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250 years ago today, the emperor opened the imperial hunting grounds to the “common man” and “common woman.” Every Austrian child pays a visit to the amusement park after confirmation and at least twice in a lifetime (once as a child and once with their own children) every Austrian enjoys unparalleled views of Vienna from Prater’s “Riesenrad.” Personally, I love Vienna’s “green lungs” where the Fiakers go to sleep at night, the beavers build their homes and the attire of the chestnut trees reveal the season. Some of my favorite Prater pastimes include running, renting 4 person bikes and racing friends, consuming a greasy hunk of pork leg with freshly grated horseradish and frothing Budweis, and soaking in the beautiful Viennese sunsets from the Riesenrad. Prater is a required stop for all Vienna visits – no matter how old or young the visitors.


Viennese Prater Map

Viennese Prater Map

Check out my story about what other surprising things you can find in Prater:



How to Catch a Stray Horse – Running in Vienna’s Prater

I know a place where the path is wide, the air is sweet and time stands still.

So I guess you might call me a runner. Or maybe a slow jogger. OK. Let’s face it. I run at a speed walker’s tempo. So call me what you will.

But hey! Immerhin.

And what can beat an hour along an Allee lined with majestic chestnut trees? The sun’s golden fingers stretching through the boughs creating a Spiel of light and dark along the path. The ravens with their exalted demeanor perch on the sign posts along the way. Do you see the snails, laboradors, fiakers, bicyclists, unicyclists, rollerbladers, Nordic walkers and enjoying-the-dayers? Or have you dipped for a few precious moments into the world within? Should I have? Will I? And what happens when?

Vienna Prater Alle offers runners a 4 km // 8 km // or 12 km (with race track loop) running route

Vienna Prater Alle offers runners a 4 km // 8 km // or 12 km (with race track loop) running route

But you never know what can happen along a run. Maybe someone asks directions. Or you see an injured baby porcupine and help a passer by in a rescue effort. Or maybe something happens like it happened to me this past April.

A horse. So many horses. But wait! This one was different! Galloping. So freely. Too freely! I turned abruptly. Further down, around Lusthaus were cars and sometimes construction vehicles. What if…

I raced in her direction, calling to her sweetly, in a sing song voice. She slowed, stopped and dipped her head. The blades of grass here must be particularly sweet.

Carefully, caaarefully, I approached. “Hey there, you. Where you off too? You a hungry, girl? Look at you. So gorgeous” She nibbled, two eyes minding the grass, two ears minding me. “Lose your rider, girl? Hmm?” I held out my hand and waited. Then I gently rubbed her muzzle.

“Wow! She’s yours now!” From the corner of my eye I caught a pair of black running shorts and a red t-shirt. Fit and smiling, he wiped his sweat strewn brow and called over to me from the path, about 10 meters away.

“She’d never fit in my apartment,” I responded.

“You got her though. She was fast. You a rider?”

Prater is perfect for running

Prater is perfect for running

“No but I’ve ridden.” And who doesn’t love these gigantic gentle creatures?

“Well, looks like you know what you’re doing. Need help?” He asked, still not venturing a step closer.

“I’m good,” I responded, wrapping her reins around my hand.

Prater - where Fiakers go to sleep

Prater – where Fiakers go to sleep

Promptly he placed his headphones back on. “Good luck,” he called, looking relieved as he waved good-bye.

Did he mean me, or the horse?

As I child, I had always wished for a horse. Now I couldn’t help but recognize the irony of this wish coming true. Now. Like this. A Monkey’s Paw kind of gift. But the horse remained unfazed by the recent turn of events. There was grass to be eaten.

What does one do with an Irish Cob — a horse the size and stature of an Anheuser Busch Clydesdale? Wait for the beer wagon?

I remembered the race track Freudenau behind the Lusthaus. Whatever the case, they’d have stables and what difference would one horse more or less make? I clicked my tongue and coaxed her towards Lusthaus.

