All Articles 8 things to do in Vienna during summer

8 things to do in Vienna during summer

From wine trails and riverfront parks to vintage fairs and rooftop bars.

Jennifer Walker
By Jennifer Walker5 Jun 2024 7 minutes read
Gloriette pavilion and Neptune fountain in Schonbrunn park, Vienna, Austria
Schonbrunn Park
Image: Vladislav Zolotov/Getty Images

Vienna shines in winter, no doubt about it. But for me the real magic happens during the summer. With its regal parks, tranquil water forests, sprawling vineyards, and inviting Danube beaches, the city has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the greenest cities in the world. And the best time to soak it all in is the warmer months.

Having spent countless summers here, I've curated a hit list of must-do activities that I rarely skip when I'm in town—and neither should you. So, if you're planning your next summer escape to the Austrian capital, don't miss these activities and events.

Hike up Kahlenberg and down in the Nußberg vineyards

Panoramic view of Vienna from Kahlenberg
Image: mdworschak/Getty Images

Vienna has several hiking trails, called Stadwanderweg, all across the city, that wind up into the Vienna Woods or through the marshy part of the Prater But, my favorites are the hiking trails that run up toward Kahlenberg, Vienna's highest hill, and through the Vienna Woods on the northern part of the city, and down through the vineyards of Nußberg. For extra special views, I prefer Stadtwanderweg 1A, a three-hour route that leads you down by the river and up Leopoldsberg—the second-highest hill and a favorite of Beethoven's to climb— before continuing to Kahlenberg through a woodland path.

The trail snakes down Nußberg past Vienna's vineyards (Vienna has its own wine region!). I recommend stopping at hillside winery, Mayer am Nußberg, to try the local wine, get some Jausenbrettln (a special selection of assorted snack boards), and sit in one of the red deck chairs overlooking the vineyard. There are also several other fantastic Heuriger (traditional Viennese wine taverns) in the district Nußdorf, where you’ll begin and end your hike.

Tip: Download the Stadt Wien app and search for Stadtwanderweg; it'll bring up a trail map you can use to plan your hike.

Travelers say: “Kahlenberg is one of my favorite parts of Vienna. You can very easily take the metro and then connect to the 38 tram. It is a pleasant ride out to Grinzing. Exit and just start walking. You'll walk through beautiful vineyards, it is amazing this is part of one of the world's best cities. It's a great but easy walk to the top, and if you're there late in the day or on a weekend, you can grab a glass of wine at a local Heriguer out in the vines.” —@PS00011

Sunbathe and take a dip in the Old Danube

Stand - up paddleboarding at Strandbad Gansehaufel, Vienna
Image: Cristi Croitoru/Getty Images

The Danube takes a step back from Vienna's cityscape (unlike nearby Bratislava or Budapest), and you can easily explore downtown Vienna without ever seeing it. But if you're here in the summer, I highly recommend taking the U-Bahn a few stops from Stephansplatz to the Alte Donau, the Old Danube. About 150 years ago, this arm of the river became a standing body of water and is one of the top recreational spots for locals in the summer. It’s an idyllic spot in the city to swim, boat, or paddleboard. For sunbathing at a beach, head over to the island of Gänsehäufel. Although there's an admission fee (€7.60 for adults), you'll get plenty of comfortable lawns on the Danube as well as restaurants, cafés, changing rooms, and a swimming pool. Head’s up: There’s a fenced-off nudist section, designated as FKK (Freikörperkultur) if you want to bathe in the buff (or know what to avoid for those who prefer to stay clothed).

Travelers say: “We visited Gansehaufel while in Vienna in August and loved it so much we returned again before we left the city. We went in summer, and it was around 30 degrees, absolutely perfect. Having first gone on a Sunday, we knew it would be crowded, but my wife and I headed straight to the FKK area and it was much quieter. The water was nice, there were facilities, a restaurant, an ice cream bar, too. Couldn’t be more convenient!” —@Mark J

Relax in one of Vienna's many parks

Gloriette pavilion and Neptune fountain in Schonbrunn park, Vienna, Austria
Image: Vladislav Zolotov/Getty Images

I'm not sure I can choose a favorite park in Vienna. The most spectacular is Schönbrunn Park, with its regal splendor, hidden corners, and fake ruins. I find that early morning and golden hour are the best times to come here. But one of my best summer memories is when I grabbed picnic supplies from the Naschmarkt with my Viennese friends and hopped on the U-Bahn a few stops to Stadtpark. Another curious spot is Augarten, an opulent Baroque walled park punctuated with the sinister concrete Flak towers (anti-aircraft towers built by the Nazis). However, this doesn’t stop the locals from coming here for picnics, yoga classes, or just to hang out. Of course, you can also find parks downtown, like the Volksgarten and the Burggarten, as well as several other smaller, lesser-known parks in the city. Pick one, bring a blanket and a few snacks (maybe some wine), and spend the afternoon in the sun.

Travelers say: “Grab a picnic, escape the city and sit in Stadtpark next to the water. It's calming and I believe dog free so no chance of your picnic being stolen. Enjoy!” —@BacardiMan66

Worthy detours along the way

Bar hop along the Danube Canal

Aperol spritz at outdoor bar, in Vienna
Image: Zbynek Pospisil/Getty Images

The Danube Canal comes to life in the summer when the summer beach bars open on its shores. Wander along the street art-covered waterfront, then cross the bridge by the Urania Observatory to snag a sunset spot at Strandbar Herrmann, a huge open-air bar resembling a beach (think: sand, deckchairs, and wonderful views at dusk). Although it's popular during the day, it comes to life in the evening. And, if you want to go swimming before hitting the bars, head to the Badeschiff, a moored boat on the canal with a bar and swimming pool.

