Visitors to Vienna won’t struggle to find things to do when visiting Austria’s capital, a cultural and architectural mecca. The city centre is rife with cafes, museums and palaces sure to fill up your itinerary. But for those keen to explore beyond the city centre, or perhaps interested in what locals get up to on weekends, Vienna’s outskirts are where it’s at.
Not being a massive city, escaping Vienna’s city limits can be quite easy and there are some delightful spots that are relatively simple to get to. Here are just 4 places on Vienna’s outskirts that make a nice retreat from the city for a few hours on the weekend.
Closest to the city centre, is the popular hilltop of Kahlenberg that overlooks Vienna and the surrounding region. In fact Kahlenberg is so close that it’s actually still within Vienna’s city limits – but only just. While the city of Vienna is flat for the most part, to the city’s north lies a range of low hills, one of which is Kahlenberg.
Thanks to its elevation and location, Kahlenberg affords visitors one of the best views of Vienna, not to mention the Danube flowing through. The view extends over the nearby wineries below and their attached taverns – known as Heuriger in Austria – to the entire city and the Danube that flows eastward towards Bratislava. A tip is once you’ve seen the view from the main terrace, head along the nearby alley to the smaller terrace which can be a bit quieter and with an equally stunning view.
To go with the view, you’ll find several cafes with outdoor seating on the viewing terraces and a small local church. Quite nearby is the neighbouring hilltop of Leopoldsberg, where you’ll find another viewpoint of Vienna, but also glimpses of what lies north of the hill range. Another popular activity is to park at Kahlenberg and go for a hike in the Vienna Woods that cover the area and some of their closest reaches to the city. If you’re craving some fresh air, you can’t go wrong with Kahlenberg.
Getting There: To get there by public transport, take the U4 Metro to Heiligenstadt and then take the 38A Bus. A ticket is 2.2€ one way as it’s only a single zone, but note further along the bus route requires a 2-zone ticket. Alternatively, driving from the city centre will only take about 20 min.
Baden bei Wien
If you’ve lived or spent much time in the Germanic parts of Europe, you’ve probably come across somewhere called Baden. Translating as “baths”, you’d be right in guessing that the places are known as spa towns. Well, Austria has one too and due to its proximity to the capital is known as Baden bei Wien, i.e. “Baths near Vienna”. While the thermal springs of Baden bei Wien have drawn people there since as far back as the Romans, a visit today doesn’t necessarily have to involve that at all (but it can).
Actually Baden bei Wien is just a quiet and pleasant place to visit, portraying what life is like in smaller Austrian towns. With its 19th century architecture and small streets, Baden evokes a feeling of simpler times. The town wears its history as a resort town on its sleeve, with references to renowned guests found throughout. Such illustrious guests include composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Johann Strauss who spent time there to compose their famous pieces.
While sights like the lavish Trinity Column, town theatre and casino are all worth seeing, my personal favourite is the grounds of the Kurpark. This park attached to the Kurhouse (Cure House) is at first a manicured garden that sprawls out to cover the nearby hills. There are walking trails all about that will take you past spots like the Strauss Statue and up to view points like the Beethoventempel. Perfect place for a Sunday stroll.
Getting There: To get there by public transport, either take the S3 suburban or certain regional trains from among other Wien Mitte, Wien Hauptbahnhof or Wien Miedling to Baden Bahnhof. Alternatively, take the WLB tram from the Wien Kärntner Ring/Oper tram stop to Baden Josefsplatz. As you travel through multiple zones, tickets cost 5.5€ one way. The drive to Baden from the city centre is roughly 40 minutes.
I spoke earlier about the view north from Leopoldsberg and one of the places you may be able to see through the woods there is the town of Klosterneuburg. This town on the banks of the Danube River, while easily reached from Vienna definitely has a different, calmer atmosphere to it. Long a centre of the local winemaking industry, Klosterneuburg is best known today for one thing, Klosterneuburg Monastery.
Known in German as Stift Klosterneuburg, this immense monastery from the 12th century is quite the sight to behold. In fact part of where the name of the town comes from is this monastery, as “Kloster” translates to Monastery. To this day, there are still parts of the Monastery like the foundations and a chapel that date back to the 12th century, while its present Baroque look is due to significant damage caused by Ottoman invasions in 1529 and 1679.
For those unable to travel out to the colossal Melk Stift in the Wachau Valley, the Klosterneuburg Monastery makes for a fabulous substitute. Tours of its interior are available, but even the monastery exterior is worth appreciating alone.
After admiring the monastery, there are several nice spots around town to have coffee but perhaps visiting Austria’s oldest winery might be more enticing. As it happens, the wine estate of the Klosterneuburg Monastery is actually the oldest in the country and you can both taste and purchase their wines at their wine shop on nearby Rathausplatz. Tours of the cellars (in German and English) are also possible if booked in advance here. I’ve yet to try this, but it looks like a good time.
Getting There: To get there by public transport, first take the U4 Metro to Heiligenstadt and then either take the S40 suburban train or one of the 238/239/439 buses to Klosterneuburg-Weidling station. As you travel through multiple zones, tickets cost 3.9€ one way. Alternatively, the drive to Klosterneuburg is only a 25 minute trip from Vienna’s city centre.
Last, we have the rather innocuous town of Laxenburg. Directly south of Vienna, there is one reason that locals come to Laxenburg and that is the town’s imperial castle and grounds. From 1333, Laxenburg Castle served as a royal retreat for the Habsburg dynasty. As the site of a royal hunting lodge, the castle’s expansive grounds are now a popular spot for people to come walk around and kids to play in.
Laxenburg is actually made up of several castles, the first of which you arrive at is the New Castle also known as the Blauer Hof. This charming Rococco building sits at the entry to the castle complex, which is open to the public free of admission. From there, you enter the grounds of Laxenburg castle which even in winter have a certain beauty to them. Immediately on the right is the original Old Castle of Laxenburg, that sadly doesn’t really look much of a castle anymore. Regardless, following the walking trails will bring you through the peaceful wooded grounds.
The true highlight of a visit to Laxenburg is a visit to the lakeside castle of Franzensburg. While the lakes here may be artificial, the views are oh so real. This 18th century castle looks incredible reflected in the water below and a quick wander through its courtyards will show you a large collection of chiseled busts. Franzensburg Castle is supposed to host a museum on Laxenburg, but it is sadly closed during winter. Still, quite a pretty spot for a break from city life.
Getting There: To get there by public transport, the easiest way is to take the 200 bus from Wien Hauptbahnhof. As you travel through multiple zones, tickets cost 4.4€ one way. Alternatively, the drive to Laxenburg is only a 30 minute trip from Vienna’s city centre.
Have you been to Vienna and visited any of the above? If you had a weekend free in Vienna, which would you pick and why? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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