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Sumer in Vienna is a fleeting gift. The weather will suddenly turn from occasionally sunny with rainy days in-between, to a completely engulfing heat for 2 weeks straight. It doesn’t last long – but when it hits, you need to be ready for where to go. To prep your perfect summer evening plans here’s a few tips and tricks to maximise your days in the sun.
5 Summer Bars better than Sand in the City
I don’t want to be a hater but, let me begin with one warning – Avoid Sand in the City. As a newcomer in town or maybe even as a local re-discovering your favourite summer watering holes, you will inevitably end up at Sand in the City. Centrally located right by the Stadtpark, overhyped by gushing reviews and (perhaps) your tour guide, Sand in the City will lure you in with it’s false promises and spit you out with an empty wallet and shattered dreams. On the surface it’s great; a beach bar in the city centre! Multiple food and drink outlets to choose from! Volleyball courts! Perfect post-work drinks spot! I have been suckered in year after year – but in reality? It’s overpriced, the food is not fantastic, the queues are long, you can’t ever get a place on the volleyball courts and worst of all? There’s no real beach feeling. You will spend your evening staring at the gigantic hotels shadowing the venue the and wonder why you’re putting up with sand in your handbag to stare at a concrete monolith. But you will end up here at some point this summer – I will too – Sand in the City is as inevitable as the funky stench on the U6 on a hot Friday afternoon.
Lest I be in danger of becoming too Viennese and negative in my approach to Summer in Vienna, here’s my pick of alternatives for you to really enjoy the summer vibes in the city.
#1. Hermann’s Strandbar. A classic beach bar spot among locals, Hermann’s is huge, located along the Donaukanal and is a stunning spot for both families and those out for a party-summer vibe. Sitting nearby the Urania building and easily accessible from Schwedenplatz, Hermann’s has a large amount of beachy seating, accessible volleyball courts, big pavilions for Friday night drinks, a multitude of bars so service isn’t too slow and fun events on most weekends. From big screen displays of football matches and Eurovision, to Silent Disco’s and morning Yoga, Hermann’s is pretty beloved. I may also have a soft spot for the place from my first summer in Wien, when the sandy beach and chilled out vibe reassured me that living in a European capital in summer didn’t necessarily mean I had to miss out on beachside living.
Stefan and I at Hermann’s in 2013, our first summer together in Vienna. Definitely looking younger & blonder!
#2. Vienna City Beach Club. Another well-known hangout, Vienna City Beach Club has the advantage of being waterside, so the feeling of a ‘beach bar’ is immediate, plus the sand is cleaner and again, there’s plenty of space. This venue spreads quite a way along the Neue Donau, very close to the Donaustadbrücke Ubahn station. There are multiple parts to the Vienna City Beach Club (or VCBC) including a big volleyball area (apparently a must in all beach bars, Austrian’s love active relaxation as I discovered last summer!). There’s also a Paddle-boarding area, a VIP garden, a dance area, the Badefluss with cosy beach chairs available, a stand-alone restaurant boat, the main bar and the strand area. The advantage of all these different areas is that you can choose what suits you best. I prefer to come here in early to late afternoon to catch the sunset along the Neu Donau with a drink in hand, before the place gets too full. It tends to get a bit trendy and too clubby for me after dark. Yes, I am an old lady, and yes I am ok with that at the ripe old age of 29!!
View from VCBC strand bar
#3. Donaukanal. There are loads of fantastic little pop-up beach bars along the Donaukanal. All you need to do is find a staircase down from Schwedenplatz and a world of hipster bars opens up to you. One of the better known favourites of bloggers is Tel Aviv beach bar, which has been going strong since 2010. Summer stage is another classic venue, but you can find plenty of smaller, less trendy bars just by strolling along the Canal. I’d suggest you start with the Badeschiff in the early afternoon for a refreshing swim in the pool that’s ON the boat – it’s the closest and safest way you will ever swim in the Donaukanal! Then, while away your afternoon hopping from a grill spot to a relaxed beach bar and who knows, maybe you’ll end up at one of the renown clubs tucked in beside the Canal by the end of the evening.
#4. Marina. A classy alternative- this is an awesome reward destination if you cycle through the city and out along the Donauinsel. The prices are a bit heftier than most of Vienna’s bars but the quality is magnificent. Expect to see some ‘proper Viennese’ here – we’re talking ladies with big glossy hair, dripping in pearls, and preppy kids wearing outfits you can’t afford. Even so, we managed to snag a table looking pretty casual. Here you can enjoy an afternoon with friends sharing a few rounds of drinks and snacking. (I’m gradually discovering my summer activities revolve around drinks, snacks and being beside the water!)
#5. Dragonerhaüfel. This is my weekend favourite. It won’t work for knock off drinks on a Friday night, but this is the place to go if you intend to spend a full day relaxing, sunbathing, swimming and, if you’re pure Austrian, playing sports. If you’re pure Australian, reading magazines between dips in the river is also an option. Pack a picnic blanket, your reading materials, some water and a towel and you are good for the day here. Often there’s a mobile cocktail bar selling Aperol spritzers and Hugo’s (genius), plus the regular Würstelstand that provides snacks, beers, radlers and ice creams. It’s an oasis within the city and not too hard to get to. Setup camp for the day with a group of friends here and you are on your way to paradise – it’s the perfect option for people to come and go throughout the day, making it easy for young families, hungover party-goers recovery sessions and couples needing a chillout day together.
So there you have it, five options better than Sand in the City. Go forth and enjoy your summer! I’m sure I’ll sheepishly see you at Sand in the City sometime soon. Any other great alternatives that I’ve missed?
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