How to Relax in Urban Vienna

Finding ways to take it easy in the city bustle can give you new strength in health and spirit

It’s Monday; you wake up to a leak in your kitchen and a panicked email from your boss. Your heart rate escalates, your mind clouds over… and it’s only 7:30 AM. The melee of modern life rarely slows long enough for you to get ahead of the chaos.

So where do you even start? Start fasting on Fenchel and Fladenbrot? Hole up in a Jägerhütte? Get thee to a nunnery?

There’s a lot of talk about achieving something called “mindfulness,” but you have a job, and probably a partner and maybe a family. How do you integrate such ethereal notions into your very real life here in Vienna? This guide will show you some concrete ways to find that proverbial “happy place.” And leave the fasting to the yogis on their snowy mountaintops.

For a start, mindfulness is quite simple – a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment. The key is establishing a routine of daily meditation, a technique for slowing down your heartbeat and quieting your mind. This may sound daunting; you were never all that great at self discipline. But no worries, there’s an app for that! And besides, it feels good and can do wonders for your health.

From calm to cats

Meditation has a multitude of proven benefits, including reducing stress and the fear response, as well as building a stronger immune system, better concentration and improved overall happiness. The Headspace and Calm app make meditating fun and easy, with guided meditations, starting at ten minutes a day. If you are looking for a more structured setting to get you started, drop into an all-levels English meditation class at the Kadampa Meditation Center. In this pristine space, you will hear Buddhist teachings on life and meditate with others in a friendly and peaceful setting.

If meditation isn’t really your thing, mindfulness can be cultivated in a range of activities. One good way might be a yoga class at Doktor Yoga’s new 7th district location. With beautiful sun-drenched rooms, talented teachers and stunning rooftop views, you enter and exit on cloud nine in just under 80 minutes. By helping you become more limber and relaxed, yoga benefits both mental and physical health, and helps you be aware of how you feel, to be “present” with your body. You may also want to try out some Yin Yoga, a lesser-known type of yoga which stretches deep tissues and helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

Mindfulness can follow us to the table as well, so you might try a mid-day farm-to-table feast at Naturkost St. Josef. A delicious daily lunch menu sourced from organic farms graces the trays of this cafeteria-style vegetarian eatery – Attached to the industrial-chic restaurant is a quaint organic market. All around good karma.

Animals can also teach us a lot about being present. At Cafe Neko you can sample Japanese treats and sip on coffee while musing around with feline friends who are not your responsibility – no can openers and kitty litter. “Like all pure creatures, cats are practical,” wrote William S. Burroughs. And in fact, when we hang out with cats, we get a shot of oxytocin, the cuddle hormone and stress-killer, and our serotonin and dopamine levels are increased, improving our mood.

Inside & out

If you are allergic to cats, why not donate some time to the Red Cross; it feels good to give back to people in need, and fills your karma bank with a massive dose of good vibes.  Pick a cause that interests you and assign an afternoon you might otherwise waste in front of a screen. Helping others gives a sense of purpose, lifting our mood and offering perspective.

The tactile molding of clay and rhythmic repetition of the potter’s wheel can be another kind of meditation, which you can find at a ceramics workshop at common room, mingling with international artists and working on perfecting your own pottery. A center for art, design, and creativity on Florianigasse in the 8th district, you can find a range of outlets for your inner artist, and meet kindred spirits along the way.

If you’re overdue for a vacation (because honestly, who isn’t nowadays), try marinating in the blissful waters of Therme Wien, on Kurbadstraße in the 10th district. This urban oasis boasts a spa, sauna, pool and a multitude of other attractions built to soothe you into a lasting glow. Splurge a little on their day vacation package and get pampered like royalty, or book the after-work ticket.

A ramble in the greenery can also relieve our stress, and we don’t even need to travel to the countryside. In May, spring is already in full bloom at the Botanical Garden behind the Belvedere, where 11,500 species span the 1,500m2 sprawling park. Get up close and personal with a 70-year-old bonsai or wander through the bamboo forest to find some inner peace.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Mindfulness can be curated to fit any lifestyle. So stay curious about your city and explore what engages you. And bring some urban Zen to your life.


Sources: National Center for Biotechnology Information, The American Journal of Psychiatry, American Psychological Association, Medical News Today

Your Keys to Calm

Headspace and Calm apps

Learn meditation with a no-frills, easy-to-use interface designed for beginners. Start with only ten minutes a day and reap the rewards of your daily medita-tion habit.

Kadampa Meditation Center

Discover or deepen your practice in a serene sanctuary environment at this 7th district meditation center.

Doktor Yoga

Strengthen your body and mind in style at Vienna’s best and brightest yoga studio, locations in the 1st and 7th district.

Naturkost St. Josef

Sample organic, vegetarian, farm-to-table fare at this eclectic neighborhood lunch spot. Eat your karma too!

Cafe Neko

Hang loose with feline friends in the concrete jungle at this Japanese-inspired cafe.

Red Cross

Give back to the community and feel the lasting glow of good karma. Check out their website for current available positions.

Common Room

Putter around with clay all day and explore the international artist community while picking up a new skill and making a few stunning ashtrays.

Therme Wien

Explore the thermal landscape while you sink into a blissful state at Vienna’s largest spa.

Botanical Gardens

Discover rare species, take in the blossoming beauty and learn about the natural world in this pristine park in Vienna’s 3rd district.

Lana Sharp
Lana Sharp is a contributor and jill-of-all-trades, who has been living in vienna for the past 8 years. She works as a stylist and writes Haikus on Instagram @goodmorninghuman. She has a one-eyed Persian rescue cat.

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