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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. 

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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.

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. 

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One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Vienna is undoubtedly one of the best and most beautiful cities in the world. If you only have 24 hours to spare, here's what not to miss.

One day in Vienna: How to spend 24 hours in the Austrian capital

Vienna is by far the most visited Austrian city. Data from Statistics Austria shows that the capital received more than 17 million tourist overnight stays a year – at least in a pre-pandemic year.

Austria’s second most visited city is Salzburg, with more than three million tourist overnight stays in 2019.

With a long history and the beautiful buildings and constructions that only a city which was the capital of an empire for hundreds of years can have, Vienna – Wien, to the locals – is definitely worth the visit.

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Also, definitely worth an extended visit. But as weekend train rides become more common in Europe and low-cost flights make it possible for quick holidays across the continent, many visitors only have a few hours to spend in this historical town.

While it might seem impossible to see all, there is to see in Vienna in only 24 hours (and it is!), The Local has asked for the help of Robert Eichhorn, a Vienna-accredited tourist guide and a born and raised Viennese with an eye for the unique parts of town.

If you only have 24 hours in Vienna, arriving around 2 pm on a Saturday and leaving at around the same time on a Sunday, here are a few things you could do to make the most of the city.

Vienna’s St. Stephen Cathedral, in the first district (Photo by Dan V on Unsplash)

Start out with the first district

The Austrian capital is divided into 23 districts. The first is the central, where many historical sightings and political buildings are located. The remaining districts spiral from that, with 21 and 22 located just across the Danube river.

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In the first district, you will find many of the most impressive places.

“Even for those who are not church fans, a visit to St. Stephen’s Cathedral should not be missed”, Eichhorn says.

The landmark stands for centuries in the heart of the city. It offers not only a postcard picture (literally) and a beautiful interior but also amazing views, as our tour guide explains that it is possible to reach the top of the big spire (343 steps by foot) or the smaller taller (by elevator) to enjoy the city from above.

If you enjoy the religious history, it is also possible to, from St. Stephen’s, reach Ruprechtskirche, one of the oldest churches in Vienna. “From there, it’s just a stone’s throw to the City Temple of the Viennese Jewish Community in Sitenstättengasse and the Ankeruhr at Hoher Markt”, describes Eichhorn.

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Heading East from Ankeruhr, you will reach one of Vienna’s beautiful city parks. Actually, the city park: Stadtpark, the 19th-century park with a lake and a river. This is a fantastic starting point to Vienna’s incredible Ring Road.

“The Ringstrasse was built in the second half of the 19th century, and there are numerous buildings important for the city”, Eichhorn explains. Walking from the Stadtpark, with a short detour to visit the beautiful Karlskirche, it is possible to follow the road and see some of the main attractions, including the Vienna State Opera, Burggarten, the Hofburg, the Museumsplatz, the Parliament and Vienna’s City Hall (Rathaus), all the way to the beautiful Votivkirche.

“I would recommend taking a break in the coffee house in the Burggarten Palm House”, our tour guide notes.

“The historic ambience makes it a great place to relax”, he adds.

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For the evening attractions

Truth be told, the Ringstrasse and its beautiful buildings also shine with the facade lights, and a walk around the first district could seem totally different depending on the time of the day – or the season in the year.

But if you want to have “old-school Viennese”, as the born-and-raised Eichhorn says, then a trip to a Heurigen would be suitable. Those are the typical and traditional Viennese wine taverns.

“They are located on the city’s outskirts but can be reached by public transport well”.

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A less rustic option, but central, is the so-called (even by locals!) Bermuda Triangle, an area in the first district with plenty of pubs and bars.

“Or maybe end the day with a concert?” suggests Eichhorn. “Vienna has an incredible amount of music events to offer, from classical to modern music”.

The next morning

As you prepare to enjoy your final hours in the beautiful city, how about heading to a genuinely imperial and impressive palace?

The beautiful Schönbrunn Palace, in Vienna, viewed from the Gloriette, accessible from the palace gardens (Copyright: Schloss Schönbrunn Kultur-und Betriebsges mbH, Severin Wurnig)

It only takes about 30 minutes with the metro from the first district to Schönbrunn Palace. “It is the summer residence of the Habsburgs, the imperial family. An impressive palace and a beautiful garden complex”, Eichhorn explains.

Schönbrunn is really a crown jewel, and no visit to Vienna would be complete without going there. The palace gardens also house a modern zoo worth visiting – but could be cutting it close with the time, according to Eichhorn.

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There might be still just enough time for a traditional Austrian meal as you head out your way: try the schnitzel and potato salad if you eat meat. For vegetarians, the Käsespätzle is a very typical one (especially in the Austrian mountains).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many vegan choices for traditional meals, but more and more restaurants offer vegan options.

Vienna also houses several beer gardens, where you can eat and drink local foods and beers just before taking your train back home.