Planning a Family Trip to Vienna
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Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it oozes Old World charm. It’s full of marble-clad buildings, impressive coffeehouses, art museums and leafy parks and plazas hugging the Danube River. There’s truly something for everyone in this family-friendly European city filled with culture and history. Visiting palaces, watching the famous horse ballet, savoring art in all forms or enjoying fantastic playgrounds are among the activities families can enjoy in the city’s historic districts.
How to Get There
The Vienna Airport (VIE) is about 10 miles from the city. Once you land, you can either take a train directly from the terminal to the city center via the express City Airport Train (CAT), which takes 16 minutes and costs €11 or a local train, which takes about 23 minutes but costs less, at €4.20. The CAT has more space for luggage. There are also two buses: The Air-Liner (€5) and the Vienna Airport Lines (€8), which both go into the city.
Taxis usually cost around €35 and there is a car-share service called DriveNow, but you have to register to join for €29. (In addition, it costs 28 cents/minute, €9/hour or €80/day. This might come in handy if you want to use a car during the rest of your trip.) After a brief suspension, Uber is operational in Vienna but Lyft is not. Note that when arriving during morning traffic (which is common for flights from the US), the driving time to the city can take quite a while considering the relatively short distance.
Austrian Airlines is the flagship carrier for Austria and is headquartered at the Vienna Airport. It’s part of the Star Alliance, so if you have miles on any partner airline, you should be able to get a seat at a good valuation. Austrian flies direct from Chicago O’Hare (ORD), New York-JFK, Newark Liberty (EWR) and Washington Dulles (IAD), with seasonal flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA). Like with most airlines, award availability in economy is much better than in business class, but sometimes business class awards become more available in the weeks and days leading up to departure.
Other Airline Options
Unfortunately, Austrian is going to be your only nonstop option to Vienna from the United States, but if you are willing to connect in Europe, you can fly on many of the major carriers and alliances. Here are tips for using your miles to fly to Europe and our favorite international carriers for families, in case you have the luxury of choice.
Vienna is divided into 23 districts. They are arranged in a circle around the city’s center, or First District, which is surrounded by the Ringstrasse. This ring boulevard is where the old city wall used to stand. The National Theatre, the National Opera, Hofburg Palace, Stephansplatz and its famous cathedral, the Spanish Riding School, various major museums, City Hall and Parliament are all on the Ringstrasse and in the First District.
It would be easy to remain in the Inner Stadt, but many of the other Inner Districts (1 to 9) are worth checking out. The Outer Districts (10 to 23) are more residential.
The Second District, or Leopoldstadt, is where the city’s famous public park, Prater, is found. It’s also home to farmers markets, cool cafes and trendy bars and restaurants. Landstrasse (Third District) is home to the lovely Stadtpark as well as Schwarzenberg Palace, Konzerthaus and the popular Belvedere Palace — plus lots of families live in this district.
The Sixth District, or Mariahilf, has an aquarium with a view, tons of cafes and restaurants, and a major shopping street. The Seventh District is home to MuseumsQuartier, one of the largest cultural centers in the world. Alsergund, or the Ninth District, is home to the Freud Museum, Liechtenstein Palace and the Museum of Modern Art.
Best Points Hotels in Vienna for Families
Vienna has several Old World-style grand hotels dripping with gold, marble and history, but this one (my family’s favorite) is bookable with points. Hotel Imperial is part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection as a Category 6 property. It might seem a bit too “don’t touch anything” for kids, but the hotel is actually quite welcoming to children and the rooms and suites are extremely spacious — plus it offers child-size robes and slippers. Did we mention the famous almond and chocolate Imperial Torte was born here and you get a mini one on your pillow every night at turndown? It’s time to live your monarchical fantasies.
Rooms for families of three start at 50,000 Marriott points (plus €50), or 62,000 points. There is good availability for larger rooms and suite categories. As with all Marriott redemptions, your fifth night is free in standard rooms. If a standard room can work for you, this is also the perfect opportunity to use your up to 50k free-night certificate that comes with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card on your card’s anniversary.
Another Luxury Collection property in the city that costs only 35,000 Marriott points is the Art Deco-inspired Hotel Bristol. You can use an up to 35k free-night certificate that Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card holders get on their card anniversary. Both hotels are ideally located on the Ringstrasse. For rooms that sleep three, you may need to book a slightly higher room category.
Four grand, 19th-century houses on the Ringstrasse, make up The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, with 220 rooms, lavish staircases, ornate fireplaces and luxurious yet understated décor. Parents will appreciate the spa with its whirlpool, sauna, and indoor pool with underwater music. There’s also a rooftop bar with panoramic views open during the summer.
