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.
Here is a guide to the best things to do at Austria’s largest lake, how to get there for a day trip, and how to organise a stopover from Vienna to Budapest.
Neusiedlersee is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Burgenland. It 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).
Winetasting 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.
Nationalpark Neusiedlersee – Seewinkel
Neusiedler See 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.
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.
Open Air Operetta In Mörbisch
Mörbisch am See is a few kilometres south of Rust along Neusiedlersee. The lakeside resort has a large heated swimming pool. Apart from that 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 2017: 7th July to 19th August 2017. Visit website.
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 (52 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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