Vienna, AUSTRIA : PART TWO

Vienna, Austria

In July 2016 we traveled to Vienna, Austria! You can read the first post in this series HERE.

Day 2 – Zoom Kindermuseum

Our second full day in Vienna, Austria was definitely on the slower side. We took our time in the morning, then made our way over to the Museumsquartier again, where we found ZOOM Kindermuseum. First we ate a quick lunch at the nearby cafe, and then spent time playing on this large grassy water bed in the courtyard before the entrance to the museum. A tentative Porter “tested the waters”, unsure of what would happen if he stepped on it, but then found himself bouncing around among the other children.

ZOOM Kindermuseum at the Museumquartier

Inside ZOOM, toddlers and babies can play for one hour inside a sea-inspired wonderland. Walking in, you’re “under the sea” with urchins and creatures made of different textured materials, and little coves to explore. Up a winding ramp, we found ourselves at the helm of a ship, which Porter LOVED. Again, there are a few places to explore around the “ship”, and a gangplank to walk over to discover a jungle, or dress up corner, and much more. We loved watching him play and it was great for him to have something special to do, too.

I loved these posters!

Walking home, we stopped to explore the Naschmarkt, not fully realizing what it entailed. It’s amazing! From our first passing, at the very end of it, it looked like a couple of small buildings serving food, but it is actually a narrow market, with shops on either side, selling all kinds of great stuff. Souvenirs, spices, cheese, lunch, meat, vegetables, you name it. If you go to Vienna, definitely spend some time walking, shopping, eating and drinking there.

Naschmarkt
Naschmarkt

Naschmarkt

Then we got a bit lost walking home and had to deal with all these beautiful buildings to walk by.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria
Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee

Day 3 – Danube Cruise to Bratislava

You may read about our day in Bratislava, Slovakia in a separate post HERE.

We returned in the late afternoon, and decided to walk around during golden hour. We first walked by this beautiful Russian Orthodox Cathedral that was actually our view from our hotel room. Gorgeous!

Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale
Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale

Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale

Russisch-Orthodoxe Kathedrale

And since the hotel was very close to Belvedere Palace and gardens, we just headed over there.

Schloss Belvedere
Schloss Belvedere / Belvedere Palace

Everything was spectacular! From the grounds of the palace, to the setting sun, to the peacefully quiet neighborhoods during dinner time.

Unteres Belvedere
Unteres Belvedere

Belvedere Garden

Belvedere Garden
Belvedere Garden

Belvedere Garden

Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace
Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace

Belvedere Palace

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Day 4 – Schönbrunn Palace

On our final day, the plan was to have an early start and arrive at Schönbronn Palace as soon as it opened. This was in order to avoid crowds/lines as much as possible, but also because it is a bit out of the city. With tours of the Palace, gardens to explore, and a zoo, I knew there would plenty to fill our time, too. Unfortunately, our reality now is that everything takes much longer than planned for – including getting out the door. Kids, man!

Schloß Schönbrunn
Schönbrunn Palace / Schloß Schönbrunn

Getting to the palace was quite easy on the metro. Once there, we decided on a shorter tour of the Palace, first. Thank God we chose the short tour because Porter was not having any of it, that is until the very end when he found the fire extinguisher inside the stairwell.

It was a really informative, interesting tour of the beautiful main rooms. No pictures were allowed inside, though. Schönbronn is a classic European palace, full of history, art, and beauty. Not to be missed.

Schloß Schönbrunn
Schloß Schönbrunn

After our tour inside, we moved with the crowds around the gardens, and up to Gloriette for the incredible views.

Schloß Schönbrunn

Schloß Schönbrunn
Gloriette

Schloß Schönbrunn

At this point, I was tired. Retiring on a bench to feed Henry, I asked Matt if he wanted to cut the palace visit short and go back to Rathaus for lunch in the park again. He agreed, and an easy metro ride later, we found ourselves back in the gazebo, enjoying the afternoon.

