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Put on your comfy shoes and a photo-op-worthy outfit – we’re going to explore Hallstatt, Austria! Even if you’re not a morning person, you’ll want to get up early for this enchanting fairytale town.

Hallstatt is more than just a pretty town. It’s actually considered to be the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe, dating all the way back to the Iron Age over 7,000 years ago. In recent decades, Hallstatt is famous mostly for its natural beauty – and this postcard-perfect photo view of the town that is all over Instagram. Isn’t it just breathtaking? Doesn’t it just scream “Wish you were here?”

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We drove a rental car from Salzburg into Hallstatt, which took about an hour. Sandwiched between a lake and mountains (you could even say that it hugs the lake), Hallstatt is really the perfect little European town you always imagined. The view driving in: just jaw-dropping. I could have sat and stared at that backdrop all day, week, month, year! I can see why Hallstatt easily became a favorite tourist destination AND a UNESCO World Heritage site.

By now you’ll realize that you don’t actually have to do anything in Hallstatt to have an enjoyable time. Just walking along the water, looking up at the pastel houses and all their idyllic flowerboxes, and browsing the souvenir shops in the market square is a great way to spend a leisurely day. Hallstatt is really small (under 1 KM!) so this is one destination I recommend that you slow your roll and don’t rush through. Unfortunately for us, we only got to stay for half a day and this was definitely not enough time to soak up all of Hallstatt’s slow beauty. Take your time, stay at least two days, and soak it all in!

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We hired a local photographer, Carolin, for a family shoot in Halstatt. She walked us through the best local spots we would have never thought to visit. Fun fact: Carolin told us there’s a replica of Hallstatt in China somewhere, which explains why there were so many Asian tourists here! Besides the main strip, she walked us up the hill by the church and cemetery. Her MIL has a tombstone in front of the church, which you have to be VERY well connected to be buried here.

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There are picturesque views basically every which way you look. Heck, I climbed someone’s rooftop to get this shot. I also got yelled at by the owner to get off. (I don’t recommend doing this… or do I? After all, it was The. Shot.)

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p.s. Huge thank you to my photographer friend, Aline, back home in Chicago! Aline grew up in Austria and gave me so many pointers when planning for this trip. I couldn’t have done it without her!

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Every so often I find myself in a place that captivates me as much as it inspires me. Cue Salzburg, one of Austria’s most charming small cities that relies solely on tourism due to its attractive old world charm, stunning architecture, film location for The Sound of Music, and for being the birthplace of the world’s most prolific composer, Wolfgang Mozart. But as if its musical pedigree weren’t enough, the city’s natural beauty – and its proximity to other quaint, small towns like Werfen and Halstatt – is also reason enough to pack your bags – that’s why I added Salzburg to our Europe itinerary! Before I get into the details of Salzburg, let me talk a little about breathtaking Werfen first.

sound of music trail werfenpinthisWe spent three days in and around Salzburg, and I have to say, I was completely spellbound! Werfen is famous for being the location where Maria Trapp taught the Von Trapp children the “Do Re Mi” song in the classic film The Sound of Music, with the 900-year-old Hohenwerfen Castle in the background. While I must confess that I’ve never actually seen The Sound of Music myself, I imagine Werfen must be fun for history and film buffs to see up close and have a picnic in the hills like Maria. Aren’t these mountains just gorgeous??

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Salzburg is also well-known for being one of the locations from The Sound of Music. There were definitely tourists around me singing/humming “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Salzburg is very much a Baroque city, and the streets of the Old Town reflect that. A few hours are all it takes to fall hopelessly in love with this city! Take leisure time to roam up and down every narrow side street. If you’re in the mood to shop, you might find some souvenirs or treasures along Getreidegasse, the famed shopping street in Salzburg. There are also quaint cafes around every corner, and even shops selling traditional Austrian clothing.