“See any riders without a horse?” I asked two joggers.

They paused, eyed me and turned to my equine companion for a rational explanation.

“I found a horse without a rider,” I continued, perturbed by the slightly really-I’m-not-crazy tone they provoked.

Seek and ye shall find.

“Hey!” A distinguished looking gentleman far beyond his retirement years straight off the cover of Fox Hunting and Country Estates emerged from the woods. He was decked out in a riding cap, jacket, pants, gloves, black rubber boots and a dressage whip which seemed a bit over the top. He approached us in a hop-skip –flapping-waving arms routine as speedily as his hop-skip-flapping-waving moves allowed.

And those joggers thought I looked crazy.

We waited. Everything about him screamed rider except for one significantly lacking item – a horse. My newfound friend seemed unimpressed by this gentleman. In fact, her demeanor conveyed an unmistakably indifferent air of  “Oh. There-he-is-again.”

“Such a naughty girl. Second time this week she’s gotten away from me.”

That’s right. Not once, but apparently twice, Darby girl high tailed it through the park. I patted her muzzle once more. God, I admired her tenacity.

Toss the load and take off running because I know a place where the path is wide, the air is sweet and time stands still.

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Prateralle distance from Lusthaus to underpass to Praterstern subway station: One way: 4 km // Round trip: 8 km. The path can be extended an additional four km by completing the circuit from Lusthaus, past the chapel Maria Grün back to the race track Freudenau and returning to Lusthaus.

Lusthaus – Maria Grün – Rennbahn

There are also numerous forest paths that lead every which way. Those more ambitious can run from Prater to the Danube or to the Danube Island (Donauinsel).

Distance markers, light paths at night

“Vienna’s green lungs” offers well-maintained running trails, paved, or with mulch or wooded.

Getting there: Parking is available for cars. Lots of people bike to Prater. If you want to take public, you can get there by subway (U1 or U2) to Praterstern or you can take the U2 to Donau Marina subway station and hop the 77A bus to the Lusthaus. Another alternative is to hop on the N tram from Schwedenplatz.




Chillin in Wien – Top 10 Ways To Keep Cool in Vienna’s Heat

10) Do a Film

Go to one of Vienna’s many cool cinemas just know that in Austria, when you buy your movie ticket, you are paying for a particular seat so prices vary and watch where you sit. An no worries, there are plenty of cinemas with English language films (but you should be practicing your German!)
a) Artis: English speaking films in original tone – Schultergasse 5 in the first district. Tickets can be purchased online and printed at home.You can go to Merkur at Hoher Markt (open weekdays till 9 pm and Saturdays till 6 pm) beforehand and grab something to snack on beforehand but there’s a sign in the cinema asking you not to bring food into the theater.  If you don’t plan ahead, the nachos always smell good and the popcorn can be recommended.

b) Haydn Cinema at Mariahilferstrasse 57 is another great cinema to catch English speaking films. Funky that you are underground too.

c) Burgkino: Opernring 19 (near the Opera, Karlsplatz Subway station): Films in original language. Burgkino is the loyalest “The Third Man” fan – the black and white film from Vienna with a chase through the Vienna sewers

d) Votiv Cinemas: Also films in their original language: Währingerstrasse 12 and Hessgasse 7/Schottengasse 5

9) Shop till you Drop

Go spend the day in an air-conditioned mall: Donauzentrum  (they actually have a Cinnabon here if you feel like your heart is getting too little artery clogging substances with so much organic, non-hormone produced foodstuffs). There’s also a Running Sushi too. Live a little. You know you want to.

8) Go on a Joy Ride

Schottenring U2 Subway Tunnel

Schottenring U2 Subway Tunnel

Grab one of Vienna’s free tabloids (if you’re lucky you’ll get a free Standard and look more intellectual) and then pretend you are James Franz Hans Joyce and do a modern day Vienna Odyssee tour on public transportation while reveling in the air conditioning. Just don’t get stuck on one of the charming but painfully unairconditioned old trams. Somehow on hot days, these trams also seem to attract folks who skipped a day without the proper deodorant.

