We adore Austria, and especially Vienna. This beautiful city is perfect for a visit any time of year but summer offers opportunities you cannot enjoy during the cooler months. In today's guest post, Barbara Cação of Vienna Unwrapped shares 10 wonderful attractions not to miss.
For this summer, I have created my ultimate four-week vacation programme in my hometown Vienna and surroundings. No glowing asphalt, no muggy places. Likewise, my local mum and sister with her family have been busy sorting out top places and events for us to enjoy together. Let me share our combined shortlist with you, which includes mostly long time favourites.
1. Barbecuing at Volksgarten Pavilion
What is it like to lounge in fifties retro-style furniture in a shady garden, while looking at the Imperial Palace and smelling grilled fish and steaks? I can tell you, it’s fab. The Volksgarten Pavillon is a local institution that my mum and her friends frequented in their heydays, and that has a firm place in my little black book about Vienna. The daily barbecue starts at 6.30pm and is usually busy. Try the traditional ‘Steckerlfisch’. At a corner in the back of the garden is a group of cosy deck chairs for ‘private’ chill outs.
2. Film and Food at Rathausplatz
A dozen yummy food stalls, beer and fruit punch, music and videos, shady trees and historic buildings: This is why I love the annual film and food festival in front of Vienna City Hall, opposite grand Burgtheater. While the food stalls are open from 11am, the best time to go there is at dusk, when the opera, jazz, world music and ballet videos start. There is seating provided to watch the videos, but you will equally hear the music at the food stalls just behind.
3. Wine and Art at Summerstage
Another relaxed open air space for evenings with friends and family is the Summerstage along the Danube Canal. There are proper cafes, wine bars and restaurants right along the promenade. The ‘Terrasse’ restaurant is my favourite for cooler evenings, as it has a glass pavilion. If you are lucky you can listen to one of the nine free concerts at Summerstage in July and August. The small sculpture garden is full of weird little objects.
4. Touring Wineries On Nussberg
I am so glad that my local friend Babsi toured her favourite wineries (‘Heurige’) in her neighbourhood at Nussberg with me. There are the hidden winery outlets off-road in the middle of the vineyards, the old established wineries with their beautiful gardens and views of the Vienna Woods, such as Heuriger Sirbu, and the next-generation wineries where you chill out in deck chairs and designer sofas next to the vines (Heuriger Mayer am Nussberg).
5. Biking Through Vienna
When I lived in Vienna’s centre and adjacent districts, I would bike everywhere within a three mile radius. I am not a hard-core biker and like to have my own biking space, therefore the city’s largely flat layout and its 1,000+ kilometres of bike paths are just right for me. Vienna’s city bike scheme includes a City Bike Tourist Card for EUR 2 per bike. You can then rent a bike at one of the 80 bike stations for EUR 1 to EUR 4 per hour (first hour is free).
6. On Top Of it All in Rooftop Bars
As a student I was lucky enough to share a tiny rooftop flat with two gigantic terraces in the city centre. Since then, I can’t get enough of ‘rooftop Vienna’. The views from a few levels down give you different perspective of the city but are more intimate than those from a tower 120 metre above ground. My current favourites are the new rooftop bars of the Ritz Carlton Vienna and the 25 Hours Hotel, followed by Sky Bar on top of Steffl department store.
7. Dancing In Public Squares
A few weeks ago my best local friend Karin emailed me a link to ‘Wien im Tanz’, a series of popular public tango and salsa dancing events in the square of baroque cathedral St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche) in Vienna: ‘You have to do this, the atmosphere on lush summer evenings is absolutely sensational’. I have decided not to withhold this tip from you even though I still have to experience it. You may meet me there in late July/early August.
8. Villa Aurora
The 19th century villa with its characteristic wood carved top facade is located on Wilhelminenberg, a hill in a leafy neighbourhood in Western Vienna. The restaurant there is one of the most romantic places in Vienna. Scattered across its garden are unique seating spaces, offering a wonderful view of Vienna. The restaurant interior is packed with beautiful vintage furniture, paintings and decoration. Food and service reviews of Villa Aurora have been mixed, though my experience has always been good. Apart from the fact that I was not allowed to publicise photos from the interiors...
9. Wachau Valley Cruise
This time, I’m going to repeat the two Wachau Valley cruises I did before with my kids. The trip through this UNESCO World Heritage site one hour west of Vienna takes you along vineyards, sweet historic villages such as Duernstein, and apricot orchards further back in the countryside. Even the longest boat rides through Wachau Valley take less than two hours one way. That leaves enough time to inspect local wineries, and walk through towns and along the shore.
10. Schloss Hof
Another beloved déjà-vu on my list is the baroque palace of Schloss Hof east of Vienna. The building and baroque gardens have been painstakingly renovated, and are perfect for a summer getaway. Schloss Hof is a bit like Schonbrunn Palace in the countryside. Make sure you pick some berries in the dairy garden (you are allowed to), which is also full of peacocks, Lipizzaner horses, and rare traditional breeds of farm animals.
By the way, this year, the former residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy (who saved Vienna from the Turks) celebrates the 350th anniversary of its past owner with special exhibitions and events.
Bio: Barbara Cação, a native Viennese, runs travel site Vienna Unwrapped, her little black book of the best of Vienna, Austria. On the site, she shares her travel tips and knowledge as a native, a former local, and a frequent Vienna traveller with you. Stay in touch with Barbara and Vienna Unwrapped on Facebook and on Twitter.