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Getreidegasse is a narrow pedestrian walkway – good luck squeezing your way through the mobs of people, especially around house number 9 – which turns out to be Mozarts birthplace in 1756. Bit of a tourist mill, but a quick visit will allow you to say stuff like “It was the violin he played in his childhood that really caught my eye” over drinks with your fancy friends. And while you’re stuck amongst the crowds of tourists on the main street, don’t forget to look up – the ornate wrought iron signs and the intricately carved window frames are so pretty!

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We stayed at the most incredible AirBNB farmhouse in Salzburg. Yes, you heard me right! Acres and acres of wide-open land, the stunning Austrian Alps in our backyard, and oh the fresh country air!! There was also a playground right on the grounds of the property for the kids to play on lest they are bored of riding on one of the cute pedal cars provided by the AirBNB host or petting the farm animals just next door.

Hope you enjoy these pictures of Salzburg and Werfen!

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If you are looking for a fairy-tale trip, then there is no more perfect a place to visit than Vienna. Vienna, Austria is rich in history, music and baroque architecture, but still has a modern feel to it in parts of the city. Picture a capital city as romantic as Paris but with a third of the crowd. A place as cosmopolitan as London but so much cleaner. It’s a dream come true and it’s all in Vienna, Austria. You’ll surely fall in love with Vienna at first sight, like I did!

If you’re not spending that much time in Vienna, you’ll definitely want to take a hop on, hop off bus tour like we did via Vienna Sightseeing. This is the most convenient and comfortable way to travel and pack in the main sights, especially if you are traveling with small kids! We got off at Schönbrunn Palace Vienna and Naschmarkt, and these are definitely two must-see destinations in Vienna.

 

Schönbrunn Palace Park

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The palace is the former summer residence of the Hapsburgs. If you take a tour of the palace and museum, you will learn about the royalty that lived here, particularly Franz Joseph who at 18 became ruler and survived the suicide of his son, the murder of his wife Sisi, and even throughout WWI. Austrian tales of yore got your attention yet?

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The palace park is huge and is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or a day here. Amongst the gardens here you will see some of the most beautiful flower arrangements. There is also the Vienna Zoo inside the palace grounds that I am told is top notch, if zoos are your thing. We didn’t check this out because I have this weird thing about zoos. (I’m not a fan of animals being confined, and growing up in Chicago, I can go to Lincoln Park Zoo anytime which is free, so I for sure wouldn’t pay to go to another zoo.) However, it is free to enter the palace park!

Naschmarkt

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Our next hop off stop on the Vienna Sightseeing tour was the Naschmarkt. This is Vienna’s most popular market with 16th-century origins. Located at the Wienzeile over the Wien River, it has more than 100 food & vintage stalls, plus restaurants! Definitely a must-do in Vienna. It’s a true Viennese market experience for locals and tourists alike! Each of the little food stalls or huts in the market offers a different style of food. You can find traditional kraut at Naschmarkt sold from a wooden barrel in the age-old fashion, right next to cutting edge fusion mixes from Italian, Japanese or Moroccan delis.

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When in Vienna, obviously you must eat schnitzel. But don’t forget to satisfy your sweet tooth and try a sacher-tort. This is the famous chocolate cake you may have heard about. It is one of the most decadent desserts and is shipped all over the world, but you can try it right here in its birthplace, which makes for a memorable experience in itself.

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You might be surprised to learn that most Arab Austrians are of Iraqi and Lebanese origin. Our best meal in Vienna was at this Lebanese restaurant called Duzi’s Kitchen. Hands down the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had (not like I’m an expert on Lebanese cuisine, but I will say I loved this ethnic meal way more than eating schnitzel!)

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Danube Island

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Like any major city, there is plenty for kids to do. In Vienna, we rode city buses and trains to take the kids to Danube Island, where they had a blast jumping on trampolines and zip lining. Recommend this place for getting the energy out of your kids!

