As COVID continues to savage travel plans, the possibility of a long weekend city break may seem unappealing. The word ‘city’ suggests crowds, fumes, and potential virus danger. Connecting with nature has been shown to benefit physical health, so what if you could take a long weekend break and spend time safely in nature too! Would one of the greenest cities in Europe be of interest? A city with imperial style and culture, where escaping into nature is easy and varied. Here are 5 ways to visit Vienna and escape into nature.
1. City Hiking Trails
The Vienna Woods is the perfect place to find peace and solitude. If you do come and visit Vienna, take some time and head out into the nature that surrounds this city. The Woods can be easily accessed using one of the well-marked city hiking trails – Stadwanderwegs. There are 10 altogether. I must confess to only completing 4 of them, but several times over. Stadwanderweg 3 has become a Sunday morning favourite. It starts in grand fashion with a walk along Schwarzenbergallee – a beautiful tree line path. Very quickly you reach a small hütte, ZurAlle, which serves nice hot chocolate, perfect on a winter’s morning to fortify you in readiness to tackle the hill up to Hameau. Stadwanderweg 1 was the first trail we tried and is a beautiful walk because it introduces you to the loveliness that is Ginzing and the vineyards around it.
2. Vineyards around Grinzing
Grinzing was until the end of the 19th century an independent municipality, but today it is part of Döbling, the 19th district of Vienna. It is an old wine village with many heurigers and vineyards. The Village has had its up and downs invading Turkish Troops, fire and Napoleon sought to destroy it, while countless famous musicians, writers and thinkers visited it. Beethoven was staying at number 64 Grinzinger Strasse while writing his Pastoral Symphony no less!
Grinzing is such a contrast to the grandeur of Vienna, so it is worth a wander, but do remember to look up and if you should happen to wander into the Vineyards and find one of them open – weekends between May and October – well you would have to try the wine! It would be rude not to! In September there is a whole wine festival, the Vienna Wine Hiking Day. It is the winemakers’ opportunity to show off their latest wines. Why not plan to come then? Check out the information here.
Grinzing is the terminus for the 38 Tram. Here you can ride all the way back to the centre of the city, in about 30 mins.
What is it about the sea that is good for our well-being, that captivates us, that seeps into souls and like a siren draws us into its arms? Perhaps it is because standing on the shore and looking out to sea is the place where dreams, ideas and longings are created?
Woodlands have always been my go-to place for peace and solitude. That was until I arrived in Denmark and discovered Nørreskoven. Nørreskoven taught me to fall in love with the sea.
3. City Parks
As a city, Vienna is blessed with a vast array of parks and gardens from the formal parks of the Belvedere and Schonebrun Palace to the very popular city parks, like the Stadtpark and the Prater. However, if somewhere away from the crowds would be your preference, then here are two little quiet gems – one, a park on the edge of the city, and the other, a palace.
The Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark can be found at the end of the 41 tram line. Whenever I walk around this park, I anticipate meeting Mary Poppins at any moment. It has an old fashioned feel which is appealing. This is jolted momentarily by the curious emergence of several Greek-style statues. These statues once stood proudly on the front of the Ringtheatre, which burned down in 1881. The statues are huge, so the building must have been impressive. Strangely, they don’t look out of place and add to the uniqueness of the place. The park is also suitable for families with a large play area and a small animal enclosure.
The Liechtenstein Palace can be found in the Alsergrund area of Vienna. Its beautiful grounds are rarely crowded. When the weather is warm, this is the perfect place to take a book and read. There is an outdoor cafe where you can sit a drink a coffee or sample a glass or two of crisp white wine.
4. Donau Island
At 42km long Danube Island was built as part of the City’s extensive flood defences, but is also a key leisure area in the City. There are bathing areas and beaches, picnic and barbecue spots, a range of paths for walkers, cyclist, joggers and roller bladders. Towards the centre of the island is a range of restaurants and bars, while the northern and southern end of the island is reserved as nudist beaches. Various festivals and concerts are also held on the island particularly during the summer.
On very hot days, the island will be very busy and if you want a quiet spot by the river you would need to grab it early. During the week, or in the offseason, the island is a perfect place to spend time and brilliant for a vehicle-free Sunday morning cycle ride.
5. The Lobau
Covering over 2300 hectares between Vienna and Bratislava is the last major wetland in Central Europe, the Donau-Auen National Park. The National Park is the habitat for many animals and plants some of which is very rare. Part of the park lies within the city of Vienna and is known as the ‘water forest’ of the city or the Lobau. You will find lots of well-organised hiking and cycle trails, while some of the lakes are popular bathing spots particular on very hot days and it seems bathing suits are not always required.
I have visited the park twice and both times went hiking. From experience, choose a cool day to explore or better still hire a bike to venture further into the park. The wien-lobAU National Park house is well worth a visit. You can learn lots of information about the area.
It is easy to reach using the public transport system. Hop on the U2 to Donaustadtbrücke and then catch the 92B bus heading to Wien Ölhafen. Get off at the 5th stop, Wien Biberhaufenweg. The Lobau and National Park house is a short walk from the stop. It is signed, but not clearly.
Alternatively, try the National Park boat, which leaves from the Donau Canal in the City Centre at 9 am between May and October. Numbers are limited, so book ahead.
Head on over to my Youtube channel and talk a walk in the Vienna Woods from where you are