Hiking is a very popular sport among Austrians, and the many hills and mountains in Austria are truly inviting. Even in the capital city hiking has a long standing tradition – many are drawn to the numerous Heurige (wine taverns), the Vienna Woods, and the vineyards that can be found in the outskirts of Vienna. In recent years it seems it has become even more popular, especially among the young generation. Needless to say, hiking was on my summer to-do list for 2017.
The city – to be more precise: the Forestry Office – has laid out eleven city hiking paths called ‘Stadtwanderweg’ that lead around the outer corners of the city through beautiful scenery and with great viewing platforms. They are all properly kept, well signposted, and accessible by public transport. There are also many picnic tables, benches, and playgrounds along the paths. People who manage to collect stamps at official stamping points along the hiking paths will even be rewarded with pins and certificates that recognise their efforts: a silver pin for 3 stamps, a golden pin for 7+ stamps. Too bad that we only found out about this after our hike, or else we would have gotten 2 pins already.
So on a mild Sunday after a rainy Saturday in August my boyfriend and I wanted to check out some of the best viewpoints over the city and decided to hike across the three hills in the north of Vienna: Leopoldsberg (425m), Kahlenberg (484m), and Hermannskogel (542m). A total of 13 kilometres, fairly easy, well-signposted (nowadays with Google Maps this is no must anymore), and the start & endpoints are easy to reach via public transport – perfect for a person who hasn’t been on a proper hike in years!
We loosely followed a suggested route, a mix of the Stadtwanderweg 1a until Kahlenberg, and later Stadtwanderweg 2. We started our tour in Nußdorf where we walked along the Danube for the first part, and then headed up the steep paved passage with a 300m altitude difference to reach the Leopoldsberg. This was definitely the toughest part, but luckily we already had a great view over the vineyards, the Danube, and parts of Vienna on our way up the hill. On top of the Leopoldsberg there is a church dedicated to St Leopold that was built in 1679 which is already clearly visible from Vienna.
The view from up there was great – we saw parts of Lower Austria, Floridsdorf (a district of Vienna), Vienna itself, and the vineyards that lie in the north of Vienna.
We then continued on our way to the Kahlenberg where we met hundreds of tourists on a terrace, taking selfies with the scenic view over Vienna in their backgrounds. This lead to only a brief stop to take in the view – way too many people for our taste! We could definitely see that day that the Kahlenberg is one of the most popular destinations because of the view over the entire city and even parts of lower Austria. The 165m steel tower serving as a transmitter for the Austrian Broadcast Corporation, a private university, and the Stefaniewarte, an observation tower erected in 1887, are also located on the peak of the hill.
Interesting to know: the Leopoldsberg used to have the name Kahlenberg because of the bare rocky slope down to the Danube and was later given the name Leopoldsberg after the emperor Leopold in 1693. Whereas the now-called Kahlenberg was first called Sauberg (sow mountain or pig mountain) because of the many wild pigs roaming the forests and then Josephsberg (Joseph’s Mountain) after an emperor in 1628. Only after changing the original Kahlenberg into Leopoldsberg did the now-Kahlenberg receive its final name.
From there we first walked along the Höhenstraße but soon came to a non-paved path through the forest. It was the most quiet part of our walk, we encountered less tourists and casual walkers there. We then reached the highest natural point of Vienna – the Hermannskogel atop of which the Habsburgwarte is standing. This 27 metre tall observation tower was erected for the Habsburg emperor in 1889. In 1892 the tower was specified as kilometre zero in cartographic measurements which was used in Austria-Hungary until 1918. The lookout tower is open for the public for a small entrance fee on weekends during summer. Luckily the sun was shining and most of the clouds were already gone, so the view was great from up there!
We then started our ‘descent’ in order to get back home, but made a quick coffee break at the restaurant “Grüass di a Gott Wirt” which was quite funny because this place had chicken and a rooster running around in the outdoor seating area, not minding all the people sitting there. A true countryside feeling I must say! The final kilometres took us through a forest and past some other beautiful vineyards with a view over the outskirts of Vienna.
The hike was fairly easy, but the first part was quite tough. It is definitely not suited for strollers or wheelcharis because of the steps on the Nasenweg (the steep part at the beginning). However, hiking boots are not a must, but solid footwear is definitely recommended. We walked for around 5 hours, but had many breaks to enjoy the view, look at the nature, eat our lunch, go up the observation tower, or have a coffee. The Leopoldsberg and Kahlenberg are both reachable via public transport (Bus 38A), so if you ever want to enjoy the view but don’t want to hike or don’t have the time for doing so – that’s a great option as well.