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VIENNA

The best spots to recharge on the weekend in Vienna

There is no shortage of options for relaxation and recharging in Austria's capital. Here are a few suggestions

The Peace Pagoda in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash
The Peace Pagoda in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash

Vienna has a number of excellent places for its residents to enjoy over the weekend. 

A government focus on improving the quality of life for the city’s people created a capital with an extensive public transport system leading to several parks, commerce, culture and much more.

Many of these are entirely free to visit, and some have affordable rates.

A walk through Schönbrunn’s gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for example, is free, while coffee in one of Vienna’s most famous and traditional coffee houses, where people like Trotsky and Freud would sit to read the latest newspapers, would set you back €3.80. 

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From parks to cafes, spas and even a Buddhist monument, here are a few of the best places to unwind and recharge over the weekend in Vienna.

Schönbrunn garden, Lobau and Setagaya

One of the most touristic places in Vienna is also one of the best for a hideout, as incredible as it sounds. The parks of the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace the Habsburg summer retreat are free to enter and open all year round since 1779.

It extends for 1.2km from east to west and approximately one kilometre from north to sound. Together with the palace, it is on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

There are many monuments, fountains, benches, and spots in nature to sit and relax.

The Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria Photo by Akshaye Sikand on Unsplash

The Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Akshaye Sikand on Unsplash

Vienna is surrounded by parks and woods, some more famous than others. They all offer great areas for recreation, hikes, and just chilling by their benches.

The Lobau park, located inside Danube-Auen National Park, is also known as Vienna’s jungle. A 2,300-hectare area east of the capital protects one of the last major floodplain landscapes in Central Europe.

It’s an excellent place for biking, hiking, and observing different species of plants and animals.

A smaller and more peaceful option is the 4,700sq/km Setagaya park in the 19th district of Vienna. The area was planned by Japanese garden designer Ken Nakajima almost 30 years ago and is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms, ponds and bamboo gates.

The park, however, is closed in winter and will open in April for visitors – no dogs are allowed. 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about owning a pet in Austria

Indoor nature

Those looking for indoor places but still wanting to be close to nature have many options in Vienna. From the Schmetterlinghaus, where you can walk in the middle of butterflies, to its neighbouring Palmenhaus, where Viennese can enjoy coffee and a piece of Topfenstrudel surrounded by palm trees, there are many options. 

The city’s aquarium, Haus des Meeres, is also a great place to walk among monkeys and birds and pretend like you are in a tropical city. Perfect for the cold and windy Viennese days. 

Vienna is also the city of coffeehouses. You can spend your days roaming through the different and beautiful spots without visiting any of them twice.

A waitress steps out of the Cafe Sperl in Vienna. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN (Photo by ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP)

The Cafe Central is the call for a more famous and traditional option. Those who prefer to recharge in a cosy environment can go to Vollpension, where senior citizens bake delicious treats. When days are cold, Cafe Jelinek offers armchairs by a fireplace. 

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Therme Wien Oberlaa

Austria is famous for its thermal areas, with stunning mountain spas, especially in the Alps. But for Viennese, Therme Wien, also known as Oberlaa, is undoubtedly the place to go to unwind and recharge. There are several zones: spa, sauna, tranquillity, adventure, beauty, relaxation and more.

The complex also offers different options and services for booking, including an “after-work” ticket for around € 30 to explore the various pools, saunas and jacuzzis.

Vienna Peace Pagoda

The Vienna Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist structure located near the water, or better yet, by the Donau in the city’s second district.

https://mobile.twitter.com/lindinger/status/1261202031508893696

The white monument symbolises unity in peace. The Pagodas are created to “spread love and peace” and share a “message of compassion and peaceful coexistence”.

Not a bad message to share, especially in times like this. 

READ MORE: How the New Danube protects Vienna from catastrophic floods

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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