Before the lockdown, Vienna’s streets were swarming with hurried citizens; back and forth from home to work, exhausted faces, eyes half asleep. We were, perhaps, too busy to notice the pockets of nature in and around the city. But now they are more important than ever – with walks for physical and mental relaxation explicitly exempted from curfew rules, parks and green areas have turned into refuges from stuffy apartments, offering respite from our times. Here are five easily accessible green spaces to go for a walk during lockdown to maintain your sanity.
The Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna
Adjacent to the Baroque splendor of the Belvedere, Vienna’s Botanischer Garten is eight hectares large and contains more than 11,500 plant species. Established in 1754 by empress Maria Theresa, it’s not merely pretty and a great location to walk during lockdown; as part of the University of Vienna, it’s a major center for biodiversity research.
Its entrance is somewhat concealed and easy to miss; once you find it, however, it is easy to marvel at how extensive it is. With an astonishing variety of trees and both native and exotic plants, the noise of the whole city seems to stop as one enters its narrow paths. A tight cluster of tall green-glaucous bamboo (phyllostachys viridiglaucescens) rests at the center, adding a zen-like touch to the atmosphere. The garden is also home to numerous cheerful squirrels – both auburn and grey – which are a hit with visitors of all ages!
Open daily 10:00-16:00 from Nov. to Jan.
Reachable via U1 Hauptbahnhof or the D tram – Schloss Belvedere station.
A former hunting ground for the imperial family, Lainzer Tiergarten is an extensive 2,450-hectare wildlife preserve in the 13th district, replete with woodlands, picnic areas, forest playgrounds, hiking trails, and wildlife enclosures, it is a perfect place to walk during lockdown while keeping a safe distance. As a former game reserve, wild boars and red deer are common sights, but they are not alone – Lainzer Tiergarten is home to numerous animals, including over 94 species of birds, 15 types of reptile and amphibian, and 13 different kinds of bats; some of them quite rare and protected by various conservation laws.
One particular highlight is the Johannser Kogel, a pristine forest preserve where ancient oaks and other flora can be found – including the remains of a 400 year-old oak with a circumference of over four meters! Also noteworthy is the palatial Hermesvilla: a present from emperor Franz Joseph to his wife Elisabeth, this placid retreat still boasts most of its original furnishings and even has murals painted by Hans Makart and a young Gustav Klimt.
Children in particular will love the animal enclosures; in addition, there are two discovery trails that explain aspects of nature with displays and interactive elements. Please note, however, that wildlife preserves are not parks, and various rules are in place to not disturb the animals. Here are a few things that are not permitted: leaving the designated trails, lighting fires, bothering or feeding the animals, bringing dogs, cycling, roller skating, skateboarding, cross country skiing, playing ball and excessive noise.
For more information on routes as well as guided tours and events, visit the Besucherzentrum (visitor center) or check lainzer-tiergarten.at
Main gate: 13., Hermesstraße
Open daily 8:00-17:00
Main gate reachable via Straßenbahn 60 to Hermesstraße, then the 55A bus to Lainzer Tor; but there are several side entrances.
Vienna’s obsession with the morbid is well-established, so it should come as no surprise that the Zentralfriedhof is the second largest cemetery in Europe, with about 3 million occupants and about 25 new interments per day. Despite its macabre credentials, however, it’s a beloved spot for joggers, cyclists, and perfect to go for a walk during lockdown thanks to its pristine lawns and woodlands, which are home to numerous animals such as deer, squirrels, hamsters, falcons, and badgers.
Of course, it’s also the final resting place of most Viennese regardless of wealth, renown, or religion, including presidents and scientists, artists and celebrities – including Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, who were moved here from other cemeteries to be honored with spectacular memorials.
With its numerous monuments, interesting architecture, and tranquil atmosphere, the Zentralfriedhof is well worth an excursion. You can get there via the tram no. 71, which has serviced this route ever since the cemetery opened in 1874. In the past, it even transported caskets to the cemetery, thus creating the phrase “mit dem 71er fahren” (to take the 71), one of the many euphemisms for death in colloquial Viennese.
Reachable via tram lines 71 and 11 (gates 1,2,3 &4) and Schnellbahn S7 (gate 11)
Somewhat underappreciated compared to better-known parks like Schönbrunn or the Belvedere, the Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark is a charming English landscape garden on the slopes of the Schafberg with picturesque ponds, an elegant pavilion shaped like a Greek temple, and numerous statues. Erected during the 18th century, it became the property of the city and open to the public in 1935, and has been a popular getaway ever since. What’s more, it’s a natural monument under the protection of Vienna’s Environmental Protection Department MA 22 and the Municipal Garden Authority MA 42 due to the unique flora and fauna it contains, including owls and woodpeckers.
Sitting on one of its many benches lets you feel like a part of a painting, but the park also has facilities like free volleyball courts and football cages, animal enclosures, or lawns for sunbathing or picnicking. Activities for children abound, including an adventure playground with climbing walls and trampolines – and in wintertime, the gentle slopes are a great place for sledding!
Reachable via tram no. 41; Bus 10A, 35A, 39A
Opening Hours generally from dawn till dusk.
A national park on the outskirts of Vienna, the Nationalpark Donau-Auen offers nature in its purest form, with vast untouched wetlands stretched out over 9,600 hectares on the north shore of the Danube. Home to an extensive number of species from frogs, kingfishers, otters, beavers, and even eagles, it is a “green lung” and climatic regulator for the region. If you wish to go for a walk during lockdown surrounded by green, this is the place.
The park offers many activities (when permitted), from boat tours to guided hikes – all currently held without physical contact, socially distanced and with facemasks. For those who would like to explore on their own, there are several marked trails, varying from 2 to 5 kilometers. The visitor center at Orth castle is also well worth a visit during the warm months ( closed from Nov 1 – Mar 21)
For more information visit donauauen.at
Reachable via bus 92B from U2 Donaustadtbrücke or bus 93A from U1 Kagran – or an hour or so by bike from the southern tip of Donauinsel.