With striking, stop-and-gawp architecture, steamy stress-repressing saunas and a near certified statute for sipping the hours away in a coffee house, grandiose Vienna is a city that exudes calm. These 10 serenity-assured spots are where the Viennese go to massage out the knots, but be warned: life may never feel as relaxed again.
Hide among the sunflowers of the Volksgarten Pavillion
Open April to September, the Volkspavillion (volksgarten-pavillon.at) summer gazebo hides between the Hofburg Palace and the perfumed royal rose gardens, dishing out tasty steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick) and a sense of restorative calm. Luscious greenery, chestnut trees and quaint 1950s table lamps are a world away from the tourist crowds within Volksgarten, while the views of the Hofburg Palace are only hampered by the sunflowers that climb the entryway fence. Come sundown, DJs emerge for some ‘let-your-hair-down' relaxation.
Live like royalty in Lainzer Tiergarten
In the oak-filled woodland of Lainzer Tiergarten, you’ll find snuffling wild boars, giant-horned goats, mischievous squirrels and serene deer freely roaming the grassy meadows and mossy forest floors. The gardens’ walking trails and wide open heaths are framed with fragrant cherry trees and the humming drill of woodpeckers in the warmer months. Come winter, cross-country skiing and near-silent restorative treks across snow-encrusted trails are possible. Hidden within the former hunting ground is Princess Sisi’s Hermesvilla, a marble mini-palace famously gifted to her by Franz Joseph I in 1881. Stop in for a queenly coffee and cake on the terrace.
Detox at Therme Wien Oberlaa
A modern bathing complex built upon Roman-era thermal springs, Therme Wien Oberlaa is a wide, unwinding wonderland of Jacuzzis, soothing Finnish saunas, trickling grotto pools and more spa treatments than you can throw a mud pack at. Silent zones are dotted with sun loungers, bold blue whirlpools and complimentary books, and you’re just as likely to find an aromatic steam room as you are an unashamed local strolling around starkers.
Seek out the sun loungers at Steinhofgründe
Topped by Otto Wagner’s glimmering art-nouveau church, Steinhofgründe is the most underrated of Vienna’s city parks. Sauntering along its pebbled paths, past wild raspberry and blackberry bushes, you’re just as likely to come across kite-flying adults as you are children clambering over huge forest playgrounds built entirely from natural materials. Old oaks and ageing apple trees create calming arbours, complete with wooden picnic tables. For the best views over the city, seek out the hand-carved sun loungers and allow the countryside to work its unwinding magic.
Get all arty at Yppenplatz
Swan through the fruit stacks and traders’ calls of Brunnenmarkt and you’ll soon stumble across Yppenplatz, a multicultural hubbub of alluring cafes, cutting-edge restaurants and endless people-watching spots. Perch on the wooden communal tables at Rasouli and you’ll see studded punks, slick-haired young professionals and playful families gathering beneath the square’s maple tree. Then wind down in Brunnenpassage, an art social room where locals come together to create creative projects. Expect everything from Persian dance classes to documentary cinema nights.
Unwind with a wine at Cafe Cobenzl
Atop Am Cobenzl hill in the 19th district, Cafe Coblenzl (cobenzl.at/schloss) perches over flourishing vineyards and steep, well-worn hiking trails. With an outdoor terrace overrun by ivy and an interior jammed with grandma’s fussy knick-knacks and flowery upholstery, this relaxed 1950s throwback is the place to come for no fuss Viennese food and panoramic city views. Pair both with a crisp, fresh white wine.
Cool off at Badeschiff Wien
Settle into a canvas deckchair or flump into a plump daybed at Badeschiff Wien, a floating bar and pool on the shore of the Danube that’s drenched in panoramic views. If it’s warm enough, take your bathers, because Badeschiff (literally: swimming pool boat) allows patrons to take a dip for just €5. With soothing electro-acoustic tunes and freshly mixed drinks, do as the locals do and let the hours just drift slowly by.
Picnic on the grass at Augarten
Wide avenues lined with chestnut, ash and maple trees usher you into Augarten, which has been cunningly designed to lead wanderers to the tranquil manicured flower gardens that make up the heart of this former hunting lodge. Laze on the lush grass with a picnic and a book, using the shadow of the concrete, anti-aircraft flak towers to cool you off in summer. Follow the mellow sound of live music and you’ll find Bunkerei, the perfect re-fuelling station for slow coffees and chilled beers.
Let your hair down at WerkzeugH
WerkzeugH (werkzeugh.at) is a former hardware store turned grungy bar that gives off a relaxed, this-could-be-your-living-room vibe. Popular with students, the pre-loved sofas and outdoor terrace lure in the crowds, while the quirky touches – a terrarium full of cicadas, tents hanging from the roof – have people kicking back for far longer than they initially intend. Cosy into a couch for an easy-going evening where, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of their famous ‘free food’ nights where meals are on the house.
Catch a film at the Gartenbaukino
Is there anything more pacifying than settling into a plush wide theatre seat for a good movie? With golden pillars, red leather seats and genuine ‘60s pop tiling, intimate Gartenbaukino is the ideal place to catch up on a classic. Originally built in 1920, and then given a facelift in 1960, seek out its tucked away bar which is all kitschy film posters and cinephile books. Then, when the opening credits roll, you will have reached peak indoor relaxation in Vienna.