A city full of life
Among Vienna’s many attractive features is the wealth of leisure activities available. Whether it is eating and drinking, films and cinemas, open-air recreation and fun or all the many opportunities for sport: the City of Vienna can turn into a leisure adventure.
Leisure has become an increasingly important part of everyday life over the past few decades. This can be attributed to a noticeable increase in life expectancy, in parallel with a reduction in the working week to 40 hours as well the extension of paid leave. As a result people have more and more leisure time and, given the wealth of leisure activities available in Vienna (about 1,500 every week), it is quite possible that you will come under “leisure pressure”.
This is a sort of leisure stress, though, that ultimately creates a sense of well-being. It is no coincidence that according to international studies, Vienna offers a high quality of life.
For the third year running, Vienna has topped the polls of the Quality of Life Survey by Mercer Consulting Group as being the best place to live in terms of quality of life worldwide.
Vienna is an all-year leisure event which has everything appropriate lined up for the right season. Below you find detailed information on a few of these leisure opportunities to give you an idea of what Vienna has to offer in the leisure segment.
The oldest amusement park in Europe
A symbol with added value is the Vienna Prater. As the “Green” Prater this is not only a valuable recreational area but also – as “Wurstelprater” - a very special tourist attraction, filled with nostalgia and clichés surrounding the Giant Wheel and attracting millions of paying visitors every year to Vienna. In order that the Vienna Prater should remain for the foreseeable future an economic factor for the City of Vienna and a leisure-time highlight for Prater visitors no effort is spared to provide even more service quality, as expressed in the general outward appearance of the grounds. A further development scheme for the Wurstelprater has also been launched. To this end new attractions and events were initiated. Since 2011 the world-famous waxworks museum Madame Tussauds is the new highlight in the Vienna Prater. Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Sisi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Falco, Empress Maria Theresa or Gustav Klimt are just some of the local personalities and historic people to be seen on the 2,000 m² of exhibition space.
Not far from the Wurstelprater, the Ernst Happel Stadium is located. During the Uefa EURO 2008 tournament, the Ernst Happel Stadium was the venue for the final match. The stadium has also hosted concerts by many famous artists.
Böhmischer Prater (the Bohemian Prater)
A further, considerably less well-known, leisure oasis is the Prater’s little brother, the Böhmischer Prater in Favoriten, Vienna’s 10th district. Around 1900 one quarter of the inhabitants of Favoriten had come originally from the crown dominions, mainly from Bohemia and Moravia. They worked for the largest local employer, the Wienerberg brick factory. This gave them their nickname: the “Ziegelböhm” (“brick Bohemians”). And this was also the reason why the small amusement park in the Laaer Woods came to be known as “Böhmischer Prater” (Bohemian Prater). A visit is strongly recommended to families with small children, in particular, because of all sorts of family-friendly attractions there to liven up their leisure time.
Both these Praters are split up into a green area and an entertainment park. In the former there are possibilities for lengthy walks. Many use the green spaces for indulging in all sorts of sports, particularly running, biking and ball-games.
Hiking in and around Vienna
Autumn is the high season for hiking in Vienna. Hiking lovers might try one of the various city hiking trails, nature trails or the “rund-umdadum” hiking trail that circles Vienna on a length of 120 kilometres. The city is surrounded by an almost continuous green belt that was designated as a conservation area a hundred years ago. Few big cities in Europe can boast about so much green space: a total of 20,200 hectares – almost half of the entire municipal area. Its western border runs through the Vienna Woods – a range of hills that provides not only oxygen for the city but also offers many opportunities for hiking. You won’t need professional climbing skills, though, if you just want to take a walk through the vineyards and enjoy the beautiful view of the city from the top of one of Vienna’s local hills like Cobenzl (382 metres) or Leopoldsberg (425 metres).
A walk through Europe’s oldest animal park, the Lainz Zoo, is also quite rewarding. The former imperial hunting grounds are home to wild pigs, deer and mouflons.
Donau-Auen National Park east of Vienna is one of the last major intact wetland environments in Central Europe with a unique fauna and flora in the immediate vicinity of the city.
New Danube and Danube Island
The Danube Island, the artificial flood-protection construction along the length of the river in Vienna, has long-since become a popular leisure-time location. In the summer, "the Island" attracts up to 10,000 people every day during the week and up to 300,000 on weekends. During the annual three-day Danube Island Festival this number then rises to three million. All sorts of cost-free sporting and recreational facilities are positioned along the 21.1 km length of the Island. Swimmers have bathing bays with flat beaches along which they can take a dip.
The whole extent of the island is suitable for hiking, jogging, bicycling and roller-skating. In addition the City of Vienna provides around 15 barbecue fireplaces, playing fields and sports grounds, for instance for beach volleyball. A water ski-lift, a water-slide, a surfing school, paddle-boat and bicycle hire points add to the attractions. The island, with its lighthouse, is thus an ideal rendezvous for rounding off the day in a relaxed way. This is made all the easier by the countless eating-spots serving everything from international cuisine to real home-made food, as well as by smart terrace restaurants, cocktail bars and discotheques.
Swimming in the open-air and in indoor pools
“If you build palaces for children you tear down prison walls”, was the motto of the Vienna Welfare Councillor Julius Tandler who was deeply concerned with improving the dire circumstances of Viennese children in the interwar period. The basic idea was to offer city children the possibility of enjoying cost-free swimming regardless of their social circumstances. To the present day there are ten public family pools with shallow basins suitable for children who have free entry up till the age of 15. This offer is complemented by more than 20 municipal swimming complexes and a number of privately run swimming complexes.
Thanks to its unique surroundings and the wonderful views it affords the Krapfenwaldlbad is one of Vienna’s most popular oudoor pools. It lies on a hilltop amid a pine forest between Grinzing and Kahlenberg. It was here, too, that one of the first separate facilities for naked swimming in Vienna was established. No less popular is the Schafbergbad whose opening in 1973 marked the beginning of an era of adventure pools. The largest and most popular open-air swimming complex, the Gänsehäufel, is an island in the Old Danube which came into being as a result of an early Danube regulation scheme. To the present day the Gänsehäufel, with its 3,500 or so trees, is an extremely beautiful bathing facility. On an area of 330,000 m2, it has a 1,200 m long natural beach on the Old Danube, with a separate area for nudists as well as modern pools.