of Vajdahunyad Castle.
Catch a performance of the Nutcracker at the State Opera House. And take a ride on one of the city’s trams, all decked out with holiday lights. You may also want to take the chairlift into the hills overlooking Buda for some sledding fun!