Independent Families: 'We'd like a culture-and-lake break in August'


Q. We are a family of three generations – two senior citizens, our daughter and her two teenage children. We would like about three full days in Vienna and about 10 days in the sun, perhaps at one of the north Italian lakes. We like our comfort, and would also prefer a package holiday or tour operator to do all the paperwork.
E Brent, via email

A. Since you enjoy the comfort of a good hotel, consider the Ring Hotel in Vienna (00 43 1 22 1 22; www.theringhotel.com). It is located on the site of the former Merkur bank. Its historical façade conceals a contemporary interior, with some rooms offering a view of the historic Ringstrasse, the circular road surrounding the inner city.

There is plenty to occupy you in Vienna, from great museums to leafy parks to glorious architecture. Take the No 1 or 2 tram along the Ringstrasse to find such magnificent buildings as the Hofburg Palace, the Parliament and the State Opera.

Nearby, just off Michaeler Platz, you could watch a performance of the Spanish Riding School, with its majestic Lipizzaner stallions, or go to one of the classical concerts, recitals or operas that are an integral part of Viennese life. Climb to the top of St Stephen's Cathedral or take a ride on the Ferris wheel in the Wurstelprater amusement park, and enjoy the view of the city plus the Danube spread out below. A Vienna Card (info.wien.at; €18.50/£14.20) offers unlimited use of public transit for 72 hours, plus discounts on events, shops and restaurants.

What's sometimes called the "Italian Lake District" is in the north of the country, not far from the Alps. Lake Garda, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore are particularly attractive. The tour operator Kirker (020-7593 2288; www.kirkerholidays.com) can organise a two-centre trip for you, combining four nights at the Ring Hotel and nine in Pallanza, Lake Maggiore, for £2,406 per person with a single supplement of £1087 in July/August, including flights from Southampton. At the four-star Grand Hotel Majestic in Pallanza, you'll have views of the mountains, Lake Maggiore and the picturesque island of San Giovanni; the hotel has an indoor pool, tennis court and private beach. The total price works out to £13,117.

If you can fly from Heathrow, Kuoni Travel (01306 747001; www.kuoniworldclass.co.uk) can offer four nights at the Ring Hotel with 10 in Lake Garda for £10,125 for three adults (one in a single room) and two teenagers, including flights, transfers and accommodation.

The Parc Hotel Gritti (00 39 045621 511; www.parchotels.it) is a four-star hotel in the town of Bardolino, Lake Garda, and has a swimming pool for the teens and a spa for the adults. It's a short walk from the bustling resort centre; Bardolino is also at the centre of a wine region famed for its reds.

To keep the cost down, you could base yourself in Austria. Its lake region tends to be quieter than the Italian one in July and August, and it's a few degrees cooler, which may be more pleasant for the older generation.

Crystal Lakes (0871 230 8180;www.crystallakes.co.uk) offers a twin-centre stay in Vienna and the Austrian lake district for £8,486 for the five of you, including flights from Gatwick or Bristol, transfers and accommodation at the four-star Hotel Kummer (00 43 1 588 95) in central Vienna, and 10 nights at the four-star Hotel Im Weissen Rossl in St Wolfgang.

The teens will like the outdoor pool floating on the lake (heated so it has warm water on top of the colder lake water), and outdoor activities include walking, cycling, waterskiing, wakeboarding, banana boat rides, sailing-dinghy hire and windsurfing. Or you could decide to celebrate in style with a hot air balloon ride, with the St Wolfgang Balloon & Airship Company (00 43 6138 3027; freiheit.at), costing €300 (£235) per person based on five people.

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