Neusiedler See In A Day
Lake Neusiedl is a great Vienna day trip and perfect stopover on your way to Budapest. Since I was small, this spot meant adventure and holidays: First, bike tours and wildlife watching at school trips; later on – electro boat rides, bike tours with friends, wine tasting at local wineries, and watching storks nesting on top of church towers and Pannonian cottages. Now, it’s family trips with the kids for swimming and boat rides, and an occasional open-air operetta at the lake-side stage during the summers.
Here is a guide to the best locations at Lake Neusiedl, largest of Austrian lakes, what to see and do there, how to get there for a day trip, and how to organise a stopover from Vienna to Budapest.
Lake Neusiedl, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the region of Burgenland, is barely an hour from Vienna by train, but opens up a completely different setting. I love the white-washed vintners’ cottages, the thatched roofs and the strings of dried corn decorating the walls. It’s almost as if you are in Hungary (Burgenland actually belonged to Hungary until 1921).
Nationalpark Neusiedler See – Seewinkel
Lake Neusiedl is the largest steppe lake in Europe, and brimming with wildlife. The national park at Illmitz in the South Eastern corner of the lake is a little less than one quarter of Vienna in size. Hundreds of different birds, amphibians, fishes and insects live in the vast reed belt that girds the shores. You can visit the national park the whole year round. The best seasons for this are the spring, summer, and the autumn.
The national park’s Information Centre offers guided walking tours, solar boat rides canoe rides (for groups), guided horse riding trips, and tours for children in different languages. If you visit Vienna with kids and want a real nature experience for them, go for Seewinkel.
Tours: Information Centre National Park Neusiedler See – Seewinkel; Hauswiese, 7142 Illmitz; e-mail: email@example.com
My tip: Take insect repellent with you in the spring and summer.
Water Sports At Breitenbrunn and Podersdorf
Lake Neusiedl is the Viennese’s seaside. The lake is almost as large as the whole of Vienna, shallow (1m deep on average) and warm, and mostly lined with reed. People love to sail, windsurf and kitesurf there, chug around with little pedal and electro boats, and have a swim. Though the soil is mostly sandy it can get a little muddy in quiet bays.
My family’s favourite lakeside resort is Breitenbrunn, at the Northern shore of the lake. It has a sandy and pebble beach with a large lawn area to relax, a boat rental station, a large and a playground. On a hot summer day we rented an electro boat (see photo), jumped into the lake for long swims, including some mud-slinging by the boys, and ended the day at a lovely winery in Rust, a few kilometres from Breitenbrunn.
Podersdorf at the Eastern shore is the most popular resort for water sports aficionados and families. It’s really picturesque with its traditional windmills and the lighthouse. Located close to the national park of Seewinkel, Podersdorf offers more action than Breitenbrunn, including regular sports, wine and music events. The resort is also a great starting point for bike tours around the lake. Note: When I was in Podersdorf in July 2016 the water wasn’t the cleanest (and I don’t refer to natural mud.) Pedal boating and sailing are still fun, though.
Winetasting And Sightseeing In Rust
The 800-year old picture-perfect village at the South Western corner of Lake Neusiedl is my favourite spot for wine tasting. Burgenland’s sunny and mild climate generates fabulous red wines, and Rust itself bursts with historic wineries, called ‘Heurige’. The other attraction are the local stork population, who prominently nest on rooftop chimneys and church towers. At times, you can hear their beaks clatter.
Visiting the historic town centre with its renaissance and baroque stucco facades is a must. From the lake-side promenade, you can embark on one-hour boat roundtrips, and paddle boat trips through the reeds.
Open Air Operetta In Mörbisch
Mörbisch am See is a few kilometres south of Rust along Lake Neusiedl. Apart from its family-friendly lakeside resort, including a large heated swimming pool, Mörbisch is most popular for its world-largest operetta festival on an open air lake-side stage. (Many of the best operetta composers were of Hungarian origin and closely connected with Austria.) Experiencing a vivid operetta on a warm summer evening against the backdrop of Lake Neusiedl is simply spectacular.
Designer Outlet Parndorf
I don’t often get excited at shopping malls. And I didn’t event want to stop at Parndorf Designer Outlet on our way back from Lake Neusiedl to Vienna. Eventually I remembered that I needed a pair of jeans, headed there and came back with three fabulous designer jeans for a bargain. You’ll find every great brand under the sun, from Armani, Bally, Gucci and Calvin Klein to Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton.
How To Get There From Vienna
Get a Car And Driver
If you are short on time and want to see as much as possible, consider renting a car and driver. They get you from door to door, pick you up from whatever spot if you decide to hike or bike, and are a safe return option if you want a few glasses of wine or evening entertainment. To ask for a quote, just click on ‘Lake Neusiedl’ among the transfer options below, along with your preferred trip date. Consider adding Parndorf Designer Outlet which is on the way. (Bookings should be made min. 48 hours in advance.)
Use Public Transport
Take train ‘REX’ from Vienna Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) to Breitenbrunn (52 min). Direct trains depart approx. every hour.
Take train ‘REX’ from Vienna Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) to Neusiedl am See (40min; terminal Wulkaprodersdorf). Trains depart around every hour. Then take bus 871 to Podersdorf am See Strandplatz (22 min; terminal Apetlon Akaziengasse).
National Park – Illmitz
Take train ‘REX’ from Vienna Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) to Neusiedl am See (40min; terminal Wulkaprodersdorf). Trains depart around every hour. Then take bus 871 to Illmitz Gemeindeamt (35 min; terminal Apetlon Akaziengasse).
Take train ‘REX’ from Vienna Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) to Schützen am Gebirge (1hr 3min; terminal Wulkaprodersdorf). Trains depart around every hour. Then take bus 765 to Mörbisch am See Hauptstrasse (17 min; terminal Mörbisch am See Ödenburger Strasse).
Few travellers know that UNESCO-listed Lake Neusiedl and the region of Burgenland are the perfect stopover on their way from Vienna to Budapest. It can be easily done in one day if you are organised, or join this small group tour. You will visit the lakeside market town of Rust (see above), and taste wines at a local winery. Luckily, the tour operator also put baroque Eszterhazy Palace (photo) in Eisenstadt on their itinerary, as well as lovely frontier town Sopron. The group tour also works the other way (Budapest – Lake Neusiedl – Vienna). Book tour.
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