Sommerfrische in Austria's Mountains

Sommerfrische in Austria’s Mountains

7) Go Away

Do as the Viennese do and leave the city for some “Sommerfrische” in the mountains like in Semmering.

6) Check out some Klimt, Cathedrals and Catacombs
Hang out with the artists and saints by visiting one of the city’s museums or cathedrals. The major museums will be air-conditioned and the tall thick stone walls of the cathedrals keep them cool as well.
Here’s a few to get you started:
a) Leopold Museum: my favorite with Klimt, Schiele, Hoffmann, and so many more great Austrian artists (and lovely modern architecture)

b) Kunsthistorisches Museum: beautiful art and stunning old building. I wrote about their great audio guides here:

Art History Museum, Vienna

The halls of Vienna’s Art History Museum

Maria am Gestade

Maria am Gestade

c) Albertina: – can’t begin to list all the famous artists here (Rembrandt, Schiele, etc) and amazing exhibitions

a)St. Stephansdom and its catacombs

b)Kaisergruft/ Imperial Crypt I wrote about the Imperial Crypt in my blog about Vienna and death:

c) Minoriten Church / Church of the Italians – the perfect excuse to see the Last Supper replica I tried to drag you too a few blogs ago:

Minoriten Church

Minoriten Church

d) Maria am Gestade: Go here at night – the view from the steps below will take your breath away.

5) Park it: Prater – Vienna’s “Green Lung” and Vergnügungspark (Amusement Park)

Head to Prater and maybe catch a stray horse there like I once did or hang out on one of the park benches under the shade of the Chestnut trees along Prater Alle, cool off with a liter of Czech Budweiser at the Schweizerhaus or take a ride on some cool attractions such as Prater Turm (Prater Tower) the 117 meter high tower visible from much of the city, sitting next to your sweetheart as you zoom around in a circle at 60 km/hr at a height of 95 meters for 3 – 4 minutes chastising yourself for gobbling down the Schweinsstelze (greasy pork leg) at Schweizerhaus and liter of Budweiser BEFORE the ride . If you can’t be talked into the Prater Turm, the Luftikus might be a good compromise. It also swings high up in the air, spinning you until you are so dizzy you forgot you were ever hot, or in Vienna, or started the ride with some change and your iPhone in your pocket. Personally I’d be more for the Wildalpenbahn (Wild Alp Channel) where you hold on for dear life and just get a bit soaked. After all, it has the word “wild” in the title so you are bound to win some bravery points back after kindly declining the Prater Turm and as an extra bonus, you are more likely to maintain your lunch (unless you hang out with a mischievous bunch (and who wouldn’t) and they start spinning your Alpen raft). If there is someone in the group you definitely don’t want to have to offer to wash their clothing for, then you might want to play it safe and just do the Aquagaudi (Aqua=water, Gaudi (pron: GowDee)= fun) which back at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, we referred to as the Logjammer.

4) Go for a Swim

Vienna has a ton of pools but if it is hot, they are bound to be crowded –  here are some of the ones you might be tempted to check out and what I associate with each:
a) Krapfenwaldbad – beautiful old wooden lockers, turn of century architecture, tall trees of Vienna woods and small pool
b) Schafbergbad – best view of the city
c) Schönbrunnerbad – nestled in gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, beautiful, old, small and busting at the seams with people on hot days
d) Praterbad: tall trees offering lots and lots of shaded green space, different pools to choose from
e) Gänsehäufl: nice natural beach along Danube with pool, and a FKK Beach (naked beach which sounds much more alluring before witnessing the leathery skinned corpulent bathers who hang out there and obviously missed the memo that too much sun is bad you – ohh the good old days of fold-out foil sun reflectors and cocoa sun oil)
f) Dianabad: indoor “amusement” pool with turbo jet slide, whirlpool and pirate ship.