Yet another late afternoon walk home through Vienna:

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria
Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Innerstadt, Vienna, Austria

Enjoy your vacation!

It’s taken me a few years of traveling to realize that we don’t have to see and do everything. There is no obligation to travel like other tourists or how the travel books recommend. After all, these are our vacations. The time we take to get away is necessary for us, as expats, to recharge. Which might sound strange because living as an expat can seem like a vacation. But it has its difficulties, too, like the fact that this is not our home and we don’t have a normal support system around a lot of the time. Also, one of the perks to being an expat is taking advantage of the ability to travel, if you are fortunate enough to do so.

When we found ourselves eating lunch at Gastronomie, in the park, we weren’t doing anything special or uniquely Vienna, perhaps, but each one of us in the family were relaxed. Which is something I forget we need to focus on while on vacation in a new place. We ate and drank slow. We tried new foods and let the toddler play in the water fountain for a long time. And we were able to strike up conversations with locals!

Schönbronn Palace is an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of fascinating history, and is an amazing sight to behold all around, but I’m glad we ditched out a little early to return to something that made us happier 🙂 Maybe when we’re older and without the burden of children’s needs/timelines/schedules we’ll get to leisurely tour a palace again. Ha, if we should be so lucky!

What I love about Vienna

Vienna is truly a remarkable, beautiful European city. Do not hesitate to ever go!

  • It is so easy to get around on foot, by train, and metro.
  • There is FREE WIFI around the city! I absolutely loved this for planning and mapping things, as well as sharing way more than usual on social media.
  • History, arts, and culture abounds.
  • The food and drinks!
  • Everything is beautiful: the architecture, the parks, the waterways and surrounding countryside, the people.
  • There is so much to do and enjoy, no matter what you like.
  • It is a fabulous family destination – many places with child friendly areas, also breastfeeding friendly.

I’m really happy we were able to go to Vienna. It was a great place for our first trip as a family of four and really nice to return to Europe again.

Day Cruise from Vienna to Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

If you are in Vienna (or Bratislava) I highly recommend doing a Danube boat cruise!

Vienna to Bratislava

When our good friend visited Vienna a couple of years ago, she popped over to Bratislava, Slovakia for the day. She took a train there and a high-speed catamaran back. Being that the boat cruise took about an hour, and her pictures looked awesome, we decided this was a must-do whilst we were in Vienna.

First of all, if you don’t know much about the Danube (like me) here is a map of it:

Danube map
photo via Wikipedia

So, you see, it goes through half of Europe: 10 countries, 4 capitals! It’s a big deal.

high-speed catamaran can travel between Vienna and Bratislava (or vice versa) in 75 minutes. Leaving Vienna, we took it easy traveling down the Donaukanal where there are Viennese fishing houses that are SO cute and inspiring.

Viennese Fishing House

My husband, the fisherman, was probably envisioning a life spent fishing out of his own version of this, while I was envisioning building, decorating, and maintaining our own little cottage. I failed at taking enough pictures of these because I was too busy fawning over them. Trust there are some really adorable ones, as well as some serious “bachelor pad” ones as well.

Once on the Danube proper the catamaran did its “high-speed” thing. The river is wide, but calm – perfect for cruising along, however you may see fit. Along the way to and from Bratislava you will see various other boats like large floating hotels that boast multi-day Danube cruises, long-distance kayakers (this seems like a hardcore, yet awesome, adventure), and barges.

Vienna to Bratislava

Austria/Slovakia Border on the Danube
Austria/Slovakia Border on the Danube

OK, so on to the day!

We bought tickets and headed to Bratislava, Slovakia early in the morning. We chose to spend the shortest time there, 4 hours. I think with little kids, this was a good amount of time. Not too long and drawn out; however, I don’t think we used our time entirely wisely.

Here’s why. When you arrive in Bratislava, you are dropped off on the “old town” side of the river.

