The Viennese survived summer’s first heat wave with mist blowers, ice cream, and more AC than ever before. For a more eco-friendly fight against the urban heat, the City of Vienna has launched a plan for “a 2.3-million-euro package for greenery on roofs and facades, more fog sprinklers and the transformation of heat islands to ‘cool’ places in the districts.” But these measures will take time.
If a second heat wave hits before the trees grow, remember the poets and try these five favorite places to cool down.
1. ‘Icy Silence’ in the Inner City
Schwarzenbergplatz is on record as the hottest place in the city. But while façade-to-façade masonry traps heat on the streets, the interiors of the massive stone structures offer relief. Twenty-five downtown church buildings, for instance, offer a moment of respite – and the less well-known, the less likely fellow escapees to raise the temperature. The Stephansdom and Karlskirche are tourist hot spots both figuratively and literally – many of the city’s 20 million annual visitors tarry in these famous cathedrals.
Yet the churches’ catacombs – which often charge an entrance fee – hover at 14C even at peak season. These offer a perfect spot for “the living hand of the warm and capable” to cool off while contemplating history, mortality and perhaps a few dark lines of Keats –,obsessed with death in a suitably Viennese fashion. The Michaelerkirche offers a constant 24C upstairs; its Capuchin Crypt features the mortal remains of the Habsburg Monarchs.
While most churches are open to the public, they are still active places of worship – so look out for scheduled masses to join or avoid, and note that other visitors may be there to pray.
2. The Lungs of the City: the Wienerwald
Make like a tree and leaf for the Wienerwald, bough-ing to the forest’s air-cooling powers on one of the many trails out of the city. Rosemarie Stangl, researcher of BOKU, said: “We achieve a real cooling with plants. Within the same square meter you can find two different temperatures with well-placed greens.” Plants evaporate water from the soil, leading to cooling – so any green area will do. Hietzing, the most-wooded district in the city, is thus also the coolest. Tales of Viennese life have long been told here, and you can add your own.
3. A River Runs Beneath It
Equipped with a helmet and a headlamp, the Third Man tour follows the trail of the classic film through the bowels of the city. Guests troop down the original staircase into the Cholera canals, built in the 1830s and unchanged to this day. At a depth of seven meters, learn about the Vienna water and sewage system while enjoying the cool temperatures – and the fleeting whiff of our human eliminations. A rose by any other name would spell as sweet!
4. “Cool Mile”
The pilot project arches installed. These will be put up in four places on the shared sidewalks. A good place to be… next summer. Until then, if you are in melt down on Mariahilfer Straße, leap into one of the air-conditioned department stores or cafes for a respite.
5. Keep Moving
Pro tip: Two-thirds of trams and U-Bahn cars are now air-conditioned, so hop aboard. If the throngs are not your thing, rent a stylish e-scooter and zoom at up to 25 km per hour from one between the spots mentioned above. Would-be riders can choose between six different vendors in town, all bookable via app. This breezy alternative lets drivers avoid the closeness of train and tram cars. Even breezier and better for planet earth (and exercise): Ride your bicycle, or sign up for CityBike.