3) Rent a boat and jump into the Alte Donau
While paddling or pedaling (choose your boat), do not be alarmed if you see the naked people slathered in oil and subjecting themselves to a slow bake in the sun along the shore — see 2e above. If it is very hot, take the boat with the slide option but be sure you know how to swim before jumping overboard because there are no lifeguards here. Do what the Aussies do, take a six pack along, tie it to the boat and keep it cool in the water. Just don’t drink and drive (even if you are on a pedal boat)

am Donaukanal, Vienna, Austria

am Donaukanal, Vienna, Austria

2) Do some “Chillen” at one of the Donaukanal Beach Bars

Because you’re cool, have interesting friends and lounging around “chillin” with a cold beer or Aperolspritz in hand while sinking down into a beach chair, digging your toes into the sand smack dab in the middle of the city and watching crazy people jogging, biking and sweating along the canal in the merciless heat is Schadenfreude pur, and just plain wicked. And cool.
a) Tel Aviv Beach: complete with cool sprayers on hot days
b) Adria – right next to bridge
Ben & Jerry’s: Beer and ice cream – what could be better? (except maybe brownies and beer)
c) Strandbar Hermann: on the “other side” of the canal close to the Urania and a great place for public viewing (of soccer)
d) Badeschiff: I admit, I snuck this on though it’s not a beach bar. However, it is along the canal and a place for bikinis and beer so it deserved to get past the blog beach bar bouncer bullies

Tel Aviv Beach, Donaukanal, 2nd District, Beach Bar, Vienna

Tel Aviv Beach, Donaukanal, 2nd District, Beach Bar, Vienna

1) Grab an Ice Cream or Frozen Yoghurt

Because an excuse to have some ice cream will always top my list.
Lots of great Italian ice-cream places in the first district around Schwedenplatz, Rotenturmstrasse, Hohemarkt and Tuchlauben and in the 5th district along Mariahilferstrasse.
a) Eis Greissler: Total thumbs up for “Ice cream from the countryside” all natural with no artificial coloring, aroma, preservatives or other chemicals . Vegan flavors also available. All flavors except 2 made without eggs. Organic milk from their very own cows. Just follow the queue at Rotenturmstrasse 14 into the small room no bigger than a showcase with ice cream and be bold or boring (a scoop of goat cheese ice cream on top of some pumpkin seed oil ice-cream or just a scoop of dark chocolate with vanilla). Also can be found at Mariahilferstrasse 33.

Zanoni Ice Cream Vienna

Zanoni Ice Cream Vienna

b) Zanoni Ice Cream – Around forever at Lugeck with lots of tables inside and out on the Rotenturmstrasse, Julius Meinl grocery store or Mariahilferstrasse

c) Tuchlauben Ice Cream on Tuchlauben “Family tradition since 1962”

d) Gelateria Hoher Markt: Fabio de Prophetis has been scooping out ice cream here for over 20 years. The advantage? You can watch the Ankeruhr from here and there is a public water fountain right beside it where you can sit on some marble stones, hang out and eat your ice cream cone or go full monty and opt for a table and dish of ice cream on a table outside or in.

e) Schwedenplatz Ice Cream “Family Molin-Pradel since 1886” This place is known for constantly changing flavors and they have been around quite a long time but they keep things up to date with an ice cream calendar app you can load on to your smart phone to be in the know on the latest flavors. Very cool, very geeky and very ice cream fixated.

f) Castelletto: Corner of Schwedenplatz and Rotenturmstrasse. For me they are still the new guy on the block but the location is good though outside tables are packed in along the sidewalk.

a) Kurt Frozen Yoghurt: I LOVE their flying cow logo and if that isn’t enough to lure you inside, the yoghurt and toppings should. They also do a mean waffle. Located in the first district at either Schultergasse 2 or Krugerstrasse 12. I like the cobblestone lane at the Schultergasse. It is especially convenient before grabbing a film at Artis.

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