I travel to Vienna frequently, as both of my children have settled there, and I have been awed by Schloss Shönbrunn, wandered around the Baroque city centre, visited some of the fantastic art museums and eaten my way around the famous Naschtmarkt.
But I want to let you in on some of my favorite lesser-known open-air spaces to visit in Vienna off the tourist trail.
This 390-meter forested mountain on the edge of northwest Vienna is an easy bus ride (and a 50-minute tram trip) and provides fantastic views over the city. A short hike up from the last bus stop provides you with panoramic views across the city, walks in the woods and the opportunity to sit and soak up the sun away from the tourist crowds.
There is even an open-air pool close by if you are there in the summer. To complete the day a walk through the woods will bring you to Wirtshaus Steirstöckl, a traditional Austrian tavern with a delightful beer garden and a cute restaurant serving traditional Styrian dishes such as Razorback hog and venison goulash.
This open parkland is in the 14th District in the west of the city and again, accessible by tram and bus. Originally land used by the sanitorium, built in 1907, for the production of food for the patients, this area is a unique natural area on the edge of the city.
The hospital continues to serve the city, but the parkland is available for all to use. Not always an idyllic spot, as the Nazis murdered hundreds of mentally ill patients in the asylum. There is now a memorial situated there to remind us of the atrocities.
Beauty reigns there with fine-looking old apple trees draped in mistletoe, open grassland to enjoy your picnic and the stunning Art Nouveau church, Kirche am Steinhof, designed by Vienna’s Otto Wagner, designer of much of the city.
Kirche am Steinhof was built by Wagner with the knowledge that it would be a church serving the sanitorium’s patients. Wagner created such adaptations as side exits should patients need to be removed quickly, continuously flowing water in the “stoops,” toilets should the patients need to use one and very few sharp edges.
The stunning stained glass windows and the gilded façade are well worth a visit to this Art Nouveau building. The church has limited open times so check the website before visiting.
The Danube Canal/Donaukanal
This canal was originally a branch of the Danube and, due to the footpaths that run alongside, has become a leisure area in the city.
The footpaths are popular with cyclists, runners and walkers, and dotted along the canal are bars and beach areas that invite you to sit in the open air with your cold beers.
The area has also become a legal graffiti zone for the city with some cool art to look at as you stroll along the paths.
In the summer months, you can get a boat from Schwedenplatz Square on the canal to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia. The trip takes just over an hour and costs about 30-40 euros.
Vienna is one of few cities that has vineyards within the city borders. They are great to visit – especially in the summer and early autumn – both for the views over the Danube and the city and, of course, the wine!
You can get to the area easily by tram or bus and then hike up the paved paths through the vineyards, stopping at the wine producers taverns or heuriger to sample their young wines. Some are more traditional taverns such as Mayer am Pfarrplatz in Grinzing and some just wooden chairs placed outside alongside the vines like Mayer am Nussberg.
However, there really is nowhere better to sip a chilled glass of wine, produced from the very vines you are gazing over to the rooftops of the city. In the autumn you can taste the local sturm, a fermented refreshing grape juice that can be dangerous if drunk in large quantities!
The area doesn’t just offer wine though. The hikes alongside the vineyards and through the woods can lead you up to Leopoldsberg (425 meters) where from the terrace of the church you are treated to amazing views of the Danube and the city.
Kahlenberg also offers great views and the cute suburb, Grinzing, although touristy, is a great place to sit under a horse chestnut tree to watch the world pass by whilst sipping a chilled glass of Grüner Veltliner.
So, when Baroque becomes boring and you keel over from a Klimt overload, step on a tram and discover the places the Viennese don’t want you to know about!
About the author:
Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston for 12 years, and in the Netherlands for the past eight years.
Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States for as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.
Writing for Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.
She also covered Women’s March Amsterdam.
She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.