You can book a club-level room with lounge access for 50,000 Marriott points plus €220, or 66,000 points for a premium room. A junior suite is 84,000 points. This is another terrific place where you can use your 50k free-night certificate if a standard room will do the trick.
A more affordable Marriott option is the Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna Hotel. It’s in an old military riding school from the 19th century. Rooms are comfortable and there’s a family room option with a king bed and pullout sofa. Plus, there’s an indoor pool.
This hotel starts at 25,000 Marriott points, but the only points availability available online is for a room that accommodates two people.
The elegant InterContinental Vienna is in a 1960s-era high-rise that has a plush, lobby with chandeliers and spacious rooms with a retro vibe. Upper floors have spectacular views and their own concierge. There are free beds for children under 4. Extra beds can be added to your room for a fee for kids up to age 18. There are packages for kids such as a trip to Vienna’s famous Schönbrunn Zoo. Plus, the Parlor restaurant has an out-of-the-schnitzel-box healthy children’s menu.
This hotel starts at 35,000 IHG Rewards Club points, but usually only classic rooms are available to book with points. Remember, your fourth award night is free if you have the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. There are also many bonus opportunities to purchase IHG points to top off your account, if needed. If you are trying to save your IHG points, stay at the Holiday Inn Vienna City for only 25,000 IHG points per night.
The Hilton Vienna is a no-frills option, but it does have a good location off the Stadtpark, which has several playgrounds, and is also near the U4 subway to Schönbrunn and the zoo.
This hotel costs 28k–50k Hilton Honors rewards points per night. There is a maximum number of three guests for a standard room with one king bed or two twin beds. Also, when using your Hilton Honors points, if you have any sort of Hilton status, you’ll receive your fifth night free.
Fortunately, earning status is quite easy since Hilton Silver status automatically comes with the no-annual-fee Hilton Honors American Express Card (see rates & fees).
A new hotel that opened its doors in May 2019, the Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere is next to the Schweizergarten and close to Belvedere Palace. The design is modern and there is contemporary art by local artists on display throughout the hotel and in the 303 rooms with sleek furnishings and details like heated bathroom floors. There’s a rooftop bar, spa, and a nightly free wine hour with snacks. This hotel is a steal right now at 12,000 World of Hyatt points for the classic room.
If you prefer an even more luxurious stay with your World of Hyatt points, the Park Hyatt Vienna starts at 25,000 points. You can earn points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card. Both hotels have standard rooms that are only technically rated for two people, but at 12k points per night, perhaps getting two rooms for your family is more feasible at the Andaz than the Park Hyatt.
A favorite hotel that’s not from a major brand is the famous Hotel Sacher Wein, which has adorable amenities for kids, including an activity book, board games and bath supplies. The hotel is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, which does have a points-based loyalty program. If you prefer an apartment stay, some good rentals are Adagio Aparthotel Vienna, Urban Flats Vienna City Center and the very basic Apartments Messe-Prater.
You might not be able to use your traditional hotel points at these properties, but this is the perfect opportunity to redeem your miles earned from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You can use your miles to “erase” a portion or all of any purchase from your credit card statement that codes as “travel.”
When to Go
Vienna has ideal and mild weather in the spring and fall. Summers get a bit hot, but not typically overbearing, making summer a peak travel time (with higher prices). Winter often brings snow and mid-November through December is a true highlight because of the Christmas lights, elaborate decorations and charming markets. November and March can be very rainy. Here are tips for visiting the Vienna Christmas Markets.
Vienna City Card
The Vienna City Card offers options for 24, 48 or 72 hours of unlimited travel on public transportation and discounts at museums, shops and restaurants. Some cards include a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and an airport transfer. The cost starts at €17 but there is a 10% discount for booking online.
Language and Currency
The primary language of Vienna, as well as the rest of Austria, is German. That said, English is widely spoken and understood in many parts of Vienna. The currency in Austria is the euro, so be sure and pack a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Vienna is an incredible central European city that’s often overlooked for by European travelers in favor of places like London, Paris and Rome. Often cited as of the most livable cities in the world, it’s easy to navigate, clean, full of culture and really shouldn’t be skipped. Families will find more than enough to keep them entertained here and then easy access to other nearby cities such as Budapest and Prague.
Here are some more travel tips for visiting Vienna:
- • 5 Tips for Visiting Vienna’s Famous Christmas Markets
- • 4 Things to Love About Vienna
- • Old World Luxe: A Review of the Park Hyatt Vienna
- • Flight Review: Austrian Airlines (767-300) Business Class, From Vienna to JFK
Featured image by TZfoto / Getty Images
For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, click here.
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