We had a three and a half hour drive from Berchtesgaden to Vienna – managing to get through with only one toddler meltdown (too hot in the car seat). After we got to Vienna, I dropped everyone off at the Hilton Vienna Plaza and then drove to drop the car off at the other Hilton in town. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hilton, but we ultimately really enjoyed the city and it was a great way to end our trip.
We spent the first day visiting two museums – the Kunst Historiches and the Haus der Musik. The Kunst Historiches is one of Vienna’s premier art museums – it has an excellent collection the majority of which I did not see because toddlers just have a hard time staying quiet! M was bored so we mostly just played with her stroller and sat in the cafe.
The Haus der Musik was much more kid friendly – there are a lot of interactive exhibits and plenty of things you can touch and mess around with. We actually went to this museum at 8 PM (after dinner), when it becomes half price. We only saw a little over half the museum in our hour and a half there – I actually think it could take up an entire afternoon if you are into classical music.
The second floor of the museum is…kind of weird. First of all, it’s all kind of dark like a haunted house. I think the idea of the floor is to break music down scientifically – there is a lot of stuff on harmonics, sound generation, etc. The problem is, it feels like a haunted house! The first room, I kid you not, is designed to simulate the sounds you once heard when you were in the womb. Completely with weird projections of babies onto some half orb thing. Despite the exhibit being kind of new age-y and even a little scary, it actually is quite a bit of fun. You can tap on a gigantic drum, there are various buttons to press to play different sounds, and quite a few interactive stations (mostly computers with headphones).
The third floor of the museum is the real star of the show as far as I’m concerned. It has ten rooms dedicated to nine composers who are related to Vienna. Each room has its own specific feel and flavor, with some items related to the composers (including big boys like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn), and again plenty of interactive exhibits to pass the time by. We were actually rushing at this point but M was really enjoying the music in the different rooms. Apparently the proper way to dance to a Mozart Sonata is by waving your arms around like you just don’t care.
The most fun part of the third floor is this exhibit where you get to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. Since they were at the Salzburg Music Festival, this was our only chance to see them. You use this plastic wand and can choose from one of six pieces to conduct. It’s a lot of fun though a bit janky at times. Here’s M finishing up her set.
By the end our daughter was pretty delirious so we headed home. The next day was my parents’ last of the trip, so they took M to another children’s museum while Jess and I got a morning off. We took advantage by renting a couple bikes from Vienna’s bike share program.
It only cost us 1 Euro total for the morning since we kept all our rides under an hour (it was 1 Euro to sign up). Simple and painless and we did it with our credit cards (you don’t even need a chip). Much cheaper than Boston where 24 hours costs $6 and 72 costs $12.
The city is super easy to bike around – we took a tour around the city ring using Rick Steve’s guide, stopping at a few places along the way. It was flat and smooth ride. Eventually we ended up at the Belvedere, one of the palace museums in Vienna. Unlike most palaces, it’s not just looking from room to room, it’s been converted to an art museum. I appreciated that since frankly I’m kind of sick of looking at palaces at this current point in my life. Seen one seen them all!
Jess and I capped off our date with lunch at Cafe Landtmann which boasted a serious coffee and dessert selection, of which we did partake.
On our last full day in Europe, my parents were off to the airport and the three of us took a trip to the Naturhistoriches Museum (Natural History). M slept through the first hour, and then woke up to the sight of more ducks, elephants, and dinosaurs than she had ever seen in her life.
It’s funny seeing a toddler light up when they see their favorite animals. There’s a song we sing to her in Chinese about how big an elephant’s “nose” is; if she didn’t understand the reference before I am sure she does now!
We finished our time in Bavaria and Austria with a lot of walking around Vienna and some good food. After we put M down for bed, it was time to pack and get ready for our flight home. Seventeen days is a long time to be away from home and I personally was ready to get back.
Vienna definitely exceeded my expectations as a city. It’s very walkable (or bikeable), which is a major plus for visitors especially if you don’t have kids. I think there are enough kid friendly museums and activities to spend your time with, and if you let your kids eat dessert they will not go wanting in the least. After the rainout in Berchtesgaden, Vienna was the perfect coda to our trip.
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