During our epic trip across Europe, we got to hundreds of places. Time to highlight ten of my kid-friendly favorites.
Yeah, I’m kind of a big kid at heart — and we took in a lot of fun places while taking in Europe.
Lego museum (Muzeum Lega) — Prague, Czech Republic / Czechia
Lots of fun! Once you’re in, look for the building tables for younger kids and plenty of fancy well-built displays. For the adults, the collectibles and nostalgia factor will kick in when you see lots of themed sets from 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. Head to the upper floor dedicated to Lego Star Wars, then to the souvenir store for a wide selection (and a chance to pick out precisely which pieces your kids need to complete their masterpieces!)
Address: Národní 362/31, 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město, Czechia
Admission: 200Kc normally, 120Kc with Prague card. +20 Kc for taking photographs
More info: http://www.muzeumlega.cz/en/
Karel Zeman special effects museum — Prague, Czech Republic / Czechia
You might not know the name unless you’re a serious film buff or familiar with Czech films. Karel Zeman (1910–1989) is famous for his animations and puppet films from the mid-20th century, and photos and videos are encouraged. There are demonstrations of the special effects techniques he used, plenty of interactive kid-friendly contraptions to play with, and some short clips of the films. It’s not the biggest place ever, but an hour is more than enough to get some fun photos and have some fun times.
Address: Saska, 3A | Mala Strana, Prague 118 00, Czech Republic
Admission: 200Kc — 150 Kc with Prague card.
More info: http://www.muzeumkarlazemana.cz/en
Museum of Ghosts and Fairy Tales (Muzeum Strasidel) – Plzen, Czech Republic / Czechia
This one is probably best for the 8–12 year olds or kids fascinated by ghosts, goblins, and fairy tales. Some stories are shown in English on laminated sheets, but they can be a little hard to read since they’re an adult’s eye level. Head downstairs for darkness, and allow for a bit of kitschiness in the exhibits. There’s a similar ghosts and fairy tales is in Prague, if you’re unable to make it to Plzen.
Address: Plzeň, nám. Republiky 33, 301 00 Plzeň
Admission: 80 Kc
More info: muzeumstrasidel.cz/index.php/nabidka/51
Music Museum (Haus der Musik) — Vienna, Austria
Being the headquarters of the Vienna Philharmonic, you’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s about to be a dry experience. Climb up the piano steps (try to make a scale — the steps make sounds!) and take in one of the best museums I went to Europe, bar none. It’s spectacular for adults (even those that can’t carry a tune) and better suited to the 12 and up crowd, but there’s still enough to see for the 8–12 year olds (some stuff will be over the heads of younger kids).
Complete with interactive games, the physics and science of sound, it’s a wonderful example of education combined with entertainment. You can make your own CD from the many sounds, conduct a virtual orchestra, learn about virtual notes, ghost tones, and even make a short musical piece based on your name. It’s very ambitious, and very well done. Much like some pieces of music, it does require some patience — you can’t breeze or skim through it…
Address: Seilerstätte 30, 1010 Wien (Vienna)
Admission: 80 Kc
More info: www.hausdermusik.com/en
Remise Transport Museum of Wiener Linien — Vienna, Austria
This transport museum is a great photo-op to get your kids on subways, trains, and streetcars from the 20th century. While there are some interactive exhibits, most are in German only — perhaps a good time for language lesson or a chance to play ‘what’s that mean?”. Look for a fun game that was once used to test applicants in the past: flip a sign, pull the hand brake, steer, test the bell, and something to do with a card. It’s one part history, one part look at old trains. One interesting part is the U-bahn simulator — you or your kids have the chance to ‘drive’ the train. Also try the ‘identify the system’ games that use audio and subway map.
Also look for the full-fledge tram car, with an operator cabin that’s open and peels back some layers of the train. It could use some more English, but there’s enough to appreciate what’s going on.
Address: 3, Ludwig-Koessler-Platz, Vienna 1030, Austria, a walk from U-bahn (U3 Schtachthausgasse)
Admission: 5 € with Vienna card, 6 € without
More info: remise.wien
Globe Museum (Globenmuseum) — Vienna, Austria
This one may feel more educational than other places on this list, but this is the largest collection of globes in the world. (Also, these are weird globes — I can’t not include this place!) Some 420 exhibitions, many of which are centuries old, show the art form with plenty of hilarious inaccuracies.Tell your kids to look for California as an island, missing continents, and perhaps compare a globe to what they know about the world. Large (118cm) and tiny (2.5cm in one unique example) globes are all around.
At 8 rooms, it’s larger than expected. Look for auxiliary spheres, planetariums and telluriums (which demonstrates the earth moving around sun, which is represented by a candle). Moon globes and Mars globes are here too, which was completely mapped by 1841 and had globes from 1863.
Bonus time! The globe museum is in the same building as the Esperanto Museum — and your ticket gets you into that and the Papyrus Museum at no extra cost. It’s not as awesome for kids, but if any of them are learning a second / third language, they might enjoy it.
