Cultured, outdoorsy, friendly and historic Austria is one of the most accessible and diverse countries in Europe for all types of family holidays.
Visit in winter and you have gorgeous Vienna covered in ice rinks, markets, museums and kids entertainment. Tyrolean and Alpine skiing is snow-sure, long-season and some of the best value for families – Austria’s also a leader in lake-skating and cross-country. Go in spring and summer for hiking, walking, climbing and touring; Danube cruises; parks and gardens; amazing festivals; flower-filled meadows; pretty towns and villages. Austria even does chocolate cake better than anywhere else then pairs it with the world’s best coffee.
Direct flights all year round from London to Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
Austria’s Alpine region is one of the world’s leading snow-sure ski destinations.
Austrian Tyrol has five glaciers and includes legendary Hintertux where there’s skiing 365 days a year.
Salzburg’s Europe’s greatest Baroque city and the entire historic centre is a World Heritage site. It’s also home to the world’s oldest Christmas Market and the annual Salzburg International Music Festival in July and August.
2016’s Mercer Quality of Living Survey named Vienna as the world’s best city to live in, ahead of Zurich, Munich and Vancouver.
Innsbruck, the capital of Austrian Tyrol, opens lifts on the Stubai Glacier in October for Europe’s longest skiing season.
Austria has the most extensive network of marked walking trails in Europe and leads the world in accessible hiking with 24 wheelchair-approved routes across the country’s Tyrol region.
Where to go
Apart from the enormous Ferris Wheel in the Prater, Vienna’s skyline’s dominated by the graceful spires of gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral which really says all you need to know about the city. It’s graceful and lovely, elegant beyond reason, packed with famous museums, galleries, monuments and sights and officially the best place in the world to live. No surprise that families want to raise kids here and Vienna’s a fantastic city to visit with children.
Vienna isn’t a budget city and hotels are expensive, Airbnb is good for families, exceptional quality and often in historic properties – especially in the city centre.
Don’t miss: Wiener Prater (the world’s oldest funfair), ZOOM Children’s Museum, ice rinks in parks, gardens and in front of the City Hall all winter, best-ever hot chocolate in traditional Viennese cafés, the Spanish Riding School, kids’ tours of the Schönbrunn Palace, sailing on the Danube and exploring the city’s Museum Quarter.
Teenagers will love the citywide flea markets, vintage shopping round about Naschtmarkt and the Wieden district’s cool atmosphere.
The capital of Austrian Tyrol is justifiably world famous for skiing. It’s hosted the Winter Olympics twice, owns the Stubai Glacier and has the Bergisel Ski Jump – designed by Zaha Hadid. But even when there’s no snow, this lovely city works a family holiday beautifully with no end of outdoor activities, pretty weather and fun festivals and kids’ events.
Within easy reach of Karwandel Alpine Park and the Zirbenweg trail.
Part of Austria’s major ski region and one of the first areas in Europe to open lifts in winter.
Tyrol is famous for skiing but equally good for cycling, mountain biking, paragliding, sailing, hiking, walking, climbing and driving.
Home to mighty Seegrube Mountain and the place to take a gondola ride to 2000m at any time of year and stare out over the entire spectacular Inn Valley.
Renowned for its Christmas celebrations, fabulous decorations and very traditional festive markets.
Don’t miss: the Imperial Palace, historic Baroque city centre, the golden roofed Imperial Church, Rathaus Galerien and winter ice skating.
Towered over by the immense Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg is one of Europe’s loveliest cities, the birthplace of Mozart, setting for the Sound of Music and near neighbour to Austria’s best family-friendly skiing in SalzburgerLand. It’s also the Baroque capital of the world and the entire historic centre is a World Heritage site.
Just over an hour from SalzburgerLand’s ski resorts and the enchanting World Heritage village of Halstatt on Lake Halstatter.
Close to the Bavarian border and skiing in the Wasserburg Am Inn region.
Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt is the oldest in Europe, the first to open and the only one with its own angels – magical for young kids and always snowy.
Don’t miss: the Hellbrunn Palace, Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg Dom, the medieval Glockenspiel, Mirabell Palace and gardens, the Wasserspiele trick fountains and Mozart’s Geburthaus.
What to do
Wiener Prater, Vienna Dominated by the world’s oldest funfair, Wiener Prater is also a fantastic park, has live music all year round and lots of kids’ events during the summer.
Zoom Children’s Museum, Vienna Fantastic museum, activity centre, learning zone and interactive playground, ZOOM’s great for younger kids and can easily fill a day – year round children’s event programme.
Haus des Meeres Aqua-Terra Zoo, Vienna Underwater and on land, cute or terrifying, Haus des Meeres zoo and aquarium has over 10,000 creatures for kids to marvel at and get close to.
Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves, Salzburgerland World of the Ice Giants is earth’s largest ice cave and a do-not-miss-under-any-circumstances experience for everyone.
Fisser Flitzer & Skyswing, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, Tirol 2200m long summer toboggan, thrilling skyswing and awe-inspiring Fisser Fliege kids’ bi-plane are just a few of the dare-devil attractions on Möseralm Mountain.
Innsbruck Alpine Zoo Over 2000 animals, a delightful Alpine setting and a funicular too make this zoo a favourite for a family day out in Innsbruck.
Area 47, Ötztal, Tirol When roaming flower-filled meadows is too tame, find white water rafting, canyoning, canoeing and all sorts of other outdoor extremes for kids to go wild about.
Alpine Coaster, Golm 2.6km mountain-side coaster with 44 jumps, speeds of up to 45kmph and a 360˚ loop. Terrifyingly brilliant, winter and summer.
Hirschalm Fairytale Hunting Park, Hinterberg Taking full advantage of Austria’s natural fairy tale prettiness this is a fun day out for kids and has sweet family lodges if you want to stay and play longer.
Halstatt Salt Mine, Salzburgerland World Heritage Hallstatt is captivating and also home to the wold’s oldest salt mine open for fascinating underground adventuring all year round.
Educational value for kids
Salzburgerland has several smaller, family-friendly resorts which are perfect for getting young skiers quickly from the nursery slopes on to the green runs.
Summer walking and hiking brings kids into natural contact with Austria’s unique countryside and every area is scattered with learning-rich visitor centres.
Vienna has specially designed children’s tours round many of its major museums and galleries.
On the 31st December every year, from 2pm, you can have free waltzing lessons in front of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral – just in time for Ball Season.
Don’t be shy about taking kids to Vienna’s coffee houses, many of them are historic icons in their own right.
The Salzburg International Music Festival in July and August has an outstanding programme of children’s concerts, workshops and events.
Don’t just stick to skiing, Austria is the land where kids can learn everything in winter from safe lake skating to glacier walking.
Getting around with kids in Austria
Driving in Austria is one of the country’s great holiday experiences. But if you want to sit back and let someone else do the work, there’s an extensive and very efficient rail network and trains run to even the most remote ski regions. Public transport in cities is superb and most have turn-up-and-join guided tours so you can see plenty on foot too.