Vienna is not the most pleasant place to be in the midst of a sweltering heatwave – especially when your friends and colleagues have headed off to the lake for some ‘sommerfrische’. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside in front of an electric fan, mopping your sweaty brow. Here are the best options for getting out and about but keeping cool.
For those who aren’t jetting off to the beach this summer the 21 kilometre-long Danube Island offers free sand and gravel beaches, sports facilities, restaurants and bars. It can be reached in just a few minutes from the city centre on U-Bahn line U1. The Gänsehäufel lido offers stand up paddling (SUP) for those who like to mix lounging by the water with some sport. There are wonderful views over the city from the Döblinger Pool, Schafberg Pool and Krapfenwald Pool. Virtually every swimming pool in Vienna includes several pools of different sizes and temperatures, often including a separate toddlers’ pool. Most are surrounded by shaded and grassy areas to give you some respite from the heat.
Head to a church
With around 25 churches in the first district alone, these places of worship are also a perfect spot to cool down and enjoy some quiet contemplation. The less well-known the church, the less likely you are to be surrounded by sweaty crowds. The Augustinerkirche and the Michaelerkirche in the first district are a welcome 24C – as well as being beautiful buildings that are well worth a visit. Taking a tour of the crypt in the Michaelerkirche will ensure you enjoy even cooler temperatures. The more well-known Stephansdom and Karlskirche are a warmer 28C and usually bustling with tourists – but the catacombs under the Stephansdom are only 14C.
Find some shade in a public park
Take a book and a bottle of water and sit under a tree. The bigger parks like Prater, the Augarten and the Lainzer Tiergarten have plenty of trees which offer welcome shade. Take a hammock to string between two trees if you have one. And don’t be afraid to strip down to swimwear if it’s hot – the Viennese are very relaxed about sunbathing and are comfortable wearing very little in the parks when the mercury rises.
Watch a movie at the cinema
Highly recommended when it’s sizzling. Most cinemas in Vienna are air-conditioned and can be a good way to escape the sunshine when you’ve had enough. If you don’t want to watch something that’s been dubbed into German look out for cinemas that play films marked with OV (original version), OmU (original version with subtitles) and OmeU (original version with English subtitles). The Burgkino, English Cinema Haydn, Filmcasino and Votivkino are some of our favourites.
Head to the bar of a fancy hotel
Fancy a gin and tonic in a cool setting? Why not head to one of the nicer hotels in the city? The legendary Blaue Bar at the Sacher Hotel is a great place for a stylish aperitif – although a couple of drinks might set you back a small fortune. The Hotel Bristol bar on the Ringstrasse is also delightfully cool and traditional. The luxurious Palais Coburg has a wine bar which is open to non guests and boasts an incredible 60,000 bottles (worth over €30 million). If you’re lucky, you might be able to persuade the barman to show you the six stunning cellars below, or you can also book one of their wine tasting tours. If the €170,000 bottle of Latour 61 Imperial isn’t in your budget you’ll be glad to hear that the excellent house Grüner Veltliner starts at just €4,50 a glass.
Find a shady Schanigarten
If you don’t like fancy hotels then find a table outside a cafe or restaurant – many of which are shaded with trees and plants – and sip on a classic Wiener Eiskaffee or an Aperol Spritzer. There are loads to choose from but we like the outdoor seating at the Georgian Cafe Ansari, on Praterstrasse, and the shaded tables and sofas at Heuer am Karlsplatz, as well as the Volksgarten Pavillon from where you can see the Hofburg palace. If you have the energy to take a drive or hike up to the Kahlenberg the views from the shady Heurige Sirbu will not disappoint. And if you fancy a drink and some dinner by the water head to Strandgasthaus Birner on the Alte Donau.
Give your lungs a break in the salt grotto
The Oceaneum artificial salt cave is just a minute’s walk from Landstrasse. Visitors can breathe in air enriched with salt at a pleasant room temperature of between 20 and 24C. The salt particles are supposed to be beneficial for those suffering from asthma, allergies or hay fever. A day ticket costs €14. Or if sitting in a salty room isn’t your thing why not go summer ice skating at the Stadthalle? The skating rink is a fresh 16C and you can glide around the rink knowing that you won’t be dripping with sweat afterwards. Open until October 20th.
Go deep underground
Descend into Vienna’s underworld and visit the original location of the classic The Third Man movie – the sewers. From May until October The Third Man tour gives groups an insight into the world of Harry Lime. From Karlsplatz, you enter via the original staircase featured in the film, and will find it’s a refreshing 23C down there (although it might smell a bit funny). The cholera canals were built in the 1830s and have been nearly untouched to this day. Modern projection and light technology lets visitors immerse themselves in the world of sewer workers, smugglers and spies. The tour lasts 45 minutes and is available in English daily at 3pm. Do reserve a ticket.