Vienna State Opera House

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There is so much music history in Austria, particularly Vienna where many musical greats resided like Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud. It’s not surprising that opera is one of the main attractions in Vienna. The Vienna State Opera has one of the biggest stages in Europe for good reason – they have over 300 performances and 70 productions a season. There are 180,00 costumes – which is worth 6 miles of fabric – that are housed in a building next door connected by an underground tunnel! So mysterious and romantic, don’t you think? We know nothing about opera, but the kids enjoyed watching opera on the big screen outside the opera house along with thousands of other people on the street!

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into Vienna. Scroll down to see more photos from this gorgeous city! Stay tuned for blog posts about other cities we visited in Austria, coming soon.

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VIENNA sightseeing tour

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VIENNA sightseeing tour

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I received products compliments of DockATot, The Ollie World, and Lorena Canals, but all opinions are my own.

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Who’s that crazy lady who goes around sniffing at newborns just to soak in that lovely baby scent? Hiiiii! I’m three and done, but every once in a while, I get a slight twinge of baby fever especially when I’m in close proximity to a newborn. Danger, danger! My brother and his wife just gave birth to a sweet baby girl named Paige, and obviously, this boy momma is smitten. I’m already planning for all the pretty pink and pastel knits, bows and Mary Janes that I’ll be spoiling her with as she grows up, but for now, it’s all about the first-time parents and their needs as they embark on this life-changing journey. Read on for three of my fave baby products to give new parents that make life easier all-around – because happy mom, happy life.

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DockATot

Listen up, mommas. This one is life-changing! If you’re seeking something that is snug, secure and comfortable for your wee one to rest on, look no further than the DockATot. The DockATot is a multi-functional lounger, co-sleeper and playtime lounger that mimics the mother’s womb with its smart Swedish design. It comes in two sizes (Deluxe for younger, smaller babies 0-8 months, and Grand for 9-36 months) and is basically a cocoon of comfy-ness. Why again don’t they make this for adults? Whenever I babysit my new baby niece, I love seeing how easy it is for her to get a comfortable sleep nestled in the DockATot. It’s tested for breathability, all natural, and made of 100% cotton – basically, the ideal micro-climate for babies and young tots. The DockATot is handmade in Europe, and has been rigorously tested and fully compliant with both federal law and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission proposed standards. I wish the DockATot was around the U.S. when I had my firstborn!

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The Ollie Smarter Swaddle

As a first-time parent, you may not know that you gave birth to a little Houdini. By then, it’ll be too late because you’ll be fumbling around in the dark trying to re-swaddle your little babe as tightly as possible while wracking your brain at in the middle of the night wondering where you went wrong. Enter: The Smarter Swaddle by The Ollie World. Besides being effective at containing wriggly babies, this swaddle can instantly soothe a crying baby in seconds. It’s also easy to wrap, Velcro and close up! (If you don’t believe me, see for yourself right here.) The custom fit allows for fit to be individualized to meet the needs and size of each little one, and its one-size promotes ease with transitional stages. The Smarter Swaddle is made from custom moisture-wicking material to reduce the risk of overheating – that’s one less thing for us moms to worry about! When you’re up changing diapers again at 3am, the Smarter Swaddle allows for easy access diaper change accessible through an opening at the bottom. I’ve been through three rounds of diapers with my three boys, so I can test to how awesome this is. (And that’s pretty freaking awesome.)

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Lorena Canals Rug

Didn’t know you *needed* a rug? Yea, you do! But not just any rug. A machine-washable one that fits into a standard washer and dryer, like this plush beauty from Lorena Canals. For all the poop explosions, baby spit-up, milk spills, and cereal crumbs, this rug will grow with you and your baby through the years. It’s sophisticated in design so a nice area rug can brighten up any nursery but also any adult space. Best of all? Lorena Canals rugs (and cushions!) are handmade with all natural dyes, eco-friendly and contains no VOCs like most other carpeting and rugs. That’s a win-win for mom and baby. (p.s. when you purchase a product from Lorena Canals, all proceeds support the Sakula project and provide schooling for children in India!)

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