Travelers say: “It is amazing [that at Strandbar Herrmann] you can sit on a sandy beach by the water in the center of the city! Absolutely priceless experience!” —@heckfy

Spend a day at the Prater

Aerial view of Prater Park, in Vienna
Image: saiko3p/Getty Images

No summertime Vienna visit is complete without a trip to Prater, where you'll find a retro funfair complete with rides, sausage and candy floss stands, and, of course, the iconic Reisenrad, a Ferris wheel that's more than 100 years old. You might recognize it from its starring role in The Third Man and Before Sunset. Although I am a little squeamish when it comes to rides (the Reisenrad was enough for my vertigo), I adore strolling the fair just for its surreal vintage carnival rides and taking in curiosities like Kugelmugel, a micro-nation that was founded by artists in the 1970s to avoid demolishing the spherical house. If you're hungry, head to Schweitzerhaus, a large beer garden famous for its gigantic roasted pork knuckles.

Tip: In German, Prater means meadow is the name for the area as a whole, not just the funfair. This vast green space has plenty of picnic spots, biking trails, and a marshy hiking path, Stadtwanderweg 9.

Travelers say: “I loved that it’s free admission to Prater amusement park. It’s easily accessible by public transport, and the subway station is just steps from the entrance. There are plenty of rides, which look pretty lit up at night. My family came in the evening to ride the ferris wheel.” —@Ling

Cycle to the Lobau, Vienna's own water forest

Turtle at The Lobau, at Nationalpark Donau - Auen
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Did you know Vienna has its very own jungle? The Lobau in the Nationalpark Donau-Auen is a 2,300-hectare water forest that is one of Europe's last remaining floodplains. It is home to 800 types of plants, 30 kinds of mammals—including beavers—and 100 species of birds, like the kingfisher and white-tailed eagle. You'll also find numerous reptiles, amphibians, and fish species here. You can reach this unusual landscape from the city by bike, as there's a well-signed bike route—the famous Danube Cycle Path—that links to the city's eastern side. Meanwhile, hikers can hop on the 92B bus from Donaustadtbrücke (U-bahn U2) to the wien-lobAU National Park House to explore the trails..

Travelers say: “Donau-Auen National Park is one of the largest wetlands of the river Danube in Middle Europe. It is such a peaceful area and great place for recharging batteries. The flora and fauna of this wetland is very special. It is such a highlight to walk around there enjoying nature.” —@CarlaColumna123

Take in the view from the rooftop bars

Rooftop bar at Lamee
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Rooftop bars are the place to be at sunset, and there are a handful of excellent ones in Vienna. I personally love the 360° Ocean Sky Restaurant and Bar on top of the Haus des Meeres—a vertical aquarium set in a former Flak tower—which has sweeping views of downtown Vienna. You can go directly up without a ticket to the aquarium, but if you have time the "House of the Sea" is worth the visit for its exotic fish and sharks. Another great spot is the Hotel Lamée rooftop bar, overlooking Stefansdom and Vienna's first district. The cocktails are some of the best in town, too. There’s also the MQ Libelle terrace in the MuseumsQuartier, where you’ll see a small kiosk serving champagne, drinks, and snacks.

Travelers say: “One of the most interesting transformations of a grotesque WW2-era structure has to be this former Flakturm. Located in Esterhazy Park, this old defensive wartime structure has been converted into a multi-story zoo, with a cherry on top: the 360 Ocean Sky Restaurant. This location has a lot of things going: the view of Vienna from its glass terrace, the excellent food, the attractive prices, and the quick and clean service.” —@Mav

Enjoy Danube Island and the New Danube

Young woman cycling at riverside, Danube Island, Vienna, Austria
Image: Manuela/Getty Images

Danube Island (Donauinsel) is an artificial island that stretches about 13.1 miles, even though it’s only 700-feet wide. It splits the main Danube from the New Danube, a channel on the eastern side created to help mitigate floods. The water on this side is clean and safe, so locals come here to bathe or go boating. The island also has bike paths, several bars, beach volleyball courts, and even the world's biggest floating trampoline center around the Reichsbrücke area. At the end of June, the island hosts Europe's largest free music festival, the Donauinselfest.

Travelers say: “Donauinsel is a wonderful island in the middle of the Danube that stretches from the River Danube to the Neue Doneu, a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city even though it's very centrally located. It’s great for dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, and picnickers. The views of the River Danube are superb, especially if you're standing on one of the bridges. Definitely worth checking out if you're planning a holiday to Vienna.” —@Neil K

Jennifer Walker
Jennifer Walker is a British-Hungarian ex-nuclear physicist turned writer living in Hungary. Although she has lived and worked in the UK, Germany, Spain, Georgia, and India, she returned to Budapest in 2013 to reconnect with her Hungarian roots. She writes about Central Europe and is co-author of Moon Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. Her work has been featured in CNN Travel, Lonely Planet, The Times (UK), The Independent, National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, and TimeOut. She also co-founded the Panel Magazine, a literary magazine focusing on art and literature in Central and Eastern Europe. She spends most of her free time discovering Budapest’s hidden places and secrets (which she sometimes shares on Instagram @jenniferdeborahwalker)
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