Bratislava Danube
Danube in Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

There is a little train you can choose to take some tours on, which will go around the old town and castles and what not, and I would actually recommend this even though we didn’t choose this option. But it is there, and I think a great way to see the sights and learn some history about Bratislava in an amount of time of your choosing.

Bratislava Castle
Bratislava Castle

We didn’t choose this option because…I don’t even want to put this out there publicly, but whatever…we decided to cross the UFO bridge to the shopping mall on the other side of the Danube to try to buy a Starbucks mug. So, when the Twin City Liner docked, we disembarked and found our way to the walking path that is on the bridge, and then found our way over to the mall.

Novy Most Bratislava
Novy Most Bratislava

Unfortunately, the Starbucks there didn’t have any Bratislava or Slovakia mugs 🙁 Fortunately, we got to take some time to experience something more than touristy Bratislava…although, a shopping mall isn’t typically my first option for that sort of thing. This mall was pretty impressive though, as it had a great selection of international stores that I recognized from the UAE (European stores that I hadn’t seen in Sweden, or before), and a wonderful family changing room with private nursing areas, and a great selection of cafes and restaurants. We grabbed lunch there, as well as a sun hat for the baby.

Not that happiest looking picture, but lunch was great!

Soon after, we made our way back over the bridge and into Old Town to explore a bit.

Old Town Bratislava
Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava
Michalská brána / Michael’s Gate
Old Town Bratislava
Michalská brána / Michael’s Gate

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

Old Town Bratislava

While there we walked around, found some souvenirs, and tried to walk over to Bratislava Castle, but didn’t make it the whole way before realizing we just didn’t have the time. I would say we had a nice enough time looking around the Old Town area, but could always enjoy more. If you aren’t limited by children, and are interested, I’d encourage a longer stay.

Old Town Bratislava

Bratislava Danube

Slovakia itself has piqued our interest before, so it was more than “just a trip to Bratislava” for us. I’d LOVE to go back to Bratislava, as well as any other part of Slovakia. Matt has pointed out that the difference in language was striking – not something we have any background knowledge of – but luckily in Bratislava enough people spoke english well enough for us to get by (in the few hours we were there, in the touristy areas, ha). We can manage enough of a Scandinavian language, or German, or Spanish, or French, but this was our first time in a European area with a wholly unfamiliar language. I absolutely enjoyed the little slice of life we got to see at the mall, and I loved the Old Town area!

Whatever comes to mind when you think of Bratislava, I guarantee visiting will far surpass your expectations!

Vienna, AUSTRIA – July 2016 : PART ONE

We traveled to Vienna, Austria in July 2016! It was our first trip as a family of four!

As if through divine intervention, a few factors miraculously came together in the final days of nursery school before summer which allowed us to make last-minute travel plans: Henry’s passport finally came in; at the same time, we found someone willing to watch our dogs when all kennel facilities were booked; and we had enough miles and points for “free” flights and a hotel room. Score! Matt and I threw around a few ideas, then spontaneously booked a trip to Vienna, Austria.

Why Vienna? I mean, why not, right? Matt had had an interest in visiting for awhile, and we’d had friends who recently travelled there, piquing our interest.

Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 1
Abu Dhabi Airport Terminal 1

So, the first week of July, we took off on our first vacation as a family of four. It was lovely to return to Europe; as if coming back home, which it was in a way.

We flew in on Qatar Airlines, passing through Doha on our way to and from. It was an easy, comfortable experience and the airline took great care of us as a family. So appreciated! Checking in, they always put us at the bulkhead seats where we were provided with a baby bassinet each flight – first that’s ever happened. They also gave out little activity kits and stuffed Mr. Potato Heads for the boys to stay busy. I have nothing but great things to say about Qatar Airlines.

look at all of us moms taking pictures of our boys here! i love it!

