Despite its popularity among local wine fans and families UNESCO World Heritage Site Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl) is still an insider travel tip. An hour from Vienna, the Viennese love to taste its excellent local wines, roam historic villages with their Pannonian cottages, tour the lake’s shores by bike, and watch wild birds and open air operettas.
To help you explore this amazing site in Burgenlanduse this guide about the best things to do at Austria’s largest lake. If you travel from Vienna follow the tips how to get there for a day trip, and how to organise a stopover from Vienna to Budapest.
Although lake Neusiedl is barely an hour from Vienna by train it opens up a completely different setting. In particular, 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).
Boat Ride on Neusiedlersee
Crossing the largest steppe lake in Europe by boat gives you an exciting sense of vastness. To get to know the lake’s Eastern shores we departed on one of the many ferries from the lakeside town of Mörbisch am See. In the first part of the journey the small ferry boat glided through the thick reeds and past Mörbisch’s popular lakeside summer stage before entering open waters. Because the waters are shallow there is hardly ever a bumpy ride. Further out on the lake, a small concrete island erected by the Hungarian authorities reminds of the Austro-Hungarian border which runs across the lake, just south of Mörbisch. After about 20 min we landed on the lovely shores of Illmitz, close to the Nationalpark Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel. Before returning to Mörbisch we had a great swim and walk through the small resort.
Between April and mid-October various boat operators offer ferry boat rides between Mörbisch, Rust (just north of Mörbisch) and Illmitz at least every hour during the day. Many bikers also take their cycles with them. One adult return ticket costs about EUR 14. For a more exclusive and traditional experience, Schifffahrt Weiss rents out small wooden boats, called Zillen, for up to 10 participants.
Address: Seebad Mörbisch, 7072 Mörbisch am See
Local boat operators: Drescher Touristik, Schifffahrt Weiss, Schifffahrt Schreiner (from Rust), Schifffahrt Knoll (from Podersdorf)
Winetasting in Rust
At the South Western corner of Lake Neusiedl the 800-year old picture-perfect village of Rust is a favourite spot for wine tasting. In fact, Burgenland’s sunny and mild climate generates fabulous red wines, and Rust itself bursts with historic wineries, called ‘Heurige’. While these wine taverns offer a range of homemade wines, you can go on bespoke white and red wine tasting sessions at 500-year old farmhouse and winery Giefing, and at the jaw-dropping Biedermeier townhouse of winery Gruber next door. If you prefer to wrap the Rust wine tasting in a private tour, check out this guided private tour to Burgenland from Vienna.
Apart from wine, the other major attraction is the local stork population, who prominently nest on rooftop chimneys and church towers. At times, you can hear their beaks clatter really loud.
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.
Addresses: Weinbau Giefing, Hauptstrasse 13, 7071 Rust am See; Weinbau Gruber – Hauptstrasse 15, 7071 Rust am See;
Nationalpark Neusiedlersee – Seewinkel
As Europe’s largest steppe lake Lake Neusiedl brims with wildlife. Actually, the national park at Illmitz in the South Eastern corner of the lake lets you explore the lake’s natural beauty. As for size, the national park 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 visitVienna with kidsand want a real nature experience for them, go for Seewinkel.
Tours: Information Centre National Park Neusiedler See – Seewinkel; Hauswiese, 7142 Illmitz; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
My tip: Take insect repellent with you in the spring and summer.
Breitenbrunn and Podersdorf
Lake Neusiedl is theViennese’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 isBreitenbrunn, 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.
Podersdorfat 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.
Open Air Operetta In Mörbisch
Mörbisch am See is a few kilometres south of Rust along Neusiedlersee. Apart from a large heated public 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. Watching a funny operetta on a warm summer evening against the backdrop of Neusiedler See is quite spectacular.
Operetta Festival 2020: Due to the current restrictions to control the spread of corona virus, the next operetta festival will only take place in 2021.
Little more than 4 km south of Mörbisch, the typical lakeside scenery changes dramatically. In the outskirts of the Hungarian town of Fertörákos you are beamed back to what seems a vintner village of the 1970s: typical, and partly neglected, vintner houses sleeping under a cobweb of old-fashioned wiring connecting the homes with telephone and electricity. On the lakeside facing a quiet bay, a long wooden boardwalk running parallel to the shore connects various impeccably maintained wooden lodges built right on top of Neusiedlersee. During the communist era, these were the summer retreats of the political elite.
Because of a large controversial tourism project, the port of Fertörakos will remain closed during 2020. It remains to be seen whether Austrian boat operators such as Drescher Touristik will be able to continue their ferry services from Mörbisch to Fertörákos from 2021.
Address: Fertörákos, 9400 Hungary
How To Get There From Vienna
With Vienna Unwrapped
If you need help planning your day trip to Neusiedlersee, use Vienna Unwrapped’s popular travel planning services(includes option for private tour guide or specialised wine guide, and transfer).
On Your Own
Breitenbrunn: Take train ‘REX’ from Vienna Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) to Breitenbrunn (51 min). Direct trains depart approx. every hour.
Podersdorf: 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).
Mörbisch: 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).
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