by Amina Frassl and Fausia S. Abdul
The Viennese survived summer’s first heat wave with mist blowers, ice cream, and more AC than ever before. For a more eco-friendly assault on urban heat, the City of Vienna has launched “an 8-million-euro package for trees and greenery”to transform heat islands to ‘cool’ places in the districts.” But trees don’t grow over night, so these measures will take time.
If a second heat wave hits in the mean time, remember the poets and try these favorite places to cool down.
The pilot project has finally been installed. At 18 places in six districts, find spray showers, turf, and benches on shared sidewalks. Cars and parking have been banned from the areas, transforming the locations into an escape from the city heat. A good place to refresh and hang out… all summer long. Longer term, the city is planning on building four permanent locations. More to come next summer.
Take a Dip
Your beach vacation may have been canceled this year, but no worries: Vienna has an abundance of al fresco pools and river banks perfect for taking a dip on a hot summer’s day. From relaxing at the Gänsehaufel, on the forested island along the Old Danube, to splashing in the water while enjoying a stunning panoramic view of the city at the Krapfenwaldlbad – there are plenty of options. Here is Metropole’s ultimate swimming pool guide – you will definitely find a place that suits you.
A Green Oasis
WEST at the Sophienspital is a new hotspot, a Museumsquartier for the seventh district. A green oasis across from Westbahnhof, there are food trucks, lounge chairs, and live outdoor events. Grab a drink at the bar with your friends and hang out under the trees while listening to some old-school rock. Every Saturday, from noon to 6 p.m., find vintage vinyl records and 60s polka dot dresses at Zum wilden [Floh]markt (at the wild, i.e. unregulated, flea market) where anyone is welcome to sell their belongings for extra cash.
‘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 are a different world. Twenty-five downtown church buildings, for instance, offer a moment of respite – and the less well-known, the less likely fellow escapees are there 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.
But the churches’ catacombs – often with 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 suitably Viennese fashion. The Michaelerkirche offers a constant 24C upstairs; its Capuchin Crypt holds the mortal remains of the Habsburgs.
While most churches are open to the public, they are still active places of worship – so look for scheduled masses to join or avoid, and note that others may be there to pray.
The Lungs of the City: the Wienerwald
The ancient wisdom: 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. “We achieve a real cooling with plants,” says Rosemarie Stangl, researcher of BOKU. “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.
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 sewers. Guests troop down the original staircase into the “Cholera canals”, built for the ages in the 1830s and unchanged to this day. At a depth of seven meters, learn about the Vienna water and drainage system while enjoying the cool temperatures – and the occasional fleeting whiff of our human eliminations. A rose by any other name…!
Pro tip: Two-thirds of all trams and U-Bahn cars are now air-conditioned, so hop aboard. If the throngs are not your thing, you can rent a stylish e-scooter and zoom at up to 25 km per hour between the spots mentioned above. Would-be riders can choose between six different vendors in town, all bookable via app. This breezy alternative lets riders avoid the closeness of train and tram. Even breezier and better for planet earth (and your personal fitness): Ride your bicycle, or sign up for Citybike.
This article was originally published on July 10, 2019. The current article was updated due to the current situation.