Esperanto was first written about in 1887, but you can also go for a taste of Klingon Hamlet (To be or not to be… = taH pagh taHbe’. DaH mu’tlheghvam vIqelnIs). It’s a small, two-room place, so it’s a great side stop if they’re older or playing along.
Address: Herrengasse 9, 1010 Wien, Austria
Admission: 4€ (3.60 € with Vienna card),
More info: www.onb.ac.at/ev/globe_museum.htm
Invention Museum (Museu d’Idees i Invents de Barcelona) — Barcelona, Spain
One of my favorites for its cleverness and silliness. The Invention Museum is made for kids, showing off things that were designed by kids. If you’ve paid any attention to viral videos or clever inventions over the years, there’s a fair chance you’ll have seen or heard of some of these. Above? Individually-numbered socks to ensure each one finds its own mate. (Sadly, it’s unclear how many of these ideas have been turned into real products — though the souvenir shop does have some offerings.)
You’re about 50 meters from the inspiration collection / museum. Though it closes at 2pm, it has some other fun stuff to see as well.
Address: Carrer Ciutat, 7, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Admission: 8 € (6 € for kids under 12)
More info: www.mibamuseum.com/en/
Puppet museum (Muzeum Loutek Plzen) — Plzen, Austria
PUPPETS! Some of these very detailed puppets date back centuries. There’s info in Czech, English, and German along the ground floor exhibition, then head to the second floor and onward — look for devils, topless mermaids, and satirical stories. Focuses on the puppets, the puppeteers, and the performances. A push of a button activates the puppet show, circus balancers and strongmen among others.
The third floor is arguably the highlight. Along with life-sized puppets and a video of a 1999 production (Good Gracious, It’s the Dogheads), the last room offers you the chance to put your hand / arm into the puppet. In many cases, the show is more likely to end than the puppets wear out — and there’s something for everyone.
Address: Nám. Republiky 137/23, 301 00 Plzeň, Czech Republic
Admission: 60 Kc
More info: www.muzeumloutek.cz/en/
International museum of puppets (Museo internazionale delle marionette Antonio Pasqualino) — Palermo, Italy
Both marionettes and puppets are on display in a hall with plenty of international flavor, albeit inconsistent English. The 1st floor is fairly small, but the 2nd floor more than makes up for it. Videos have English subtitles, and there plenty of locally used marionettes as well. Some local products (sea salt and pistachios are two examples) and colored tiles for sale. Compared to Rome or Naples, Palermo may seem rather far out, but it’s worth a day or two to visit if you’re taking the full Italy tour.
Address: Piazza Antonio Pasqualino, 5, 90133 Palermo, Italy
Admission: 5 €
More info: www.museodellemarionette.it
Cat conservatory in Roman ruins (Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary) — Rome, Italy
Time for something both delightful and unexpected! While in Rome, take in this cat conservatory in a square block of Roman ruins. The ruins sit several meters below the modern ground and roads, and you’ll access them and a small headquarters via some stairs from street level. Donations are appreciated, but you can also pick up a bag, mug, or plenty of other souvenirs to go a good deed. Some cats are outside amongst the ruins, but almost all are close to the conservatory and in the shade. You can play or pet, or simply hide amongst the ruins in a way that might not be allowed at properly-run attractions.
Address: Via di Torre Argentina, 1, 00186, Rome, Italy
Admission: Free, but donations strongly encouraged.
More info: www.romancats.com/torreargentina/en/introduction.php
Toy Museum of Catalonia (Museu del Joguet de Catalunya) — Figueres, Spain
From the turn of the century to mid-80’s, trains, cars, and things with wheels were the playthings. Some toys are behind glass, but the last room has some toys to play with and is still a great look at toys from the past. Look for an exhibit called ‘Outdoor Play’ showing black-and-white portraits from 1898–1968. And you thoughts you mom embarrassed you by showing baby pics to friends. Explanations in Spanish only.
Address: Carrer de Sant Pere, 1, 17600 Figueres, Girona, Girona, Spain
Admission: 6 €
More info: www.mjc.cat/en/
Computer Game Museum (Computer Spiele Museum) — Berlin, Germany
Photo credit: Wikipedia
There’s 60 years of video gaming history on display, and is a perfect chance to show your kids the games you grew up with. It’s a little confusing which ones are videos and which ones are playable games, but quite a few years are playable in the arcade — Centipede, Gauntlet, two-player ‘Puckman’ and Tetris to name a few. Look for the gigantic 2.5 meter tall joystick that controls Pacman.
Living rooms with playable versions of Super Mario and Crash Bandicoot along with original Asteroids and Space Invaders are cool — beyond the games themselves, they really take you back to the era. There’s plenty of games you haven’t heard of either. While I wish it were more obvious what’s a demo / video and what’s a playable version, it’s a fun stop for all ages.
Address: Berlin Karl-Marx-Allie 93a, Berlin, 10243
Admission: 8 €, or 6 € with the Berlin Welcome Card
More info: www.computerspielmuseum.de