Vienna is considered to be one of the most livable cities in the world. A major reason for this is the walkability factor. Not only is Vienna relatively safe–something most Tri-Mission community members who have been posted to other parts of the world can truly appreciate!–but extensive walking and biking trails have been built into the city’s infrastructure.
I like to take full advantage of this by walking almost every day for exercise: summer or winter, rain or shine! Here are several of my favorite routes, located in or near downtown because that is where I live. But first, a little advice from a regular walker.
Be very careful of bicyclists on most of the these trails. People in Vienna are not usually biking for fun. They are commuting, and are quite often in a hurry! Look both ways before crossing even one-way streets–bikes will often travel the wrong way on them–and be equally cautious when crossing the marked bike trails on the center. Stick to the paths marked for pedestrians when you can. If a trail is marked for both bikes and pedestrians, hang to the right so bikes can pass you. If you walk down the middle (or even near the middle) people will constantly be dinging their bells at you to move over.
Dress comfortably and for the season. Or as many seasons as you are likely to experience on your walk! Layers are always good in Vienna. Even on very chilly days, I find I get quite warm after a bit of fast walking. I like to wear a fleece jacket with a windbreaker on top. After I warm up, I can just tie the windbreaker around my waist. On very warm days in summer, I wear breathable workout gear for walking, rather than street clothes. It does make a difference.
Carry some change for bathrooms and drinks. I keep a small fanny pack by the door with a change purse with a few Euros in it, tissues, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, and a travel-size tube of sunscreen. I just add my mobile phone, mp3 player, keys, and my transit pass, depending on where I’m headed, and I’m ready to go.
Don’t forget to exercise your mind. I’m a big fan of music for the gym, and podcasts for walking. I subscribe to a bunch of podcasts from NPR and other sources that I can either download with Media Monkey and move to my mp3 player, or download to my phone with Podcast Addict. Listen to whatever makes the walk more entertaining for you!
A map can be helpful. Google Maps does not always work on my mobile phone in Vienna, I have discovered, never mind how. I have a laminated Vienna city map that I got at Freytag & Berndt for about 5 Euros. I carry it whenever I am not absolutely sure where I am going. Worth every pfennig.
Walk Number One: Around the Ring
I live one block from the Ring, and so my “default” walk is just to step outside and walk around it. There are several variations on this route, but I’ve mapped out one of my usual paths below. I also saved it as a public map with directions at Google Maps here.
The most direct route is about 25 percent sidewalks and the rest can be walked on the public walking/biking trails that lie parallel to the streets. To get away from traffic, you can detour slightly to walk through along the Wienfluss, and in the Stadtpark, the Burggarten and the Volksgarten.
The entire route takes about an hour at a good pace, and provides lots of interesting scenery: shop windows, people-watching, etc. Another advantage in the winter: you are never very far from public transportation. If it starts to sleet or rain on you, just hop on a tram and go home!
Walk Number Two: The Donaukanal
The Donaukanal is bordered by wide walking paths from around Spittelau southward for many kilometers. You can access this path directly from any of these U-Bahn stations: Spittelau, Friedensbrucke, Rosslauer Lande, Schottenring, and Schwedenplatz. Both sides of the canal can also be accessed from any of many bridges that cross the canal. So, you can pick any stretch of the canal you like, walk as far as you want and then hop on the U-Bahn to go back if you prefer.
The northern part of the path on the western side is grassy and landscaped for some distance and even goes through a rose garden. On the other side, and further south, the path is asphalt and cobblestones, with a marked bike lane. From Rosslauer Lande southward there are beach bars and boats to see in the summer. Along the entire path, there is some pretty interesting graffiti–this is legal along the canal, and there is even an official art exhibit of graffiti near Urania.
Finally, south of Schwedenplatz, and near Kunsthaus Wien, there is a canalside park dedicated to Friedrich Hundertwasser. It has natural landscaping, gravel paths, and plenty of park benches.
The canal path is nice in summer because of the breezes coming off the water. It is also more populated with bikers and runners at that time, however, I have walked there in the winter as well and felt perfectly safe.
Walk Number Three: Schlosspark Schönbrunn.
We’ve all done the tourist thing at Schönbrunn, but did you know it is a free public park as well? There is a path that goes around the entire perimeter of the park that takes about half an hour to walk with no detours. (More information and a map here.) There is some uphill and downhill on this walk, and the paths are gravel, which makes them popular with runners. Bikes are prohibited. Tourists rarely tackle them, so there are few crowds to fight your way through. Smaller paths zigzag through the woods and the formal gardens, which are part of the free public park. Create your own route (and if you stop at Café Landtmann on the way out for coffee and strudel no one will know.)
Schönbrunn is easily accessible from either the Schönbrunn or Hietzing U-Bahn stops or the 10A autobus.
Walk Number Four: The Prater
The Prater is not just an amusement park. It is also a really BIG public park, located on former imperial hunting grounds. The main, paved path (the Prater Allée) is great for fast walking or running. It is also impossible to get lost on this path, which can not be said for many of the side paths in the park. There are some maps posted, but they are few and far between. I like to stick mostly to the main path, detouring occasionally, but keeping the main path in sight. The side paths can also lead into some very isolated areas which I am not comfortable about when walking alone. But, the Prater Allée and the nearby paths are very busy with walkers, runners and bikers, and quite safe.
There are public restrooms in the park, many food and drink stands in the Prater amusement park, and a couple of cafés at the opposite end of the Prater Allee in and around the Lusthaus.
Take the U-Bahn to Praterstern (despite appearances, the station has relatively clean public restrooms for 50 Euro cents and several shops where you can buy a snack or a bottle of water) and follow signs to the Prater. As you step out the back side of the station, you’ll see a bunch of trees on the right of the entrance to the amusement park. Walk toward those and you will soon see the Prater Allée. There is also a #1 tram stop in the park.
Walk Number Five: Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark
Located at the end of the #41 tram line, Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark is a good place for a walk and a picnic with the kids.
The trail around the outer edges of the park takes about 45 minutes at a brisk pace and is mostly shady, though you can take detours through the meadows if you want some sun.
There is one slightly tricky bit at the middle of the trail. There is a fence around the grounds to keep the deer in, and you must go out a gate and walk along the outside perimeter for a hundred yards or so. This is not clear from the maps.
At the of the trail (or the beginning, depending how you want to explain this to your kids) there is a big playground suitable for kids of all ages.
These are just a few of my favorite walking routes in Vienna. Other good trails can be found at the Donauinsel, along the several Vienna City Hiking Paths, and of course there are the many “wanderwegs” in the Wienerwald. So, get out and enjoy them!