The Aspidistra household is going on holiday this Christmas It’s the first time in ten years any of us has been out of the country. So we’re doing it proper - 6 weeks total trip time, mostly in England visiting my family. But in the middle of it, we’re taking a week-and-a-half side trip into Europe, partly to see friends of ours in various places and partly because - well, we’re over there! Lets see stuff!
It’s going to be winter, it’s going to be cold. That’s ok - we’re not hot weather people and there’ll be plenty of Hot waiting for us back home when we get back mid-January. But it does mean that I need to get a list together of Things We Could See that involves a mixture of outdoor things (in case it’s nice enough to be outside) and indoor things (for the more probable case)
There’s five of us - two adults, a 10yo,8yo and 6yo. So far I have on my list:
In Paris - Climbing the Eiffel tower sounds like it could be fun. I like the look of the Jardin d’Acclimation, but it might be too outdoorsy for winter. Want to visit Notre Dame too. That’s about it for my list at the moment.
In Amsterdam - I see they have canal tours. If it’s sensible to take a canal tour in the middle of December, we’re all over that.
In Vienna - I think my sweet-toothed ones would like Demel. I want to take them to the Kunsthaus, 'cause - trees growing out windows! It’s just cool. After that, I run out of ideas.
I know we have a lot of European and generally-well-travelled Dopers on here. Anyone got any hot recommendations?
I spent a day in Vienna in early January of 2008; not much was open as far as touristy stuff goes. The temp was about 30 F and there had been snow a day or two before. We ended up wandering the city center and checking out the Stephansdom, which will probably bore your children to tears.
Take them to a Red Light District prostitute!
I would go with the Rijksmuseum, Anne Franks house, Van Gogh Museum, and the Rembrandt House Museum.
Depending on what time of year, you might want to drive out to the tulip plantations.
Also when I was there, my buddy and I ended up in a medieval town called Delf where apparently they make a lot of ceramic trinkets. It was kind of cool, if you like medieval shit.
The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Basilique du Sacré Cœur, Montmartre district, Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, Musée de l’Orangerie, Place de la Concorde, Centre Georges Pompidou, Notre Dame cathedral, Rodin museum (the artist, not the giant monster that fights Godzilla), Seine boat tour, Tuileres Garden.
Also recommend a day trip to Versailles.
Most of the Paris stuff I did with my girlfriend/fiancé now wife around Christmas time.
It’s a little outside of Paris, but you have to take them to the Palace of Versailles. So much better than waiting in line to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. That palace is one of my favorite destinations in Europe.
If you’re interested in science and technology, the Musee des Arts et Metiers is a great museum in Paris. And it’s cheap–I think it was 6.5 euro to get in. They have lots of old scientific equipment, early computing machines, Lavoisier’s laboratory, and many many more things. It was a highlight of my vacation to France earlier this year.
We’re actually going to be staying just next to the Van Gogh museum
I LOVE medieval shit. But we’re not taking a car (my bones freeze up at the thought of getting used to driving on the “wrong side” AND a bunch of different countries in a fairly short time), so we’re pretty much restricted to within our chosen destinations. Maybe next time
I’m planning on getting my Medieval on in England by dragging everyone off to see the Vikings in York, and also Warwick Castle, which we loved last time we were there.
Mmmm…looks tasty. Food suggestions definitely received gladly!
We’ll mostly be out and about in the morning and early afternoon - even if we eat out, we’d probably be heading home by 7-ish. I hope that that will ameliorate the likelihood of shady characters seeing us as a likely market. And nobody ever used to offer to sell me drugs when I was a wild Uni student, I’ll laugh if they do now that I’m a respectable-looking suburban mother of three! But, yeah, I am conscious that in Amsterdam, places to NOT go is probably on my list of things to find out. I picked out our place to stay partly on the basis of a bunch of negative TripAdvisor reviews saying “meh, far too family-friendly, where are the party hotels?”
Thanks for all the other suggestions too
The canal boat tours do run in the winter, unless the canals freeze over. If they do you could surely rent some skates somewhere! (ONLY go on the ice if you see lots of other people skating!! The Dutch are crazy about skating so if it’s safe there will lots of people out, no people = not safe!) I would recommend a canal boat tour for the you and the kids, it’s fun, warm and informative.
I think they are certainly old enough for the Anne Frank House. The only thing is: the queues can get very long, all the way outside. Try to go on a Tuesday morning or something, or you’ll be standing in the freezing cold for a long time. I personally like visiting the Anne Frank House, it just impresses me every time. The ten y/o might be old enough to read her diary? (It isn’t scary, the scary stuff obviously happens after the diary ends. There is mild sexual stuff, but most older editions are actually censored. By sexual content I mean she muses about her body, kissing boys and getting her period. Not sex sex.)
If you want to go to a museum I’d go for the van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum is great, but big and there is so much. But it could be cool for the kids to see a bit of van Gogh, know a little about him. They special audio tours for children that are meant to be quite fun. I think children enter all museums free of charge.
For a sweet snack, find a poffertjes huis: tiny pancakes covered in butter and icing sugar.
You can climb many of the old towers around the city, but I’m not sure if they’re open in winter. I’d ask tourist information. It might be something fun to keep you all busy. You would like it for the old-factor, the kids because they are climbing castles.