Since we had built up enough Marriott points to use on a hotel stay, we had a few places to choose from. Deciding on the Renaissance was actually a really great idea, in hindsight. The hotel itself, in the old Imperial Riding School, was great! The breakfast each morning had a nice variety of food, to include what I can only describe as “crack waffles” (so delicious). We also had access to the lounge, which we crashed in each afternoon for coffee (or wine…) after a long day out.

The hotel is ideally located right next to a train line, so we were able to buy cheaper tickets on a regular train into the city from the airport, rather than take the airport express train, which is not only more expensive but, if taken, would’ve been a further walk to the hotel. Each Vienna train/metro ride costs €2.20/adult (€1.10/child) no matter where you’re going, and is valid for all transfers. This made getting around the city easy and inexpensively.

Our first afternoon in, we just walked around the neighborhood to get our bearings. There is a grocery store, pharmacy, launderers, and a big park all within a mile – really convenient for traveling families. The neighborhood – Landstrasse – is (much like the rest of Vienna) beautiful to just walk around and enjoy what you see. One of my friends who had already been to Vienna told us it was enjoyable to just walk the city. I couldn’t agree more.

Stadtpark

Day 1 – Innere Stadt

Early the next morning we set out, again on foot, and as per usual for us, with no real plan. I have a hard time making a firm itinerary because I don’t know how easy a new city is to navigate and I can’t predict how the boys will be each day. So, we decided to just walk toward Innere Stadt – Stephansplatz to be exact – and see where we could go from there.

Mozart's House
Mozart’s House

Mozart's House

St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephan's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

From the impressive St. Stephan’s Cathedral, we moseyed down Kärntner Straße, and over to Albertinaplatz. We popped into a cafe right there for a coffee + nursing session. Very important break for all members of the family.

Once satiated, we moved along towards Michaelerplatz to Hofberg Palace. Then we found ourselves winding through the streets, in a bit of a roundabout way, until we found Rathaus.

Austrian National Library
Austrian National Library
Hofburg Palace
Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace

Michaelerplatz
Michaelerplatz

Stopped in a few stores as well…

Vienna Starbucks
A Starbucks! For our mug.

Before continuing on…

Wiener Minoritenkirche
Wiener Minoritenkirche
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage Vienna
Ferstal Passage

Ferstal Passage Vienna

Ferstal Passage Vienna

Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein
Palais Liechtenstein

Our visit happened to coincide with Rathausplatz being transformed into the Gastronomie/Vienna Film Festival event. Which…was amazing! Food stalls everywhere. Beer and wine on tap. Outdoor seating on a beautiful day in a beautiful setting?! Heaven.

Vienna Rathaus
Vienna Rathaus

We had left the Middle East during the final days of Ramadan. During this time there is no eating in public during the daylight hours, for about a month. There is also not much alcohol around at any time, anyway. Here in Vienna, all of a sudden, we found ourselves picking out local craft beers at a stall in a public park, and faced with the decision: What food shall we try today? I’m not going to lie, it felt a little thrilling. It’s funny how quickly we adapted to being in Ramadan mode (not practicing, but being respectfully mindful), and how it felt weird going back to what is “normal” for us.

Of course given the option we choose to sample Viennese foods.

spaetzle in Vienna
spaetzle

Making ourselves at home in a secluded gazebo, I was able to nurse Henry while Porter freely played around. Matt ferried food and drink for us to imbibe in. It was perfect. The epitome of vacation.

Viennese Food

Vienna Rathaus
Vienna Rathaus

Once lunch was over, we moved on towards Museumsquartier, or the area “with about 70 cultural facilities”. We crossed through Naschmarkt not knowing what it was at the time (we popped through there another day), then stopped for Porter to play at a fun playground in front of Karlskirche. Finally, we went back to the hotel. Though we didn’t expect to walk so much, the exploration was definitely worth it.

Burgtheater
Burgtheater
Austrian Parliament Building
Austrian Parliament Building
Karlskirche Vienna
Karlskirche

Karlskirche Vienna
Karlskirche

So, because this is such a photo-heavy, long post, I will stop here for now.

To be continued…