There’s no question: Vienna loves its wine and the traditions that go with it. And few areas of the city encapsulate Vienna’s enduring love for liquid cheer than sleepy, picturesque Neustift am Walde.
Straddling the western outskirts of the 18th and 19th districts and near the Höhenstrasse, Vienna’s scenic Wienerwald thoroughfare, Neustift am Walde retains a distinct village ambiance, despite being well within city limits. Almost frozen in time, its rural charm extends well beyond its small borders: It’s particularly noted for its annual fair in August, the Neustifter Kirtag, where Vienna’s politicians, C-list celebrities and spritzer enthusiasts come together. (You may also meet up with a few expats from the neighborhood, drawn there by the nearby American International School.) Ostensibly celebrating the tax exemption granted in 1752 by Empress Maria Theresia to local vintners after a string of bad harvests, some would argue they are really enjoying the excuse to dust off their dirndls and lederhosen, sample this year’s wine and, above all, celebrate themselves. On any other day though – especially during the summer – it’s a much quieter place, when Neustift am Walde turns back into a charming time capsule of old Vienna, located among some of the regions’s most beautiful vineyards.
Wine and Spirit
So if you’re out for sushi or a third wave coffee house in Neustift, you’ll do so in vain. Staunchly traditionalist, what you will find are plenty of Heuriger (wine taverns) offering traditional Austrian cuisine to go with their own wines. Tracing its roots to a decree issued in 1784 by Emperor Josef II (Maria Theresia’s son) that allowed vintners to serve their own wine and homecooked meals directly from their premises, Neustift am Walde has attracted visitors ever since with its idyllic gardens, vineyards and culinary delights. Some family businesses are centuries old, often located right next to their own vineyards. Most of Neustift’s Heurigen are worth a visit just for their gardens alone.
One of the most well-known is Wolff, a family-owned Heuriger serving some of the area’s best wines since 1949. Behind the front door of their 18th century winery is a large inner courtyard and garden, a perfect place to enjoy a lazy afternoon surrounded by lush greenery and rustic Austrian architecture.
Another institution, Fuhrgassl-Huber has an outdoor terrace overlooking their vineyard and is well-known for impeccable Austrian cuisine, serving Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Stelze (ham hock) or Schnitzel. Don’t forget to study their wine menus: Both Wolff and Fuhrgassl-Huber have been awarded multiple prizes in Austria and abroad and are considered two of Vienna’s finest wineries.
Although family owned since the 1700s, Zeiler am Hauerweg has opted instead for a more modern style. In summer, their whole front yard is covered in deck chairs overlooking the vineyards and Neustift’s main road, making it a popular place to see and be seen. But if you really want an insider’s view, try Häuserl am Stoan (House on the Stone). Authentic, intimate and off the beaten path next to the Höhenstrasse, Häuserl am Stoan is open only four days a week, but offers a stunning view of Neustift. Don’t expect anything but broken English, though. But to be fair, the same applies to most of Neustift’s attractions. So brush up on your culinary vocabulary before venturing out into the wine frontier.
Into the Woods
Besides its wine culture, Neustift provides a number of welcoming green spaces to explore. Close to the American International School, Schwarzenbergpark is a perfect spot for a postprandial stroll after the Heurige. More than 190 acres and extending into the Wienerwald, it is one of the more pristine areas within the city limits. Neustift’s cemetery is also a fascinating place with long rows of beautiful headstones where Viennese dignitaries like Nobel laureate Friedrich August von Hayek rest overlooking the city.
Located right in the center of the Grätzl is the Neustifter Pfarrkirche, the parish church, a charming baroque chapel originally donated by Italian merchant Marco Abundio in 1713. Rising above the quiet alleys and courtyards, it sets the tone for the Grätzl – and acknowledging the expats nearby, holds an English-language mass each Sunday.
With generations of locals weaned on Neustift’s wines and atmosphere, it remains a cherished institution, easily matching the slightly swankier Grinzing but with far less hustle and bustle. The area hasn’t changed much over the years – and that’s exactly how the Viennese like it.