If there are other places in the Netherlands that you would like to go to, the trains are really excellent and very easy to take. Delft, mentioned above, is one hour away. It’s a nice place, like a tiny little Amsterdam, and known for its blue china. Personally if you want to visit another town I’d go to Rotterdam for the architecture. It’s also only 30 min away on the fast train.
One of the things we enjoyed most during our trip to Amsterdam was a day trip to the Hague, of all places, to see Madurodam - a giant miniature village. Lots of fun things going on there for the kids and childish grown-ups
Don’t be afraid of leaving Amsterdam, by the way. The Dutch railway system is basically like an oversized version of a city subway network. Trains are fast and comfortable and they run very frequently - every 15 to 30 minutes between the main cities and towns.
As for Amsterdam itself, it’s so flat and so old that it is exceptionally walkable - and there are plenty of trams and buses if you don’t feel like walking. Just be aware of the bicyclists - they are generally polite, but there are a LOT of them.
One word of warning about Nederlandse Spoorwegen (the national railway company): My impression after three visits to country this year is that they are not particularly good at information and definitely not in any language other than Dutch.
Sweet-toothed ones, you say? Angelina is right down the Rue de Rivoli from the Louvre*, and you ain’t never had hot chocolate like this. Mind you, you may have to scrape the kids off the ceiling afterwards but this is a small price to pay for chocolatey goodness.
*Actually, I think they have a branch in the Louvre itself but I’ve not been to that one and don’t know if they sell the l’Africain there.
There will be skating paths set up at the Rathaus (I love the idea of the City Hall being called a Rat house!). You will probably be too late for the Kris kringle Markts, but there will be all sorts of stalls and cafes for a hot drink and a snack.
The museum quarter is always open and the Graben and Stefansdom, too, of course.
The best part of being here is the winter, in my opinion.
Never been to Vienna but having holiday’d extensively in Austria I’d suggest that you try and fit in a spa. As a country they do that sort of thing very well indeed and there is nothing better than hot outdoor pools in the freezing weather. Here’s one that seems to fit the bill, kids area and everything (most big spas do childcare as well so you can have some downtime). Be warned though, if you want to go in the sauna you will be expected to be nude and most times they are mixed, no exceptions. But don’t let that put you off.
Vienna has a lot of delightful museums. I’m blanking on names, but there’s a lovely palace outside of the city (but accessible via public transit) that’s well worth a visit. Also, inside the city, there is a furniture museum, that has on display lots of the furniture of the old Imperial household. Quite interesting. Also recommended (and still blanking on the name, derp) are these rather rusticy little restaurants. You point at what you want, fill up a plate… all quite good. If it’s the right time of year (and I think it will not be), you can have sturm, this sweet, lightly alcoholic, fizzy young wine. Oh! Bother and damnation, I can’t remember any names. There’s a wonderful restaurant that serves these tiny little sandwiches…Trzesniewski! Love it. Last thought: If you can (and with the kids, it might not work), there’s a theater near the center that does midnight showings of The Third Man. Watching that classic film and seeing places I’d walked past earlier that day is one of my favorite Vienna memories.
Besides what’s already been listed (or a little bit more info on those that were)
Sunset at Sacre Coeur. Bundle up and hang out with the crowds and watch the sun go down. It’s one of my favorite memories because the wonderful cross section of tourists from all over the world were there in such a peaceful assembly. Singing songs together, smiling, and it’s a bit romantic too.
Crepes. Mmm. Crepes with Nutella. The kids will love those.
Driving through La Défense. I’m usually alone on this one, but I LOVED driving through the business heart of Paris. The way the road undulates up and down next to the buildings almost felt like I was in a flying car.
There’s Eurodisney World. I haven’t been but it might be your cuppa.
BTW, if you’re into it, check out the Christmas markets in each of the cities and have the kids learn about some strange local traditions. (Like Barcelona has the pooping ornaments, Rome has Befana the witch).
ZOMG Pancake Bakery near the Anne Frank house. Everytime I go to Amsterdam, I eat here. First off, the kids will love it. The childrens’ pancakes are little bits of magic. Like the Princess Pancake comes with a tiara. But for the adults, eat the Indonesian pancake. It’s incredible! (PANCAKE FILLED WITH CHICKEN, ONIONS, MUSHROOMS AND LEEK IN AN INDONESIAN PEANUT SAUCE, SERVED ON A BED OF BEAN SPROUTS WITH CRISPY ONIONS AND A SALAD)
I’ve done indoor canal tours when it’s cold out. I’d plan the tour for when you just need a break actually. It’s about an hour or so of sitting in a boat and it’s quite relaxing.
There are some buildings in Amsterdam that have shifted to some severe angles. Make sure to get a picture of the kids “holding them up”.
Vienna - Schloss Schoenbrunn is a gorgeous palace that there is at least a partial focus on the kids who lived there. There is a maze, horse drawn carriages to tour the grounds and the onsite cafe’s have amazing hot chocolate and pastries. (I checked and it is open all year) I think this is the one LawMonkey was referring to. If you want a partial look last weeks amazing race ended here.
Spanish Riding School at the Imperial Hofburg Palace is also great, particularly if you have horse crazed kids. We didn’t see a show, just went to the practice session but that was pretty interesting. There are seats with a better view on the second level - it’s worth going up the steps because the higher you are the more clear the patterns they move in are.