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Published: June 2012
Vienna is a vibrant city that provides not only a visual feast for the eyes, but also offers lots of activities all year round. Clemens Radauer, a native Viennese, gives a detailed overview of the things you can do, if you are planning on staying in Vienna, Austria over the summer.
AS YOU MAY KNOW, Vienna has acquired quite the reputation for being a city that is bursting with cultural activities, and for those of you who will stay in town this summer – or at least spend a few days here – I have good news: there are more than enough things to do! From dances and music festivals to waterfront chill-out bars – Vienna has a lot to offer in the summer. The following are some of the most popular summer activities including a few of my personal favorites.
Compared to the grey and cold wintery Vienna, the quality of life increases as soon as the days get longer, the temperature rises and the sunny weather heats up the city. The easiest way to escape the glowing city center and the radiant concrete is to go for a swim in one of the many public swimming pools, at the Donauinsel, or the Alte Donau. I personally prefer the Krapfenwaldlbad in the 19th district - it is very tranquil and you have the perfect opportunity to take in the true beauty of Vienna while sunbathing. Even though, it takes a while to get there – you take the bus 38A from the U4 station Heiligenstadt to the stop Krapfenwaldgasse –it is definitely worth the trip. For more information on Vienna’s swimming pools check out the following website: http://www.wien.gv.at/freizeit/baeder.
An alternative for those more active individuals is the possibility of hiking in the cool shade of the Vienna woods. All hiking trails in and around Vienna add up to an astonishing total length of nearly 10,000 km – almost the distance from Vienna to Tokyo – and should keep you busy or walking for quite some time.
Another beautiful spot on the outskirts of Vienna is the Bellevue Wiese. Basically it is just a meadow, but one that is conveniently situated on a hilltop, just outside of Grinzing, and that provides a great view of Vienna. It is a spectacular lookout point and is perfect for a picnic, either with friends or somebody you would like to impress with an inspiring panorama – day or night. It is a little difficult to reach without a car – at least a half an hour uphill walk from Grinzing (tram 38 or bus 38A) on the Himmelstraße – but you won’t be disappointed once you’ve made it to the top.
There are a vast number of delightful places to spend the evenings and mild summer nights in Vienna, so I will not even attempt to list them all, but here are a few more of my favorites. MuseumsQuartier needs no further introduction, but weekends there get even more relaxing during the summer, thanks to the so-called “weekend sounds”: local DJs playing in the courtyard every Saturday and Sunday from noon until 8 p.m. (until August 28th). If you’re up for some “sports”, there is an outdoor slot car track in front of the DJ-booth and a boule place next to the Museum Moderner Kunst (MUMOK).
One of the nicest ways to stay refreshed in the hot summer weather is by cooling one’s feet in the water. Sadly enough, Vienna doesn’t have any real sand beaches, but the next best thing is what makes the Danube Canal one of the most popular Viennese spots in the summer: waterfront restaurants and so-called “beach-bars”. Close to the U4 subway station Rossauer Lände is the Summer Stage where you can go for a drink or chow-down in one of the eight restaurants offering cuisines from Mexico, the Carribean, England and Italy (www.summerstage.co.at).
Sand in the City
Photo: Intercontinental Online
Downstream and on the opposite side of the Canal there are several bars – e.g. Tel Aviv Beach and Adria Wien – that have a “beach feeling” with sand, deckchairs, DJs, and cocktails (www.telavivbeach.at, www.adriawien.at). Further downstream and close to the Urania, you can relax in another beach-bar: Hermanns Strandbar. It is one of the most beloved bars of this kind in Vienna and is therefore usually very crowded on sunny afternoons and weekends (www.stradbarhermann.at). Next in the line of the “beach-bars” is Sand in the City close to the Konzerthaus. It is one of the few downtown possibilities for playing beach volleyball, and there are thirteen bars and restaurants, which are open daily from 2 p.m. to midnight (www.sandinthecity.at).
Another classic in Vienna is the Rathausplatz, which turns into a huge open-air cinema from July to September. But do not expect to see the newest 3D Hollywood blockbusters playing there, as the program mostly consists of operas and classical concerts. Admission is free, and if you do not like the show, you only need to walk behind the bleachers to find a variety of eateries and bars, which are slightly overpriced, but are a nice alternative to the restaurants mentioned above.
Just opposite of the Rathaus and unknown to many residents of Vienna is my next recommendation: the festival lounge of the Impulstanz Festival. While the festival itself offers a large number of incredible modern dance performances and workshops (http://www.impulstanz.com), the festival lounge is the best place for true party animals. It is open every night for one month (July 12th –August 12th) and admission is free. From 10 p.m. onwards, international and local DJs perform in the small, but beautiful Burgtheater Vestibül and thanks to a wild mix of international dancers and local crowds, the parties there are usually very entertaining and sometimes contain just the right amount of crazy.
One of my personal favorites on a Friday summer night is the Volksgarten Pavillon. It is a charming 50s-style café with a nice garden and a boule place. Perfect for starting off the evening in a really unique atmosphere - I recommend that you try the delicious grilled fish for dinner. From 8 p.m. on, DJs play music ranging from Funk & Soul to Hip Hop & Electro, and the later it gets, the more the place fills up and then the party really starts – cover charge is 5 Euro after 11 p.m. – and it often continues until the sun rises (www.theloudminority.com).
There are numerous music festivals in and around Vienna that take place during the summer. The largest open-air festivals are held in Wiesen (Forestglade, The Nova Jazz & Blues Nights, Two Days A Week), and in St. Pölten (Beat Patrol, Frequency). Both cities are about an hour from Vienna and the festivals will definitely satisfy all big open-air-fans (www.wiesen.at, www.frequency.at, www.beatpatrol.at). The Donauinselfest is the only big open-air festival in Vienna and takes place from 22nd – 24th of June. It claims to be the biggest European festival! It is free of admission and offers a wide variety of music on more than ten stages, as well as amusement rides, food and drinks. During the day it is quite enjoyable, but I personally avoid going there in the evenings because it tends to get rather crowded.
For all those readers who do not enjoy mass gatherings and do not want to risk camping in the mud – for some reason it often rains on the festival-weekends – I can recommend a few smaller events. One of my personal favorites is the Popfest at the end of July. This festival focuses on contemporary Austrian pop-music and is held at the Karlsplatz – with the beautiful Karlskirche as its setting - and best of all, it’s free (www.popfest.at). The Jazzfest Wien also offers a few free concerts and shows by some of the biggest names in jazz music at several venues, including the Staatsoper, the Rathaus, and most Viennese jazz clubs (http://www.viennajazz.org).
For those who are especially passionate about international organizations, Vienna offers a great opportunity in early August: the VIMUN (Vienna International Model United Nations). From 5th to 9th of August, students from all over the world meet in Austria’s capital to participate in a United Nations simulation conference. What makes this VIMUN special is that it is the only Model UN Simulation worldwide, which actually takes place on the UN premises. Apart from the simulation, the VIMUN offers the possibility to participate in a fun social program including a welcome dinner at an authentic “Heuriger” (typical Viennese wine-restaurant), a reception at the City Hall, and a night of partying at the club “Platzhirsch”. I had a great time at the VIMUN last year and can really recommend it to everybody, but be quick since registration closes on the 1st of July (www.vimun.org).
I hope you all have a great summer – you deserve it!