While walking the streets of Vienna with kids you almost expect to bow for a passing carriage. The prestigious atmosphere is overwhelming. Ruled by the Habsburg family for over 600 years, Vienna’s rich history revolves around this family dynasty and their social, economic, and cultural associations. As a result, 600 years’ worth of prosperity, wealth, and building have made a Vienna a beautiful metropolis. Vienna is a must-see city, with endless amounts of history. Don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do in Vienna with kids, too.
Vienna with Kids: Where to Begin
To get the best background of Vienna it would be best if you began your touring at Schönbrunn Castle. Built in the seventeenth century as a hunting lodge for the Crown Prince, the palace was developed over the next century until it was worthy of housing the royal family. Even with kids in tow, you could easily spend several days touring Schönbrunn.
There are several tour options packed full of information about this influential family. The tours have a heavy focus on the 18th century. Highlighting Maria Theresa, who ruled the Habsburg family for forty years. In modern terms, we would call her a “mom boss.” She meant business.
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Maria Theresa was the Archduchess of Austria until her father’s death when she became Empress. Her extensive strategizing began long before she actually held any power. The Empress knew, as a woman her greatest claim to fame would be the rulers she created in her own children. She had 16 of them.
Vienna’s Impact on the World
Historically, in most large family dynasties, only the oldest male child would get to rule. Maria Theresa simply wasn’t satisfied with that idea. She plotted and planned every aspect of her children’s lives to accurately marry them off to other country’s crowned elite. Her husband was not a fan of Maria Theresa’s strategizing and stayed out of her way in regards to the marriages of their children. Maria Theresa went as far as marrying off their mentally handicapped daughter, who subsequently died of smallpox right before that marriage. Maria Theresa simply offered the next daughter in line. The Empress was relentless and as such was called the “mother-in-law of Europe.”
Due to the widespread reach of Maria Theresa’s children, she was able to leave a royal seal on almost every European royal family bloodline. Therefore, she would have descendants ruling Naples-Sicily, Spain, France, Parma, the Wettin Dynasty, and the Bourbon Dynasty, as well as a nun and an Archbishop of Cologne. Mom goals. Just kidding, but truly Maria Theresa knew her stuff. Because the Habsburg family infiltrated so much of Europe, Vienna’s history is not just Austrian/Bavaria it is a magnificent dedication to one of Europe’s most influential families.
The Royal Catacombs
If you are a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, you will greatly enjoy this next suggestion. Given the size and duration of their rule, the Habsburg family experienced a lot of funerals. That is to say, death was incredibly common pre-modern sanitization practices and unfortunately for the royals, it did not exclude them. Macabre tombs and expensive funerary art was a huge part of the imperial dynasty.
Exploring this part of Vienna with kids may seem like you’re begging to answer questions about death and burial. But, like most of history, there are good parts and bad parts to discuss. Sometimes you have to tackle tough subjects, and with historical visits like these to the Royal Catacombs, you’re given an opportunity to do just that.
The Habsburg Imperial Crypt is a must see in regards to culture, art, money, and funerary practices of the time. Containing the tombs of 12 Emperors, 18 empresses, and 113 other royal family members, the Imperial Crypt is a great way to spend the day. You get to quietly wander through the underground crypt museum – which is air-conditioned, exploring in the wonder that you didn’t know existed. A large portion of the Maria Theresa era family members are interred here.
With the exception of one, all of the tombs collected here are made from metal and carved with the highest level of skill available at the time. Therefore, if you enjoy history or specifically art history this is a must-see stop in Vienna, Austria.
Cultural Appreciation Continued
The Macabre art and cultural norm don’t end with the Imperial Crypt. Just down the street, you can find a whole new level of “internment.” The royal family, upon death, would have their body parts placed in three different locations. Their bodily remains would be interned in a Bronze tomb in the Imperial Crypt. The hearts of 54 members of the royal family are held in special silver urns in the Herzgruft, or “Heart Room,” located a few blocks away in St. George’s Chapel of the Augustinerkirche. And the embalmed entrails of princes, queens, and emperors are kept in the Ducal Crypt below St. Stephan’s Cathedral.
The entire history of Vienna revolves around its royal family history. Because of the strategic marriages of the Habsburgs, the history of the Austrian royal family is the history of Europe as well.
Vienna is a modern, happening city, but its tourism is heavily embedded in its royal family history and architecture. Even if history is not your thing, be sure to stop at the many cafes and street food vendors. Wander through the art galleries and shops. Sit on the benches and absorb the architectural details. There is so much to see when exploring Vienna with kids. So, get out there!
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Photo Credits: Lydia Bradbury and Unsplash