Under a night sky, boating can rekindle romance – if you avoid the obstacles

With schools out and the European Championships drawing to a close, it may be time for many couples to reboot their romantic life after weeks on the back burner. The summer months offer ample opportunities; but one that is a clear favorite among Viennese and visitors alike is a leisurely evening boat ride on the Alte Donau – an old side arm of the Danube turned urban oasis spanning the 21st and 22nd districts.

While all but a few boat rentals here close before sundown, an exception is made on full-moon evenings from May to September, when they extend their hours and offer special package deals, including a bottle of Sekt and a prepared picnic for two.

Few would choose a paddle-boat for a romantic evening; a rowboat outfitted with a comfy canvas deck chair is far better for ambiance. Those favoring less exertion can opt for an electric-boat with a fold-down backseat doubling as a cushioned spread for the picnic. And for ultimate comfort, the restaurant Shinakl rents out “sofa boats” or “floating islands” each with a sofa, table, LED lights on the gunwales, and catering upon request.

Photo ©Johann Pesl/ picturedesk.com-
Photo ©Johann Pesl/ picturedesk.com-

Sun, moon and stars
Though it’s billed as a full-moon boat ride, the real attraction here is the glorious sunset. As the sun descends over Kahlenberg in the West, the view from your boat becomes an impressionist masterpiece, burning red highlighting the sailboats’ jibs. The glass towers of Kaisermühlen mirror the spectacle of the brush-stroked evening sky. Swans swim gracefully by and their rippled wake creates a constantly changing, night-glow mix of pink, orange and indigo. Time to turn off the engine, pop open the wine and dig into your picnic.

As the bubbly starts to take effect and twilight settles to starlight, the full moon appears low on the eastern horizon, its size amplified by atmospheric refraction. Cue violins.

On paper at least, a full-moon boat picnic is a sure-fire romantic outing for any couple. But be forewarned: just as ants can ruin a picnic on land, there are a few potential buzz kills on the water as well:

Wildlife: Bring along the mosquito repellent. And don’t feed the swans, unless you want them stalking you all evening.

Algae: Despite regular “mowings” of the lakebed, a boat’s propeller can still get choked with stringy vegetation. No other way to fix it other than rolling up your sleeves and untangling the gunk from the prop blades. Keep to the deep water or rent a row boat.

Weather: If you’re very lucky, you’ll have a crystal clear night under a twinkling canopy of moon and stars, with no bracing wind to make your boat drift annoyingly and chill the mood, until you long for a Glühwein instead of that cold Sekt. But let’s face it, this is Vienna, not the Riviera. Bring a jacket, or snuggle up in a blanket. Which isn’t such a bad option.

Cost: A full-moon package deal will set you back from €35 to €70. Those on a budget can rent a boat from Seepferdchen on any other evening – the best time is actually the week before, when the waxing moon rises earlier. And your own gourmet picnic is strictly BYO.

Boat Rental Locations, Prices and Packages

Info on all offers (in German)

Metropole’s picks (in English)


Upcoming Dates

Reservations recommended!

Full-moon boat picnics on the Alte Donau
Jul 20, Aug 18, and Sep 16


Photo ©Stefan Fürtbauer/ picturedesk.com
Photo ©Stefan Fürtbauer/ picturedesk.com

Lichterfest (Light Festival) on the Alte Donau
Jul 23 (In case of rain, Jul 30)
On this evening, the boats and shoreline are decorated with lanterns, a DJ spins hit songs and a giant firework show will rock your boat.