(Editor’s note: The Economist Intelligence Unit just named Vienna as the world’s most livable city … again. And last year, Dispatches ranked it No. 1 for expats as the only truly affordable Tier 1 city. This is Pt. 2 of a three-part “things I love about Vienna” series. You can see Pt. 1 here.)
Three things I really love about Vienna are its parks, palaces and public transportation system. Below are some of my favorite parks and palaces as well as details on transport both in the city and around
Austria, depending on how much time you have.
One of the things I really love about Vienna is its beautiful parks and fabulous green space. Parks are all over the city! Some have lavish flower gardens, sculptures, swings for kids and amusement rides.
Here are my top picks, which are all free to enter:
• The Prater and Wurstelprater Amusement Park: This huge park parallels the Donau (Danube River) across from Donauinsel (Danube Island). It has everything you could imagine in an enormous, fun park: immense open spaces, pony and horse stables, a mini train, walking paths, bike lanes, and at one end an
amusement park with a Riesenrad (Giant Ferris Wheel).
• Volksgarten (People’s Garden): This is a lovely park in the Innere Stadt (City Center) across from the Parliament. It is part of the Hofburg Complex and is wonderful to walk through because of its rose gardens, temple and fountains. While the Volksgarten is exquisite, it is not a place where you will feel comfortable relaxing with a picnic. If you are in the mood to eat, keep reading.
• Stadtpark (City Park): This is a large park (about 96,000 meters square, or about 24 acres) with lots of grass and benches to sit on, a perfect place for a picnic. There is also a duck pond and a playground with swings for kids. This park is on the southeastern edge of the City Center and has an urban, but relaxed vibe.
• Türkenschanzpark (Turkish Fort Park): This is a marvelous park on the outskirts of Vienna. One reason I really like it is it is outside of the city center in a residential area and so has a completely different feel from the two parks above. Here you can have a picnic, walk over meandering hills and past sprawling meadows, and look at interesting sculptures and botanical plants.
The Hofburg, Belvedere and Schönbrunn are much more than just magnificent palaces. Each one is like its own mini-city with multiple buildings, gardens and unique offerings. For planning purposes, don’t expect to see everything, and if you are on a budget or just want to be outside, walking around the buildings and grounds is free.
• Hofburg Palace Complex: The Hofburg Complex is in the city center. Some of the highlights include the Hofburg Palace itself with the Imperial Apartments and Treasury, the Spanish Riding School where you can see the Lipizzaner Horses, the Neue Burg (New Castle) where we recently saw an exhibit on exotic animals, the Burggarten (Castle Garden) and Butterfly House and the Burgkapelle where the Vienna Boys’ Choir sings.
One recent day as we were walking by the Spanish Riding School on Herrengasse, we saw the Lipizzaner horses being walked back to their stables after their morning workout. It was very exciting to see the famous horses up close.
• Belvedere Palace and Gardens: Belvedere Palace is in a charming neighborhood in the southeastern part of the city center. Main sites consist of the Lower Belvedere Palace, the Belvedere Gardens and the Upper Belvedere Palace.
Other things to see and do are listen to classical music at the Musikverein, admire the Baroque extravagance of the Karlskirche, relax in the Botanical Gardens and view the Alpine Garden or visit the Museum of Military History or the Vienna Museum. I went there after a visit to the Naschmarkt where I had lunch.
• Schönbrunn Palace, Park, and Zoo: Although Schönbrunn Palace is located outside the Old City limits, southwest of Vienna, it is easy to get to on the U-Bahn, or if you are staying nearby, a walk along Schönbrunner Strasse. It is a truly magical place – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – with splendid buildings and grounds, an orangery and a zoo.
We spent a nice afternoon walking around the park and hiking up to the top of the hill for a view of the
palace. (U-Bahn 4, Schönbrunn)
Vienna has an amazing public transport system with a vast network of U-Bahn (underground), trams and buses. Together they traverse the entire city. I have always done a lot of walking in Vienna and usually hop on a U-Bahn or a tram for covering longer distances.
When purchasing your tickets, there are many options to choose from.
• Wiener Linien (Vienna Lines) has offerings for both short and extended stays: a single ticket; day, 24-, 48-, and 72-hour cards; and weekly, monthly and even yearly passes. These cards and passes can be used on all of Vienna’s U-Bahn, trams, and buses, some S-Bahn (suburban trains) and other services operated within the main zone of Vienna.
A Wiener Linien annual pass is only 365 euros – 1 euro per day. At last check, FFP2 masks were still required on public transport.
Tickets and Passes for Vienna:
• See the trip planner here.
Vienna and Austria
If you are going to be in Vienna for a year and want to travel around Austria, or travel to border towns in neighboring countries, you might want to consider the yearly KlimaTicket Ö (Austria Climate Ticket).
The standard ticket currently costs 1,095 euros – only 3 Euros per day – and it is accepted on all public transport throughout Austria. Therefore, you can buy this single pass, which can be used everywhere in the country, in every city, on every type of transportation, and skip your annual Wiener Linien one.
See more about Vienna in the Dispatches archives here.
Mary Porcella is a Europhile who has lived in Germany, Norway, Italy, and the U.S. She is a writer, editor, and photographer. She loves seeing new places, returning to old haunts, and meeting up with family and friends. As of today, her travels have taken her to 20 European countries, and she hopes to visit the rest.